United States v. Darby - police power regulations - Minimum wage
t Stone1941. Apart from the “affecting commerce” line of cases, another pre-1933 line of cases dealt (ambiguously) with Congress’ right to use prohibitions on the interstate transportation of items or people in furtherance of “police power” or “general welfare” regulations. This commerce-prohibiting technique, like the “affecting commerce” principle, was substantially broadened shortly after 1937. Darby flatly overruled Hammer.
t Minimum wageregulations upheld. SCt unanimously upheld the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set minimum wages and maximum hours for employees engaged in the production of goods for interstate commerce. The Act not only prohibited the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made by employees employed for more than the maximum hours or not paid the prevailing rates, but it also made it a federal crime to employ workmen in the production of goods “for interstate commerce” at other than the prescribed rates and hours.
t Direct ban upheld. SCt first upheld the direct ban on interstate shipments; it disposed of the argument that manufacturing conditions are left for exclusive state control, by stating that “the power of Congress over interstate commerce [can] neither be enlarged nor diminished by the exercise or non-exercise of state power. The 10th Amendmentstates but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered.
n 10th Amendmentirrelevant: Thus, the 10th Amendmentwill no longer act as an independent limitation on congressional authority over interstate commerce. As the result of Darby, Congress is completely free to impose whatever conditions it wishes upon the privilege of engaging in an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce, so long as the conditions themselves violate no independent constitutional prohibition.
t Motive irrelevant. SCt also disavowed any interest in Congress’ motive: “The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the USC places no restriction and over which the courts are given no control.”
n Present rule. The irrelevance of motive remains a feature of the Commerce Clause, and most other sorts of constitutional analysis. (But motive may be relevant where a preferred right, such as the right of free expression or freedom from racial discrimination, is concerned).
t Reasonable means to achieve end. Finally, SCt upheld the portion of the Act making it a crime to employ workers engaged in interstate commerce in violation of the wage/hour provisions.
n Rationale. Given Congress’ right to impose direct prohibitions or conditions on interstate commerce, Congress “may choose the means reasonably adapted to the attainment of the permitted end, even though they involve control of intrastate activities.” Thus, the outright criminalization of employer conduct was a reasonable means of implementing the ban on interstate transactions.
n Bootstrap. This portion of the Darby opinion has been referred to as the “super-bootstrap suggestion.” If it is taken seriously, it means that Congress may attack any problem (even one of overwhelmingly local concern) by prohibiting all interstate activity associated in any way with it; then, the local activity itself could be prohibited as a means of implementing the ban on interstate transactions. Realize that Lopez limits the extent to which Darby’s holding here can be utilized by Congress.