Ziffrin v. Reeves, 308 U.S. 132; 60 S. Ct. 103; 84 L. Ed. 128 (1939)

Ziffrin v. Reeves, 308 U.S. 132; 60 S. Ct. 103; 84 L. Ed. 128 (1939)

Argued October 12, 1939

Decided November 13, 1939

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Facts—Appellant, an Indiana corporation, had, since 1933, been receiving whisky from distillers in Kentucky for direct carriage to consignees in Chicago. It had permission under the Federal Motor Carriers Act of 1935 to operate as a contract carrier and claimed the right to transport whisky in spite of the prohibitions of the Kentucky Alcoholic Beverages Control Law of 1938. It now sought to restrain the state from enforcing the contraband and penal provisions of the law. The Kentucky law forbade the carriage of intoxicating liquors by carriers other than licensed common carriers and forbade distillers to deliver to an unauthorized carrier. Constant state control was exercised over the manufacture, sale, transportation, and possession of whisky. The corporation was denied a common carrier’s certificate and transportation license by Kentucky. The corporation claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it was repugnant to the commerce, due process, and equal protection clauses.

Question—Is the Kentucky law limiting the transportation of intoxicants unconstitutional?


ReasonsJ. McReynolds (8–0). The Twenty-first Amendment allows a state to legislate concerning intoxicating liquor brought from without, unfettered by the commerce clause. Without doubt a state may absolutely prohibit the manufacture of intoxicants, their transportation, sale, or possession, irrespective of when or where produced or obtained or the use to which they are put. Further, a state may adopt measures reasonably appropriate to effectuate these inhibitions and exercise full police authority in respect of them. Under its police power, the state of Kentucky can permit the manufacture and sale of liquors only under certain conditions and regulate the way in which they are sold. In this way they cannot properly be regarded as an article of commerce.

The record shows no violation of the equal protection clause. A licensed common carrier is under stricter control than an ordinary contract carrier and may be entrusted with privileges forbidden to the latter.

The Motor Carrier Act of 1935 is said to secure the appellant the right claimed, but the Court could find nothing there that undertakes to destroy state power to protect her people against the evils of intoxicants or to sanction the receipt of articles declared contraband. The act has no such purpose or effect.

Leave a Reply