212 U.S. 86 (1909), 359, Waters-Pierce Oil Company v. Texas (No. 1)

Docket Nº:No. 359
Citation:212 U.S. 86, 29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417
Party Name:Waters-Pierce Oil Company v. Texas (No. 1)
Case Date:January 18, 1909
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 86

212 U.S. 86 (1909)

29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417

Waters-Pierce Oil Company

v.

Texas (No. 1)

No. 359

United States Supreme Court

January 18, 1909

Argued November 2, 3, 1908

ERROR TO THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEAL FOR THE THIRD

SUPREME JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF TEXAS

Syllabus

The jurisdiction of this Court, under § 709 Rev.Stat., to review the proceeding of state court is limited to specific instance of denial of federal right specially set up in and denied by the state court.

This court does not review, but accepts a conclusive, the findings of fact made by the state court.

Although the state court may incorrectly charge as to certain provisions of a statute, if the jury finds that defendant has violated those provisions and also other provisions not involving any federal question, and only one penalty is assessed, the judgment rests on a nonfederal ground sufficient to sustain it, and this Court has not jurisdiction to review it under 709 Rev.Stat.

Although an agreement to violate the antitrust law of a state may be made outside of the state, if the parties thereto or their agent execute it, or attempt so to do, within the state, they are under the jurisdiction of the state, and their conviction for such act is not without due process of law.

Page 87

States having power to prevent unlawful combinations in restraint of trade may provide the procedure for enforcing the same, subject only to the qualification that such procedure must not deny or conflict with fundamental or constitutional rights.

Even though it would be giving a penal statute a retroactive effect to make it apply to an unlawful agreement executed prior to the passage of the act by defendant's predecessor in interest, defendant is subject to conviction for violating the act after its enactment by making itself a party to and carrying out its illegal provisions.

Where defendant has had a fair trial and the question of liability has been submitted to a jury and the judgment reviewed and sustained by an appellate court, this Court will not hold that there has been a deprivation of due process of law because the state statute permitted, and the court charged, that conviction could be had not only for acts accomplishing, but also for those tending or reasonably calculated to bring about, the things prohibited.

The antitrust laws of Texas involved in this case are not unconstitutional as depriving any one of due process of law because vague and indefinite as prohibiting acts which "tend" or are "reasonably calculated" to restrain trade and prevent competition.

The fixing of punishment for crime and penalties for unlawful acts is within the police power of the state, and this Court cannot interfere with state legislation in fixing fines, or judicial action in imposing them, unless so grossly excessive as to amount to deprivation of property without due process of law.

Where a state antitrust law fixed penalties at $5,000 a day, and, after verdict of guilty for over 300 days, a defendant corporation was fined over $1,600,000, this Court will not hold that the fine is so excessive as to amount to deprivation of property without due process of law where it appears that the business was extensive and profitable during the period of violation, and that the corporation has over $40,000,000 of assets and has declared dividends amounting to several hundred percent

106 S.W. 918 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 96

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case was begun in the state District Court of Travis County, Texas, to forfeit the permit of the plaintiff in error, the Waters-Pierce Oil Company, a corporation of the State of Missouri, to conduct business in the State of Texas, and to assess penalties against it for violation of the antitrust laws of that state. The prosecution was under two laws of the state -- one of 1899 and one of March 31, 1903. The proceeding was brought by the Attorney General of Texas and the County Attorney of Travis County, to recover penalties, under the act of 1899, from the thirty-first day of May, 1900, until the thirty-first day of March, 1903 at the rate of $5,000 per day, and under the act of 1903, from the thirty-first of March, 1903, till the 29th of April, 1907, at the rate of $50 per day, and to cancel the permit of the defendant to do business, other than interstate, in Texas.

The jury returned a verdict against the defendant, and assessed

Page 97

penalties under the act of 1899 from May 31, 1900, to March 31, 1903 -- 1,033 days. Such penalties were assessed at the rate of $1,500 a day during that period, being the total sum of $1,549,500. The jury also found against the defendant under the act of 1903, and assessed the penalties for each day between April 1, 1903, and April 29, 1907 -- 1,480 days -- at the rate of $50 per day, making a total of $74,000. The jury further found that the permit of the defendant to do business in the State of Texas should be cancelled. Thereupon the court rendered a judgment for the State of Texas for the sum of the penalties assessed, $1,623,500, and ordered a cancellation of the defendant's permit to do business in the state except as to its interstate commerce business. This judgment was affirmed upon appeal to the court of civil appeals of Texas (106 S.W. 918) and, upon application to the Supreme Court of Texas, that court refused to grant a writ of error, and the case was brought here.

The case was submitted upon oral arguments and elaborate briefs and a voluminous record. It was argued in many aspects as though this were a proceeding in error to review the weight of the evidence adduced in the state courts, to reexamine the rulings of the court upon the admissibility of testimony, and to determine the effect of the statute of limitations in the state.

