Harrison v. St. Louis & San Francisco R. Co. , 232 U.S. 318 ( 1914 )

  • 232 U.S. 318 (1914)


    No. 34.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Submitted November 4, 1913.
    Decided February 24, 1914.

    *323 Mr. Charles West, Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma, and Mr. Ben F. Harrison, Secretary of State of the State of Oklahoma, for appellant.

    Mr. W.F. Evans and Mr. E.T. Miller for appellee.

    *327 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

    We have stated the case only to the extent necessary to make clear the questions essential to be decided.

    The assignments of error in general terms assail the overruling of the demurrer, the striking of matter from the answer and the final decree. The propositions, however, which are urged at bar to sustain these general assignments are numerous and we think in some aspects redundant. To consider them in the order in which they are urged would besides giving rise to repetition tend to produce confusion. We hence disregard the mere order in which they are stated in the argument and come to consider the fundamental propositions necessary to be taken *328 into view in order to determine whether the court below was right in holding that the law under which the Secretary of State acted, as well as the action of that officer, were void because inconsistent with the judicial power of the United States, reserving until that is done such separate consideration of the propositions relied on as we may deem it necessary to make.

    It may not be doubted that the judicial power of the United States as created by the Constitution and provided for by Congress pursuant to its constitutional authority, is a power wholly independent of state action and which therefore the several States may not by any exertion of authority in any form, directly or indirectly, destroy, abridge, limit or render inefficacious. The doctrine is so elementary as to require no citation of authority to sustain it. Indeed, it stands out so plainly as one of the essential and fundamental conceptions upon which our constitutional system rests and the lines which define it are so broad and so obvious that, unlike some of the other powers delegated by the Constitution, where the lines of distinction are less clearly defined, the attempts to transgress or forget them have been so infrequent as to call for few occasions for their statement and application. However, though infrequent, occasions have not been wanting, especially on the subject of the removal of causes with which we are now dealing, where the general principle has been expounded and applied so as to cause the subject, even from the mere point of view of authority, to be beyond the domain of all possible controversy.

    See for general question Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123; Reagan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 154 U.S. 362, 391; Hess v. Reynolds, 113 U.S. 73, 77; Madisonville Traction Co. v. Mining Co., 196 U.S. 239, 252, and on subject of removal, Southern Pacific Company v. Denton, 146 U.S. 202; St. Louis & S.F. Ry. Co. v. James, 161 U.S. 545; *329 Southern Railway Company v. Allison, 190 U.S. 326; Herndon v. C., R.I. & P., 218 U.S. 135.

    With this general principle in hand let us come to fix one or more of the essentials of the right to remove as a prelude to testing the assailed statute and the action taken under it. In the first place, the right unrestrained and unpenalized by state action on compliance with the forms required by the law of the United States to ask the removal of a cause pending in a State to a United States court is obviously of the very essence of the right to remove conferred by the law of the United States. In the second place, as the right given to remove by the United States law is paramount, it results that it is also of the essence of the right to remove, that when an issue of whether a prayer for removal was rightfully asked arises, a Federal question results which is determinable by the courts of the United States free from limitation or interference arising from an exertion of state power. In the third place, as the right freely exists to seek removal unchecked or unburdened by state authority and the duty to determine the adequacy of a prayed removal is a Federal and not a state question, it follows that the States are in the nature of things without authority to penalize or punish one who has sought to avail himself of the Federal right of removal on the ground that the removal asked was unauthorized or illegal. Let us come then to the text of the statute with the object of determining its constitutionality.

    Its first section provides "that the domicile of every person, firm or corporation conducting a business in person, by agent, through an office, or otherwise transacting business within the State of Oklahoma, and which has complied with or may comply with the constitution and laws of the State of Oklahoma, shall be for all purposes deemed and held to be the State of Oklahoma." The second section provides for the immediate revocation of "the license or charter to do business within the State of *330 Oklahoma of every person, firm or corporation conducting a business in person, by agent, through an office or otherwise transacting business within said State of Oklahoma, who shall claim or declare in writing before any court of law or equity within said State of Oklahoma, domicile within another State or foreign country." The third section makes it the duty of the judge of any court before which any claim of foreign domicile is made within the contemplation of the second section to at once make report of the fact to the Secretary of State and to transmit to that officer a copy of the claim, and the fourth section imposes on the Secretary of State the duty immediately on the receipt of such report and copy of the declaration to "declare the license or charter of any person, firm or corporation so filing said claim or declaration, forfeited and revoked," and the fifth causes it to be a misdemeanor subjecting to a penalty of not less than one thousand nor more than five thousand dollars each day or part of day, for any person whose license or charter is revoked to do business in Oklahoma in conflict with the prohibitions of the statute.

