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United States v. Darby

Significance

Darby was part of a running Court debate that began in 1903, when it upheld legislation forbidding interstate transportation of lottery tickets. The twentieth century has seen other attempts--including the act under consideration here--to make the Commerce Clause a means of promoting the public welfare on a national scale.

In 1938, Congress passed the last major piece of New Deal legislation, the Fair Labor Standards Act. It was based on the Commerce Clause of Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, which provides that: "The Congress shall have Power . . . To Regulate Commerce . . . among the several States." It set maximum hours and minimum wages for workers employed in industries whose products were shipped across state lines. The act was the final piece of President Franklin Roosevelt's economic and social welfare package, which embodied his administration's plan to lift the country out of the Great Depression.

Fred W. Darby was a Georgia industrialist whose firm finished lumber, which was then shipped out of state. The federal government indicted Darby under the Fair Labor Standards Act for paying his workers less than the prescribed minimum wage and requiring them to work longer than the prescribed maximum work week. In federal district court, Darby challenged the act on Fifth and Tenth Amendment grounds, claiming that Congress was attempting to assume a power that the Constitution reserved for the individual states, rather than the federal government. The district court agreed, saying that the act was an attempt to regulate manufacturing, which was not interstate commerce. The federal government then appealed this judgment directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953United States v. Darby - Significance, Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Fair Labor Standards Act, Further Readings