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Supreme Court hears arguments in garbage hauling case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority [Duke Law case backgrounder] 05-1345, a case concerning whether a local ordinance would violate the Commerce Clause [US Constitution Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 text] by requiring New York trash haulers to deliver all solid wastes to a publicly owned local facility. Lawyers for the trash companies argued that using out-of-state transfer facilities would cost significantly less than the using the county's mandated facilities. Defense lawyers for the government-owned waste management authority countered that the non-discriminatory government operation of the transfer facilities does not benefit a private company and that the ordinance should thus be allowed to stand; the petitioners point out that the county is in fact profiting from the mandate. The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [opinion text, PDF] in favor of the county.

In 1994, the Court held 6-3 in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown [opinion text] that a similar ordinance unconstitutionally restricted interstate commerce; in that instance, the mandated facility was privately owned. The issue now before the court will turn on whether a government-owned facility can be seen as analogous to a profit-seeking private company and thus would be in violation of the Commerce Clause. Five of the six justices who signed the 1994 majority opinion remain on the bench; of the three dissenters, only Justice David Souter remains. AP has more.

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