200 U.S. 179 (1906), 174, Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Big Sandy

Docket Nº:No. 174
Citation:200 U.S. 179, 26 S.Ct. 208, 50 L.Ed. 428
Party Name:Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Big Sandy
Case Date:January 02, 1906
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 179

200 U.S. 179 (1906)

26 S.Ct. 208, 50 L.Ed. 428

Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Big Sandy

No. 174

United States Supreme Court

January 2, 1906

and Pomeroy Packet Co. v. Bay

Argued December 15, 1905




Where it appears from the record of a case in a state court that a federal question was raised, and, in the absence of an opinion, it appears from a certificate made part of the record that it was not raised too late under the local procedure, and that it was necessarily considered and decided by the highest court of the state, this Court has jurisdiction to review the judgment on writ of error.

A contract is not to be assumed to contemplate unlawful results unless a fair construction requires it, and where a contract relates to commerce between points within a state, both on a boundary river, it will not be construed as falling within the prohibitions of the Sherman Act because the vessels affected by the contract sail over soil belonging to the other state while passing between the intrastate points.

Even if there is some interference with interstate commerce, a contract is not necessarily void under the Sherman act if such interference is insignificant and merely incidental and not the dominant purpose; the contract will be construed as a domestic contract and its validity determined by the local law.

A contract for sale of vessels, even if they are engaged in interstate commerce, is not necessarily void because the vendors agree, as is ordinary in case of sale of a business and its goodwill, to withdraw from business for a specified period.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

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HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action upon a contract, brought by the defendants in error to recover an installment of money due by its terms. A judgment in their favor was sustained by the supreme court of the state, although the petition in error to that court set up that the contract was illegal under the act of Congress of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209. No opinion was delivered, but a certificate that this objection was relied upon, and that it necessarily was considered, was made part of the record by that court. Therefore the present writ of error properly was allowed. The record shows that the question was raised, and the certificate shows that it was not treated as having been raised too late under the local procedure, a point upon which the state court is the judge. It is enough that the federal question was raised and necessarily [26 S.Ct. 209] decided by the highest court of the state. Farmers' & Merchants' Insurance Co. v. Dobney, 189 U.S. 301.

The contract was an indenture between the Portsmouth & Pomeroy Packet Company, George W. and William Bay, of the first part, and the Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Big Sandy & Pomeroy Packet Company, of the second part. By this instrument, the parties of the first part sell to the latter two steamers, two deck barges, two coal flats, and $500 in the stock of the Coney Island Wharf Boat Company, for $30,500, to be paid as therein provided. The party of the second part also agrees to pay to the Bays $3,600 annually in advance for five years, provided, however, that in case of opposition to its boats by other boats running from Cincinnati to Portsmouth, Ohio, or to points above Portsmouth, not including points above Syracuse, Ohio, causing it to carry freight and passengers at certain exceedingly low rates, the time of payment of the installments shall be postponed until the opposition has ceased. It is

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further agreed that, if the opposition continues for two years without interruption and no annual payment be made, the Bays may cancel the agreement.

"It is also agreed as a part of the consideration of this agreement" that, for five years, the parties of the first part, or either of them, shall not be

engaged in running or in operating, or in any way be interested in any freight and passenger packet or business, or either of them at and from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Portsmouth,...

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