431 U.S. 322 (1977), 75-1775, Massachusetts v. Westcott

Docket Nº:No. 75-1775
Citation:431 U.S. 322, 97 S.Ct. 1755, 52 L.Ed.2d 349
Party Name:Massachusetts v. Westcott
Case Date:May 23, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 322

431 U.S. 322 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 1755, 52 L.Ed.2d 349

Massachusetts

v.

Westcott

No. 75-1775

United States Supreme Court

May 23, 1977

Argued January 17, 1977

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE

SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS

Syllabus

Where it appears that there may be a statutory basis for providing relief to respondent owner of a federally enrolled and licensed fishing vessel against enforcement of a Massachusetts statute prohibiting nonresidents from dragging for fish by beam or otter trawl in Vineyard Sound during certain months, Douglas v. Seacoast Products, Inc., ante p. 265, this Court will not decide the question presented as to the constitutionality of the statute.

344 N.E.2d 411, vacated and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

Respondent Westcott was arrested for violating a Massachusetts statute that prohibits nonresidents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from dragging for fish by beam or otter trawl in Vineyard Sound during July, August, and September.1 After he was found guilty, he pursued his right to de novo review and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted direct appellate review and ordered the complaint dismissed on the ground that the statute violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause

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of the United States Constitution, Art. IV, § 3, cl. 2. 344 N.E.2d 411. We granted certiorari. 429 U.S. 815 (1976).

Our decision today in Douglas v. Seacoast Products, Inc., ante p. 265, suggests that there may be a statutory basis to provide respondent the relief he seeks, thereby making it unnecessary to decide the constitutional question presented. Douglas holds that federal law preempts the States from denying vessels that are federally enrolled and licensed for the fisheries the right to fish in state waters on the same terms as state residents. Respondent's vessel is federally enrolled and licensed "to be employed in carrying on the mackerel fishery," the same license that was held by appellees in Douglas.2 In accordance with our longstanding principle of deciding constitutional questions only when necessary, Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 543 (1974); Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 347 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring), we decline to decide the privileges and immunities question presented in this case, and vacate the judgment and remand the...

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