Headline: The Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, holds that California’s differential fees imposed on nonresident commercial fishers do not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause or Equal Protection Clause.
Areas of Law: Constitution, Privileges and Immunities, Equal Protection, Commercial Fishing
Issue Presented: Whether differential fees charged by California to nonresident commercial fishers violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause or Equal Protection Clause when California uses the differential fees to compensate the State for the annual shortfall of roughly $14 million suffered by the California Department of Fish and Game to manage its commercial fishery and that shortfall is paid by California taxpayers.
Brief Summary: California charges nonresident commercial fishers a differential fee for commercial fishing licenses. However, for many years, California has operated its commercial fishery at a substantial loss. In fiscal year 2010-11, California spent roughly $20 million in managing its commercial fishery, yet it only received about $5.8 million in fees – including fees by both residents and nonresidents. This approximately $14 million deficit was paid for by California tax payers. The Ninth Circuit held that the differential fees charged to nonresidents are justified under the Privileges and Immunities Clause because the differential fees are closely related to a substantial state interest which is to recover the state’s expenditures in managing its commercial fishery that is attributable to the nonresidents. This is a deficit that would otherwise be covered by California’s taxpayers. The Court also held the differential fees do not violate the Equal Protection Clause.