477 U.S. 131 (1986), 85-62, Maine v. Taylor

Docket Nº:No. 85-62
Citation:477 U.S. 131, 106 S.Ct. 2440, 91 L.Ed.2d 110, 54 U.S.L.W. 4724
Party Name:Maine v. Taylor
Case Date:June 23, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 131

477 U.S. 131 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 2440, 91 L.Ed.2d 110, 54 U.S.L.W. 4724




No. 85-62

United States Supreme Court

June 23, 1986

Argued March 24, 1986




Appellee bait dealer (appellee) arranged to have live baitfish imported into Maine, despite a Maine statute prohibiting such importation. He was indicted under a federal statute making it a federal crime to transport fish in interstate commerce in violation of state law. He moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the Maine statute unconstitutionally burdened interstate commerce, and Maine intervened to defend the validity of its statute. After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied the motion to dismiss and held the state statute constitutional. The court found that substantial uncertainties surrounded the effects that baitfish parasites and nonnative species would have on the State's wild fish population, and that less discriminatory means of protecting against those threats were currently unavailable. Appellee then entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the District Court's constitutional ruling. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the state statute was unconstitutional.


1. Maine is entitled to invoke this Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2). Nothing in the language or history of § 1254(2) suggests that its scope is limited to civil litigation. The fact that Maine was only an intervenor in the District Court does not deprive it of standing to pursue this appeal, because its stake in the outcome is substantial and the controversy remains live, notwithstanding the Federal Government's decision to abandon its own appeal. Pp. 133-137.

2. The Maine statute is constitutional. The federal statute under which appellee was convicted did not waive the requirement of Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322, that where a state statute, such as Maine's import ban, discriminates against interstate commerce either on its face or in practical effect, the State must show both that the statute serves a legitimate local purpose, and that this purpose cannot be served as well by available nondiscriminatory means. But the evidence amply supports the District Court's findings that Maine has made both showings. Under the "clearly erroneous" standard of review applicable to these findings, the Court of Appeals erred in setting them aside. Pp. 137-152.

752 F.2d 757, reversed.

Page 132

[106 S.Ct. 2444] BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 152.

BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Once again, a little fish has caused a commotion. See Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322 (1979); TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978); Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128 (1976). The fish in this case is the golden shiner, a species of minnow commonly used as live bait in sport fishing.

Appellee Robert J. Taylor (hereafter Taylor or appellee) operates a bait business in Maine. Despite a Maine statute prohibiting the importation of live baitfish,1 he arranged to have 158,000 live golden shiners delivered to him from outside the State. The shipment was intercepted, and a federal grand jury in the District of Maine indicted Taylor for violating and conspiring to violate the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, 95 Stat. 1073, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378. Section 3(a)(2)(A) of those Amendments, 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(A), makes it a federal crime

to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce . . . any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported,

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or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law.

Taylor moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that Maine's import ban unconstitutionally burdens interstate commerce, and therefore may not form the basis for a federal prosecution under the Lacey Act. Maine, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b), intervened to defend the validity of its statute, arguing that the ban legitimately protects the State's fisheries from parasites and nonnative species that might be included in shipments of live baitfish. The District Court found the statute constitutional, and denied the motion to dismiss. United States v. Taylor, 585 F.Supp. 393 (Me.1984). Taylor then entered a conditional plea of guilty pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(a)(2), reserving the right to appeal the District Court's ruling on the constitutional question. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed, agreeing with Taylor that the underlying state statute impermissibly restricts interstate trade. United States v. Taylor, 752 F.2d 757 (1985). Maine appealed. We set the case for plenary review and postponed consideration of Taylor's challenges to our appellate jurisdiction. 474 U.S. 943 (1985).


Maine invokes our jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2), which authorizes an appeal as of right to this Court

by a party relying on a State statute held by a court of appeals to be invalid as repugnant to the Constitution, treaties or laws of the United States.

Appellee, however, contends that this provision applies only to civil cases, and that, in any event, Maine lacks standing to appeal the reversal of a federal conviction. These contentions both relate to the unusual procedural posture of the case: an appeal by a State from the reversal of a federal conviction based on a violation of state law. We consider them in turn.

[106 S.Ct. 2445] First, despite its procedural peculiarities, this case fits squarely within the plain terms of § 1254(2): Maine relies on a state statute that the Court of Appeals held to be unconstitutional.

Page 134

Although statutes authorizing appeals as of right to this Court are strictly construed, see, e.g., Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 464 U.S. 238, 247 (1984), nothing in the language or legislative history of § 1254(2) suggests that its scope is limited to civil litigation. In arguing for such a limitation, appellee relies principally on the fact that §§ 1254(1) and (3) -- which authorize discretionary review of cases from the Courts of Appeals by writ of certiorari and certification, respectively -- both apply explicitly to "any civil or criminal case."2 Since this express language is absent from § 1254(2), appellee contends that Congress must have intended this Court's appellate jurisdiction over cases from the courts of appeals to remain limited to civil cases, as indeed it was limited prior to the 1925 enactment of § 1254's predecessor.3

Page 135

We find the argument unconvincing. While some statutes governing this Court's jurisdiction, such as §§ 1254(1) and (3), expressly apply to both civil and criminal cases, others are explicitly limited to civil actions. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1252 and 1253. The absence of either sort of provision from § 1254(2) hardly demonstrates that Congress had only civil cases in mind, and we see no reason to read such a limitation into the straightforward and unambiguous terms of the statute. This is not a situation where "the sense of the statute and the literal language are at loggerheads," or where adherence to the plain terms of the statute "`would confer upon this Court a jurisdiction beyond what "naturally and properly belongs to it."'" Heckler v. Edwards, 465 U.S. 870, 879 (1984), quoting Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 94 (1960) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting), in turn quoting American Security & Trust Co. v. District of Columbia, 224 U.S. 491, 495 (1912). Section 1254(2) serves to ensure that a state statute is struck down by the federal judiciary only when it is found invalid by this Court, or when the parties acquiesce in the decision of a lower federal court. Federal nullification of a state statute is a grave matter, [106 S.Ct. 2446] whether it occurs in civil litigation or in the course of a criminal prosecution, and review by this Court is particularly warranted in either event.4

Page 136

Appellee's second jurisdictional argument is based on the fact that the only appellant before this Court is the State of Maine -- only an intervenor in the District Court -- not the United States, which brought the original prosecution.5 Since the United States and its attorneys have the sole power to prosecute criminal cases in the federal courts, appellee contends that Maine may not seek review of the Court of Appeals' reversal of his conviction. By statute, however, Maine intervened with "all the rights of a party," 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b),6 and appeals may be taken to this Court under § 1254(2) by any "party relying on a State statute" held invalid under federal law by a Court of Appeals. We previously have recognized that intervenors in lower federal courts may seek review in this Court on their own, so long as they have "a sufficient stake in the outcome of the controversy" to satisfy the constitutional requirement of genuine adversity. Bryant v. Yellen, 447 U.S. 352, 368 (1980); see

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also, e.g., Diamond v. Charles, 476 U.S. 54, 68 (1986). Maine's stake in the outcome of this litigation is substantial: if the judgment of the Court of Appeals is left undisturbed, the State will be bound by the conclusive adjudication that its import ban is unconstitutional. See, e.g., Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165 (1938). And although private parties, and perhaps even separate sovereigns, have no legally cognizable interest in the prosecutorial decisions of the Federal Government, cf., e.g., Diamond v. Charles, supra, at 64-65; Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973), a State clearly has a legitimate interest in the continued enforceability of its own...

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