Champion v. Ames: The Background
Champion v. Ames was a landmark decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court which held that trafficking lottery tickets instituted interstate commerce that may be regulated by the United States Congress under the Commerce Clause.
The defendants in the Champion v. Ames case were arrested and subsequently convicted under an Act of Congress of 1895 which made it formally illegal to conspire or send lottery tickets across state lines.
The Congress of the United States passed the Federal Lottery Act in 1895. This piece of legislation prohibited the selling or purchasing of lottery tickets across state lines. The appellant in this case was Charles Champion. Mr. Champion was indicted for shipping Paraguayan lottery rickets from the state of Texas to California. The indictment was challenged by Mr. Champion on the grounds that the authority to regulate commerce does not include the ability to prohibit commerce of any fashion or form.
Champion v. Ames: The Question
The question in Champion v. Ames revolved around whether it was a violation of the Constitution’s commerce clause to place a ban on transporting lottery tickets across state lines. More specifically, the case of Champion v. Ames asked if the transport of lottery tickets by independent carriers constitutes “commerce” which would then be under the regulation of the Commerce Clause.
Champion v. Ames: The Decision
Champion v. Ames ended in a 5 to 4 decision whereby the Court ruled that lottery tickets were indeed subjects of traffic and that independent bodies or carriers are subject to regulation under the Commerce Clause. The Court in Champion v. Ames emphasized the broad discretion Congress employs in regulating commerce in the United States, noting that this ability or power is plenary in nature.
The most important aspect of Champion v. Ames was that the Court recognized Congress’ authority to regulate interstate traffic as plenary. This means that the power is complete in and of itself. This broad discretion enabled Congress to regulate traffic as it sees fit for America’s needs within its Constitutional limits. This allowed Congress to even prohibit certain goods from being transported.
The Supreme Court in Champion v. Ames argued that the United States’ Congress was merely helping those states that wanted to protect public morals by placing bans on lotteries within their borders.