    While the provisions of the statute are dependent one upon the other and are unified in the sense that they all are components of a common purpose, that is, tend to the realization of one and the same legislative intent, its provisions nevertheless, for the purpose of analysis, are plainly two-fold in character, that is, one, the compulsory citizenship and domicile within the State which the first section imposes and the other the prohibition which the statute pronounces against any assertion in a court of the existence of any other citizenship and domicile than that which the statute ordains and the means and penalties provided for sanctioning such prohibition. Although theoretically, the first would seem to be the more primary and fundamental of the two, since the second after all consists but of methods provided for making the first *331 operative, the second from the point of view we are examining is the primal consideration, since it directly deals with the assertion in a state court of a right to remove and provides the mechanism which was deemed to be effectual to render the assertion of such right impossible. In other words, the difference between its two provisions is that which exists between an attempt on the one hand to render the enjoyment of a Federal right impossible by arbitrarily creating a fictitious legal status incompatible with the existence of the right and on the other hand the formulation of such prohibitions and the establishment of such penalties against the attempt to avail of the Federal right as to cause it to be impossible to assert it. Coming then to consider the statute from the second or latter point of view, we think it is clear that it plainly and obviously forbids a resort to the Federal courts on the ground of diversity of citizenship in the contingency contemplated, punishes by extraordinary penalties any assertion of a right to remove under the laws of the United States, and attempts to divest the Federal courts of their power to determine, if issue arises on the subject, whether there is a right to remove. Indeed, the statute goes much further, since when an application to remove is made, in order to prevent a judicial consideration of its merits even by the state court, it in effect commands the judge of such court on the making of the application to refuse the same and to certify the fact that it was made to a state executive officer to the end that such officer should without judicial action strip the petitioning corporation of its right to do business, besides subjecting it to penalties of the most destructive character as a means of compelling acquiescence. When the nature of the statute is thus properly appreciated, nothing need be further said to manifest its obvious repugnancy to the Constitution or to demonstrate the correctness of the decree of the court below.

    The conclusion just stated leaves us only the duty of *332 separately and briefly referring to some of the propositions pressed in argument: a, the contention that because the object of the suit was to enjoin state officers from violating the constitutional rights of the complainant, it was therefore a suit against the State and not maintainable, is so plainly in conflict with the settled doctrine to the contrary that we do not further notice it. b, The contention so much insisted upon, that the act should not be declared unconstitutional because it does not discriminate, we assume refers to the provision of the statute creating an arbitrary standard of state citizenship and domicile; but as we see no possibility of separating that provision from the unconstitutional attempt to prevent access to the courts of the United States, there is no occasion to further deal with the subject of discrimination. If, however, we were to separately consider it, at once it is to be observed that the contention proceeds upon a self-evident misconception which is this, that if only wrong be indiscriminately done it becomes rightful. c, The proposition that the constitutionality of the statute and the action taken under it, is supported by the decisions in Doyle v. Continental Insurance Company, 94 U.S. 535 and Security Company v. Prewitt, 202 U.S. 246, is we think plainly unfounded. Those cases involved state legislation as to a subject over which there was complete state authority, that is, the exclusion from the State of a corporation which was so organized that it had no authority to do anything but a purely intrastate business, and the decisions rested upon the want of power to deprive a State of its right to deal with a subject which was in its complete control, even though an unlawful motive might have impelled the State to exert its lawful power. But that the application of those cases to a situation where complete power in a State over the subject dealt with, does not exist, has since been so repeatedly passed upon as to cause the question not to be open. Western Union Telegraph Company v. Kansas, *333 216 U.S. 1; Pullman Company v. Kansas, ib. 56; Textbook Company v. Pigg, 217 U.S. 91; Buck Stove & Range Co. v. Vickers, 226 U.S. 205, and Herndon v. C., R. & I.P. Ry., 218 U.S. 135. The grounds of the decision in the last case show the extremely narrow scope of the rulings in the Doyle and Prewitt cases, and render their inapplicability to this case certain. Indeed, the ruling in the Herndon Case and in those subsequent to the Doyle and Prewitt cases, most of which were reviewed in the Herndon Case, demonstrates that no authority is afforded by those two cases for the conception that it is within the power of a State in any form, directly or indirectly, to destroy or deprive of a right conferred by the Constitution and laws of the United States. d, The matters which the court below ordered stricken from the answer were irrelevant to the issue for decision even if it be conceded hypothetically that they had merit, because under that assumption they would have only been properly cognizable if presented in an appropriate manner and at the proper time to the Federal tribunal which had a right to pass upon them when considering the propriety of the removal which was prayed. e, We consider that the plain text of the statute, the meaning affixed to it by the state court when the application to remove was made, the subsequent action taken by the state officers, the character of the pleadings, the concession as stated by the court below which was made in the argument, all leave no room for the contention that at all events the statute should be construed not as an attempt on the part of the State to prevent the removal of causes, but simply as an effort on the part of the State to exert reasonable control over corporations within its borders. The argument that because the statute, if understood as we understand it, is so flagrantly repugnant to the Constitution as to suggest the impossibility of believing that it was enacted with that end in view but repudiates, as we have seen, the action of the state court and of the *334 state officers under it and the whole course of the trial, and comes at last to the contention that the more plainly an enactment violates the Constitution, the more urgent the duty of deciding that it does not do so.


Document Info

DocketNumber: 34

Citation Numbers: 232 U.S. 318, 34 S. Ct. 333, 58 L. Ed. 621, 1914 U.S. LEXIS 1359

Judges: White, After Making the Foregoing Statement

Filed Date: 2/24/1914

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 5/5/2017

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