Confusion Hypothetical: Can the State Enact a Statute Requiring a Specific Tow Hitch?
Facts: Tanya Trucker is a trucking company owner who resides in and/or operates her business in the state of Denial. Her trucking business operates in the state of Confusion as well as other states. The state of Confusion enacted a statute requiring all trucks and towing trailers that use its highways to use a B-type truck hitch, which is manufactured by only one manufacturer in confusion. As a result, truckers either have to avoid Confusion or have the hitch installed. The federal government has not attempted to regulate truck hitches on the nation's highways. Tanya Trucker intends to file suit against Confusion to overturn the statute.
Issues: Is the Confusion state statute requiring all trucks and towing trailers that use its highways to use a B-type truck hitch Constitutional? What court would have jurisdiction over this issue?
Reasoning: Prior to determining whether the statute in question is constitutional, it is important to determine which court would have original jurisdiction over this dispute. At question is which court would have jurisdiction; the district court for the state of Denial, the district court for the state of Confusion, or one of the state courts. This issue involves examining whether diversity jurisdiction applies, or whether a state court would retain jurisdiction. In order to address this issue, one must look at the applicable statutes addressing diversity jurisdiction. Because the plaintiff, Tanya Trucker, is located in a state outside of confusion, she and the state are considered to be diverse, therefore diversity jurisdiction may apply. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1331 provides that the district courts have original jurisdiction over all actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(a)(b) is the federal law that discusses diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(a)(b) provides that when the amount in controversy is at least $75,000, the federal courts have original jurisdiction over lawsuits where the parties are citizens of different states. The problem is that Tanya Trucker's lawsuit is not against a citizen of Confusion, but against the state of Confusion. Under U.S. Const. amend. XI, citizens are prohibited from suing states in federal court without an express waiver by the state. However, the stripping doctrine permits such suits if they are against a named official rather than naming the state itself as a defendant. In this scenario, Tanya Trucker would presumably file suit against the head of whatever agency is in charge of enforcing interstate trucking regulations in Confusion. That named official would then be considered a citizen of Confusion, which would give rise to diversity jurisdiction if the other qualifications of 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(a)(b) are also satisfied.
Underlying the question of diversity jurisdiction, the first issue is whether this is a case that originates under the laws of the United States or whether it is merely an issue of state law. In other words, does Confusion have a right to require those trailer hitches or does Tanya Trucker have a colorable argument that doing so would mean that Confusion was infringing upon a federal legislative right. To answer this question, one must examine U.S. Const. art. I, § 8(3), which is commonly referred to as the Commerce Clause. U.S. Const. art. I, § 8(3) provides that Congress has the power, "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes" (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8(3)). What this means is that states are specifically prohibited from enacting legislation that will impact interstate commerce. Generally, this provision has been applied to those circumstances where a state law favors in-state people over out-of-state people, thus impacting the desire to engage in interstate commerce. This issue has also been addressed in case law. In Southern Pacific Co. v Arizona, 61 Ariz. 66, 145 P.2d 530 (1945), the Court was asked to consider whether a law that treated citizens and non-citizens the same could violate the Commerce Clause. The facts in that lawsuit were very similar to the facts in this case. Arizona had a law that prohibited freight trains with more than 70 freight cars from crossing the state. The practical effect of the la was that railroads were required to disassemble their large trains…