Missouri v. Holland: Are All Laws Implementing Treaties Valid?


Missouri v. Holland may be a case about birds, but its long-standing precedent has given Congress and the President wide latitude when implementing international treaties. As we discussed last week, the fate of a Pennsylvania woman charged with poisoning her husband’s lover could hang on the U.S. Supreme Court’s last interpretation of Congress’ treaty power, which dates back in 1920.

The Facts of the Case

The State of Missouri brought the case to prevent a game warden of the United States from attempting to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of July 3, 1918 and the implementing regulations established by the Secretary of Agriculture. The treaty was designed to protect several species of migratory birds in the U.S. and Canada that were in danger of extermination through lack of adequate protection. However, Missouri argued that the statute was unconstitutional because it interfered with the rights reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

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