MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
Louisiana statutes provide in general that all seagoing vessels moving between New Orleans and foreign ports must be navigated through the Mississippi River approaches to the port of New Orleans and within it exclusively by pilots who are State officers.
The constitutional command for a state to afford "equal protection of the laws" sets a goal not attainable by the invention and application of a precise formula. This Court has never attempted that impossible task. A law which affects the activities of some groups differently from the way in which it affects the activities of other groups is not necessarily banned by the Fourteenth Amendment. See e.g., Tigner v. Texas, 310 U.S. 141, 147. Otherwise, effective regulation in the public interest could not be provided, however essential that regulation might be. For it is axiomatic that the consequence of regulating by setting apart a classified group is that those in it will be subject to some restrictions or receive certain advantages that do not apply to other groups or to all the public. Atchison, T. & S.F.R. Co. v. Matthews, 174 U.S. 96, 106. This selective application of a regulation is discrimination in the broad sense, but it may or may not deny equal protection of the laws. Clearly, it might offend that constitutional safeguard if it rested on grounds wholly irrelevant to achievement of the regulation's objectives. An example would be a law applied to deny a person a right to earn a living or hold any job because of hostility to his particular race, religion, beliefs, or because of any other reason having no rational relation to the regulated activities. See American Sugar Rfg. Co. v. Louisiana, 179 U.S. 89, 92.
Studies of the long history of pilotage reveal that it is a unique institution and must be judged as such.
The history and practice of pilotage demonstrate that, although inextricably geared to a complex commercial economy, it is also a highly personalized calling.
The States have had full power to regulate pilotage of certain kinds of vessels since 1789 when the first Congress decided that then existing state pilot laws were satisfactory and made federal regulation unnecessary. 1 Stat. 53, 54 (1789), 46 U.S.C. § 211; Olsen v. Smith, 195 U.S. 332, 341; Anderson v. Pacific Coast S.S. Co., 225 U.S. 187. Louisiana legislation has controlled the activities and appointment of pilots since 1805 — even before the Territory was admitted as a State.
The number of people, as a practical matter, who can be pilots is very limited. No matter what system of selection is adopted, all but the few occasionally selected must of necessity be excluded. Cf. Olsen v. Smith, supra, 344, 345.
MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE, dissenting.
The unique history and conditions surrounding the activities of river port pilots, shortly recounted in the Court's opinion, justify a high degree of public regulation. But I do not think they can sustain a system of entailment for the occupation. If Louisiana were to provide by statute in haec verba that only members of John Smith's family would be eligible for the public calling of pilot, I have no doubt that the statute on its face would infringe the Fourteenth Amendment. And this would be true,
In final analysis this is, I think, the situation presented on this record. While the statutes applicable do not purport on their face to restrict the right to become a licensed pilot to members of the families of licensed pilots, the charge is that they have been so administered. And this charge not only is borne out by the record but is accepted by the Court as having been sustained.
The result of the decision therefore is to approve as constitutional state regulation which makes admission to the ranks of pilots turn finally on consanguinity. Blood is, in effect, made the crux of selection. That, in my opinion, is forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment's guaranty against denial of the equal protection of the laws. The door is thereby closed to all not having blood relationship to presently licensed pilots. Whether the occupation is considered as having the status of "public officer" or of highly regulated private employment, it is beyond legislative power to make entrance to it turn upon such a criterion. The Amendment makes no exception from its prohibitions against state action on account of the fact that public rather than private employment is affected by the forbidden discriminations. That fact simply makes violation all the more clear where those discriminations are shown to exist.
It is not enough to avoid the Amendment's force that a familial system may have a tendency or, as the Court puts it, a direct relationship to the end of securing an efficient pilotage system. Classification based on the purpose
Conceivably the familial system would be the most effective possible scheme for training many kinds of artisans or public servants, sheerly from the viewpoint of securing the highest degree of skill and competence. Indeed, something very worth while largely disappeared from our national life when the once prevalent familial system of conducting manufacturing and mercantile enterprises went out and was replaced by the highly impersonal corporate system for doing business.
But that loss is not one to be repaired under our scheme by legislation framed or administered to perpetuate family monopolies of either private occupations or branches of the public service. It is precisely because the Amendment forbids enclosing those areas by legislative lines drawn on the basis of race, color, creed and the like, that, in cases like this, the possibly most efficient method of securing the highest development of skills cannot be established by law. Absent any such bar, the presence of such a tendency or direct relationship would be effective for sustaining the legislation. It cannot be effective to overcome the bar itself. The discrimination here is not shown to be consciously racial in character. But I am unable to differentiate in effects one founded on blood relationship.
The case therefore falls squarely within the ruling in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356,
MR. JUSTICE REED, MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE MURPHY join in this dissent.
The statement of the Louisiana court in this case that pilots so appointed are considered State officers has long been the established State rule. Williams v. Payson, 14 La. Ann. Rep. 7, 8 (1859); Louisiana v. Follett, 33 La. Ann. Rep. 228, 230 (1881); Levine v. Michel, 35 La. Ann. Rep. 1121, 1124 (1883).
From among the pilots the governor was required to appoint three River Port Pilot Commissioners. La. Acts 1908, No. 54, § 1, 6 La. Gen. Stat. § 9154 (1939).
Appellants' prayer had sought an injunction against interference with their serving as pilots, and, in the alternative, sought mandamus to compel the Board to examine appellants as required by law and to certify them to the Governor. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's refusal to compel the board to examine appellants because they did not possess the qualifications required to take examinations — specifically, they had not served apprenticeships.
The Department of Commerce Report, supra, n. 8, at 28 observed that: "The formation of pilots' associations was largely a result of the intense competition that formerly prevailed among the pilots, . . . . Little effort was made to maintain definite pilot stations. Instead, the desire to be the first to speak a ship frequently led the pilots to cruise great distances from the port.
"One of the unfortunate results of the intense competition of pilots was the fact that frequently pilots could not be had when wanted, although they might be far out to sea in quest of business. Another drawback was that pilots unnecessarily exposed themselves to danger. And a third important disadvantage was that it made the earnings precarious; a pilot might earn a great deal this month and very little the next. . . .
"The pilots themselves were the first to see the disadvantages of the free or competitive system and to take steps toward the organization of associations. These associations soon developed into strong working combinations that eliminated competition and placed on an amicable basis matters that formerly produced much sharp rivalry.
"From the evidence at hand it would appear that the shipping interests as well as the insurance and commercial interests of the ports encouraged the pilots in the formation of these associations. The advantages of a well-organized pilotage system were as apparent to these interests as to the pilots themselves for the commerce of the port was not only facilitated and expedited but made much safer by reason of the better organization of the pilotage system, which came with the elimination of competition.
"Since associations have been formed along the present lines pilotage grounds have been established . . . These grounds are well known to mariners, who may safely count on finding there at practically all times and in all conditions of weather a pilot boat with a sufficient number of pilots aboard to accommodate any reasonable number of vessels that may come. There is little chance nowadays that a vessel will fail to find a pilot when needed. . . .
"Still another advantage of the present organization of pilotage systems is that it permits the maintenance of a central office which is in constant touch with the pilot boat and arranges for the rotation of pilots. The association generally employs an agent to look after the routine business of the office."