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Cotto Waxo Co. v. Williams

ELR Citation: 25 ELR 20781
Nos. No. 94-1438, 46 F.3d 790/(8th Cir., 01/31/1995)

The court holds that it cannot declare as a matter of law that a Minnesota statute prohibiting the sale of petroleum-based cleaning products does not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court first holds that the statute's language clearly and unambiguously prohibits all Minnesota sales of petroleum-based sweeping compounds. The court refuses to uphold the statute's constitutionality by narrowly construing it to reach only sales for use in the state, because the statute makes no reference to the locations where the product will be used.

The court holds that the statute does not suffer from an impermissible extraterritorial reach. The statute does not, either by its terms or in practical effect, require the manufacturer to conduct its commerce according to in-state requirements. Although the statute has clearly affected the manufacturer's participation in interstate commerce, the manufacturer is able to sell to out-of-state purchasers regardless of its relationship to the state. The court holds that the statute does not directly burden interstate commerce and that strict scrutiny is inapplicable, because the Act does not favor in-state businesses or disfavor out-of-state businesses. The statue forbids the sale of petroleum-based cleaning products regardless of their point of origin or destination.

Turning to the balancing test to determine whether the statute's unconstitutionally burdens commerce, the court holds that the statute both burdens interstate commerce and benefits the public. The court notes, however, that in attempting to balance the statute's burdens and benefits, neither side of the scale holds an impressive amount of weight. The court holds that the record reflects no great burden on interstate commerce, because although the manufacturer submitted evidence on how the statute effects its distribution network and annual sales in the state, the court finds that it has no concrete sense of how the statute has affected other manufacturers or the interstate market as a whole. Similarly, the court holds that the record reflects no great benefit to the public, because the state failed to submit any evidence related to either the amount of conservation the statute achieved or the amount of contamination it prevented. The court notes that while the legislative history states that the statute would keep 100,000 gallons of petroleum out of the waste stream in the state each year, the legislative record contains no factual basis for the 100,000 figure. The court holds, therefore, that because it cannot determine as a matter of law that the statute is constitutional, the state is not entitled to summary judgment and the constitutionality of the statute should be tested at trial.

Counsel for Appellant
Lawrence A. Moloney
Doherty, Rumble & Butler
150 S. 5th St., Ste. 3500, Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 340-5555

Counsel for Appellee
Peter M. Ackerberg, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
102 State Capitol St., St. Paul MN 55155
(612) 296-6196

Before BEAM, Circuit Judge, CAMPBELL,* Senior Circuit Judge, and MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.