Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission
Decided on June 7, 1948; 334 US 410


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Racial discrimination 

B. Legal Question Presented:

Can California, consistently with the Federal Constitution and laws passed pursuant to it, use a federally created racial ineligibility for citizenship as a basis for barring Petitioner from earning his living as a commercial fisherman in the ocean waters off the coast of California?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Prior to 1943 California issued commercial fishing licenses to all qualified persons without regard to alienage or ineligibility to citizenship. From 1915 to 1942 Takahashi, under annual commercial fishing licenses issued by the State, fished in ocean waters off the California coast... and brought his fresh fish ashore for sale. In 1942, while this country was at war with Japan, Takahashi and other California residents of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from the State under military orders...

In 1943, during the period of war and evacuation, an amendment to the California Fish and Game Code was adopted prohibiting issuance of a license to any 'alien Japanese...' In 1945, the state code was again amended and the new amendment banned issuance of licenses to any 'person ineligible to citizenship,' which classification included Japanese... Because of this state provision barring issuance of commercial fishing licenses to persons ineligible for citizenship under federal law, Takahashi, who met all other state requirements, was denied a license by the California Fish and Game Commission upon his return to California in 1945."

The Superior court of Los Angeles county, granted Petitioner his petition for mandamus holding that "lawful alien inhabitants of California, despite their ineligibility to citizenship, were entitled to engage in the vocation of commercial fishing on the high seas beyond the three-mile belt on the same terms as other lawful state inhabitants, and that the California code provision denying them this right violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The State Supreme Court, three judges dissenting, reversed, holding that California had a proprietary interest in fish in the ocean waters..."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Messrs. Dean G. Acheson, of Washington, DC, and A. L. Wirin, of Los Angeles, CA, for petitioner. Mr. Ralph Winfield Scott, of San Francisco, CA, for respondents.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

It is not "because the United States regulates immigration and naturalization in part on the basis of race and color classifications, [that] a state can adopt one or more of the same classifications to prevent lawfully admitted aliens within its borders from earning a living in the same way that other state inhabitants earn their living...

We are unable to find that the 'special public interest' on which California relies provides support for this state ban on Takahashi's commercial fishing... To whatever extent the fish in the three-mile belt off California may be 'capable of ownership' by California, we think that 'ownership' is inadequate to justify California in excluding any or all aliens who are lawful residents of the State from making a living by fishing in the ocean off its shores while permitting all others to do so."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California.

Justice Vote: 7 Pro vs. 2 Con

  • Black, H. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Murphy, F. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Rutledge, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Vinson, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Con (Joined dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of California; the Supreme Court reversed in a 7-2 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.