The Stone Court (1941-1942). Seated, from left to right: Justices Stanley F. Reed and Owen J. Roberts, Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, and Justices Hugo L. Black and Felix Frankfurter. Standing, from left to right: Justices James F. Byrnes, William O. Douglas, Frank Murphy, and Robert H. Jackson.
Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard
The fact that Filburn’s:
“own contribution to the demand for wheat may be trivial by itself is not enough to remove him from the scope of federal regulation where, as here, his contribution, taken together with that of many others similarly situated, is far from trivial.”
Even if Filburn’s small amount of locally-consumed wheat did not by itself have a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce, whenall of the locally-consumed wheat nationwide is considered together, in the aggregate it has a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce. This doctrine is known as “aggregation principle.”
During the Progressive Era, the Court applied the so-called “direct effect” test. In E.C. Knight (1895), Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918) and Schechter Poultry (1935), the Court held that Congress could only regulate local activity that had a direct effect on interstate commerce. However, after 1937, the New Deal Court replaced the direct effect test with the new, substantial effect test. In three decisions that are still good law, the Court held that Congress that Congress can regulate local activity that had a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
Implied Powers during the New Deal
The Agricultural Adjustment Act restricted the amount of wheat that farmer Roscoe Filburn could grow to a specified quota. Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard administered this regulatory scheme. The law restricted the supply of wheat as a means to increase prices, thereby benefiting farmers. According to the record, Filburn used the bulk of the wheat he grew in excess of this quota on his farm to feed his livestock. This way, Filburn could use his own home-grown wheat to feed his livestock at a lower cost, and still benefit by selling his “quota” wheat on the market for a higher price.
The Justices considered this case to be so controversial that they asked the parties to reargue it. While deliberating over the decision, Justice Jackson initially favored an opinion that would have abandoned all scrutiny concerning the scope of Congress’s commerce power. In other words, the Court would uphold any economic regulation that Congress deemed reasonable. But even the New Deal Court was not prepared to take such a momentous step. Instead, Jackson’s majority opinion expanded the substantial effects test.
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