Prout v. Starr , 188 U.S. 537 ( 1903 )

  • 188 U.S. 537 (1903)


    No. 150.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued January 26, 27, 1903.
    Decided February 23, 1903.

    *542 Mr. F.N. Prout, attorney general of the State of Nebraska, in person for appellant.

    Mr. J.M. Woolworth for appellees. Mr. W.D. McHugh was with him on the brief.

    MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

    As the appellant demurred to the supplemental bill, and elected to stand on his demurrer when the final decree of the Circuit Court was entered, we have now only to consider the questions of law presented by the demurrer.

    That it was competent for the parties, plaintiffs and defendants, to agree to dispense with taking evidence, to accept the evidence taken in the other cases, and to abide by the decrees therein to be entered, we have no reason to doubt, Pacific R.R. v. Ketchum, 101 U.S. 289, and that such an agreement was entered into is conceded. The allegations of fact and the contentions of law being the same in all the cases, such an arrangement was convenient and proper. The decrees in the other cases having been affirmed by this court, it was in accordance with that agreement that the Circuit Court should enter a similar decree in the present case. In so far, then, as the substantial merits of the case are concerned, we are not called upon to consider them. They have been concluded by the reasoning and opinion of this court in the other cases. Smyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466.

    But by this appeal we are asked to declare that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction because it appears, on the face of the bill, that the complaint is essentially against the State of Nebraska, and is in contravention of the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

    It is a sufficient answer to this contention that it was made, considered and determined in Smyth v. Ames. In the opinion in that case it was said:

    "Within the meaning of the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution, these suits are not against the State, but against certain individuals charged with the administration of a state *543 enactment, which, it is alleged, cannot be enforced without violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. It is the settled doctrine of this court that a suit against individuals, for the purpose of preventing them as officers of a State from enforcing an unconstitutional enactment to the injury of the rights of the plaintiff, is not a suit against the State within the meaning of that amendment. Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, 140 U.S. 1, 10; In re Tyler, 149 U.S. 164, 190; Scott v. Donald, 165 U.S. 58, 68; Tindal v. Wesley, 167 U.S. 204, 220."

    The Constitution of the United States, with the several amendments thereof, must be regarded as one instrument, all of whose provisions are to be deemed of equal validity. It would, indeed, be most unfortunate if the immunity of the individual States from suits by citizens of other States, provided for in the Eleventh Amendment, were to be interpreted as nullifying those other provisions which confer power on Congress to regulate commerce among the several States, which forbid the States from entering into any treaty, alliance or confederation, from passing any bill of attainder, ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or, without the consent of Congress, from laying any duty of tonnage, entering into any agreement or compact with other States, or from engaging in war — all of which provisions existed before the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment, which still exist, and which would be nullified and made of no effect, if the judicial power of the United States could not be invoked to protect citizens affected by the passage of state laws disregarding these constitutional limitations. Much less can the Eleventh Amendment be successfully pleaded as an invincible barrier to judicial inquiry whether the salutary provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment have been disregarded by state enactments. On the other hand, the judicial power of the United States has not infrequently been exercised in securing to the several States, in proper cases, the immunity intended by the Eleventh Amendment. Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10; North Carolina v. Semple, 134 U.S. 22; Harkrader v. Wadley, 172 U.S. 148; Fitts v. McGhee, 172 U.S. 516.

    *544 It is one of the important functions of this court to so interpret the various provisions and limitations contained in the organic law of the Union that each and all of them shall be respected and observed.

    It is further argued by the appellant, as one of the grounds of his demurrer, that he was complained against in his official capacity as attorney general of the State of Nebraska, and not in his individual capacity as a citizen thereof, and that the attorney general of a State cannot be restrained by an injunction of a United States court from enforcing the criminal laws of the State.

    This, we think, is only another phase of the same question.

    It is true that the defendant was included in the bill as the attorney general of the State, but that was because he was one of the board of transportation, which was directed to enforce the provisions of the act. The bill did not seek to interfere with the acts of the attorney general in prosecuting offenders against the valid criminal laws of the State, but its object was to prevent him from collecting penalties that had accrued under the provisions of a statute judicially determined to be void. The injunction must be so read and understood.

    Several changes of incumbents in the office of attorney general took place while the cases were proceeded in, but that did not deprive the court of jurisdiction. The successors in office were duly substituted, and thus became subjected to the preliminary and final decrees of the court. The object of the supplemental bill was to restrain the present appellant, as successor to Smyth, from attempting to transfer the very matters that stood for judgment in the Federal court to the state court by filing a bill in the latter. Such a course might bring about a conflict between those courts, and create the confusion so often deprecated by this court. Peck v. Jenness, 7 How. 612, 625; Chittenden v. Brewster, 2 Wall. 191; Orton v. Smith, 18 How. 263.

    The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court could not be defeated or impaired by the institution, by one of the parties, of subsequent proceedings, whether civil or criminal, involving the *545 same legal questions, in the state court. Harkrader v. Wadley, 172 U.S. 148, 166.

    The decree of the Circuit Court is


    MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurring. I am in favor of modifying the judgment in some particulars and then affirming it, but I do not concur in all the reasoning of the opinion.

Document Info

DocketNumber: 150

Citation Numbers: 188 U.S. 537, 23 S. Ct. 398, 47 L. Ed. 584, 1903 U.S. LEXIS 1298

Judges: Shiras, After Making the Foregoing Statement

Filed Date: 2/1/1903

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/15/2017

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