Kelly v. Washington
302 U.S. 1 (1937)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Kelly v. Washington, 302 U.S. 1 (1937)

Kelly v. Washington

No. 2

Argued March 9, 1937

Reargued October 11, 12, 1937

Decided November 8, 1937

302 U.S. 1

Syllabus

1. Tugboats plying navigable waters of the United States, and employed partly in towing other vessels on interstate and foreign voyages or in moving vessels engaged in interstate and foreign commerce in and about the harbors where the tugs are stationed are subject to regulation by Congress under the commerce clause. P. 302 U. S. 4.

2. There is no express provision in federal laws and regulations for inspection of hull and machinery, in order to insure safety or determine seaworthiness of motor-driven tugs which do not carry passengers or freight for hire, or do not have on board any inflammable or combustible liquid cargo in bulk, or do not transport explosives or like dangerous cargo, or are not seagoing vessels of three hundred gross tons or over, or (with respect to requirements as to load lines) are under one hundred and fifty gross tons. Pp. 302 U. S. 4, 302 U. S. 8.

3. The federal statutes are not to be construed as implying a prohibition of inspection by state authorities of hull and machinery, to insure safety and determine seaworthiness, in the case of vessels which in this respect lie outside the federal requirements. P. 302 U. S. 9.

4. State regulation of interstate commerce is invalid (a) if in conflict with an express regulation by Congress, (b) if the subject is one demanding uniformity of regulation so that state action is altogether inadmissible in the absence of federal action, (c) where federal regulation has occupied the field. P. 302 U. S. 9.

Page 302 U. S. 2

5. When Congress circumscribes its regulation of a subject of interstate commerce and occupies only a limited field,state regulation outside of that limited field and otherwise admissible is not forbidden or displaced. P. 302 U. S. 10.

6. An exercise of state police power which would be valid if not superseded by federal action is superseded only where the repugnance or conflict is so direct and positive that the two acts cannot be reconciled or consistently stand together. P. 302 U. S. 10.

7. Inspection of the hull and machinery of motor-driven tugs in order to insure safety and seaworthiness is not such a subject as, by its nature, requires uniformity of regulation, and therefore this field is open to the States in the absence of conflicting federal regulation under the commerce clause. P. 302 U. S. 14.

If, however, the State goes farther and attempts to impose particular standards as to structure, design, equipment and operation which, in the judgment of its authorities, may be desirable but which pass beyond what is plainly essential to safety and seaworthiness, the State may encounter the principle that such requirements, if imposed at all, must be through the action of Congress, which can establish a uniform rule.

186 Wash. 589, 596, 59 P.2d 373, reversed.

Certiorari, 299 U.S. 539, to review a reversal of a judgment denying a writ of prohibition.

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