CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON.
Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo, Black
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
Respondents, owners of motor-driven tugs, sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the enforcement of provisions
of c. 200 of the Washington Laws of 1907 (Rem. Rev. Stat., §§ 9843 et seq.) relating to the inspection and regulation of vessels. The Supreme Court of the State directed judgment for respondents, holding the statute invalid "if applied to the navigable waters over which the Federal Government has control." 186 Wash. 589, 596. We granted certiorari. 299 U.S. 539. After hearing, we ordered reargument and requested the Attorney General of the United States to present the views of the Government upon the question whether the state Act or the action of the officers of the State thereunder conflicts with the authority of the United States or with the action of its officers under the Acts of Congress. The case has been reargued accordingly and the views of the Government have been presented both orally and upon brief in support of the decision of the state court.
The material facts, as set forth in the opinion of the state court, are that respondents own and operate one hundred and thirty-nine motor-driven tugs of which one hundred and eleven are less than sixty-five feet in length. Some of these tugs are registered and the remainder are enrolled and licensed under federal laws. For the most part these tugs are employed in intrastate commerce, but some tow to and from British Columbia ports or across the Columbia River or from other ports in Washington to ports in Oregon. Practically all these tugs are capable of engaging in interstate or foreign commerce and will do so if and when opportunity offers. Some of the larger tugs have towed and will tow to California ports. The main business, however, of most of the tugs is confined to moving vessels engaged in interstate and foreign commerce and other work in and about the harbors where they are stationed. 186 Wash. p. 590.
Respondents' complaint challenged the validity of a large number of requirements of the state Act which it was alleged the state authorities sought to enforce (186
Wash. p. 591), but these authorities by their answer and in the argument at bar disclaim an intention to enforce any of the state regulations which conflict with those established under the laws of the United States.
First. The first question is whether the state legislation as applied to respondents' motor-driven tugs is in all respects in conflict with express provisions of the federal laws and regulations. Wherever such conflict exists, the state legislation must fall. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 210.
Chapter 200 of the Washington Laws of 1907 is described by the state court as "a comprehensive and complete code for the inspection and regulation of every vessel operated by machinery which is not subject to inspection under the laws of the United States." Rem. Rev. Stat., § 9844; 186 Wash. p. 590. It cannot be doubted that the power of Congress over interstate and foreign commerce embraces the authority to make regulations for respondents' tugs. Foster v. Davenport, 22 How. 244; Moran v. New Orleans, 112 U.S. 69; Harman v. Chicago, 147 U.S. 396. Has Congress exercised that authority and, if so, to what extent?
The federal acts and regulations with respect to vessels on the navigable waters of the United States are elaborate. They were well described in the argument of the Assistant Solicitor General as a maze of regulation. Provisions with respect to steam vessels are extremely detailed. 46 U. S. C., c. 14, §§ 361 et seq. Provisions as to motor-driven vessels are far less comprehensive and establish only a limited regulation. By § 4426 of the Revised Statutes, as amended by the Act of March 3, 1905, c. 1457, 33 Stat. 1029, 1030, and by the Act of May 16, 1906, c. 2460, 34 Stat. 193, 194, it was provided that ...