The jurisdiction of this Court to review the proceedings of the state courts, as we have had frequent occasion to declare, is not that of a general reviewing court in error, but is limited to the specific instances of denials of federal rights, whether those pertaining to the constitutionality of federal or state statutes, or to certain rights, immunities, and privileges of federal origin, specially set up in the state court, and denied by the rulings and judgment of that court. Sec. 709, Rev.Stat. Nor does this Court sit to review the finding of facts made in the state court, but accepts the findings of the court of the state upon matters of fact as conclusive, and is confined to a review of questions of federal law within the jurisdiction conferred upon this Court. Quinby v. Boyd, 128 U.S. 489; Egan v. Hart, 165 U.S. 188; Downer v. Richards, 151 U.S. 658; Thayer v. Spratt, 189

Page 98

U.S. 346. We shall not, therefore, undertake to follow counsel in the consideration of all the questions argued, but shall limit our review to questions of a federal nature which we deem to be properly made in this record and essential to the decision of the case.

Epitomizing the Texas antitrust statutes for the purposes of his charge, the learned judge who presided in the district court, speaking first of the act of 1899, stated them as follows:

For the purposes of this charge, you are instructed that this act made it unlawful for any corporation transacting or conducting any kind of business in this state to enter into, or become a party to, any agreement or understanding with any other corporation or individual to fix or regulate the price in Texas of any article of manufacture or merchandise, or to control or limit in Texas the trade in any article of manufacture or merchandise.

You are further instructed that said statute also made it unlawful for any corporation transacting or conducting any kind of business in this state to bring about or permit any union or combination of its capital, [29 S.Ct. 222] property, trade, or acts with the capital, property, trade, or acts of any other person or corporation, whereby the price in Texas of any article of manufacture or merchandise would be fixed or sought to be fixed, regulated or sought to be regulated; or whereby the price in Texas of any article of manufacture or merchandise would be reasonably calculated to be fixed or regulated, or whereby the trade in such article of manufacture or merchandise in Texas would be sought to be controlled or limited, or would be reasonably calculated to be controlled or limited.

The statute known as the antitrust law of 1903 became effective on March 31, 1903, and has since continued in force. For the purposes of this charge, you are instructed that this statute defines a trust to be a combination of capital, skill, or acts by two or more persons, firms, corporations, or associations of persons, or either two or more of them, for either, any, or all of the following purposes, viz.:

Page 99

1. To create or which may tend to create or carry out restrictions in trade or commerce in Texas, or to create or carry out restrictions in the free pursuit in Texas of any business authorized or permitted by the laws of this state.

2. To fix, maintain, or increase the price of merchandise in Texas.

3. To prevent or lessen competition in Texas in the sale of merchandise.

4. To abstain from engaging in business or in the sale of merchandise in Texas, or any portion thereof.

Said statute of 1903 further defines a monopoly to be a combination or consolidation of two or more corporations when effected in any of the following methods, viz:

1. When the direction of the affairs of two or more corporations is in any manner brought under the same management or control for the purpose of producing, or where such common management or control tends to create, a trust, as above defined.

2. When any corporation acquires the shares or certificates of stock, franchise, or other rights, or the physical properties or any part thereof of...

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176 practice notes
  • 204 P. 958 (Or. 1922), State v. Laundy
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court of Oregon
    • 28 Febrero 1922
    ...Or. 465] State v. Rose, 147 La. 243, 84 So. 643, 646; State v. Hennessy, 114 Wash. 351, 195 P. 211, 215; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86, 29 Sup.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417. The indictment follows the language of the statute which defines the crime, and consequently the indictment is ......
  • 87 N.E. 823 (Ind. 1909), 21,187, Knight & Jillson Co. v. Miller
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 16 Marzo 1909
    ...to deter resort to the courts for determination of the rights of those against whom it is directed. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas (1909), 212 U.S. 86, 29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417. It must be borne in mind that no new offense is created, and, being declaratory of the common law, no doubtful ......
  • 107 S.W.2d 550 (Tex. 1937), 7162, State v. Standard Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court of Texas
    • 16 Junio 1937
    ...statutes have repeatedly been held valid. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. State of Texas, 48 Tex.Civ.App. 162, 106 S.W. 918 (writ refused); Id., 212 U.S. 86, 29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. State of Texas, 19 Tex. Civ.App. 1, 44 S.W. 936; Id., 177 U.S. 28, 20 S.Ct. 518, 44 L.E......
  • State farm and punitive damages: call the jury back.
    • United States
    • The Journal of High Technology Law Vol. 5 Nbr. 1, January 2005
    • 1 Enero 2005
    ...due to the absence of any requirement that the state show intentional or reckless wrongdoing. Id. at 491. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86 (1909), upheld $1.6 million in penalties imposed under a Texas anti-trust statute. The Court found the penalty not excessive, solely on the b......
  • Free signup to view additional results
169 cases
  • 204 P. 958 (Or. 1922), State v. Laundy
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court of Oregon
    • 28 Febrero 1922
    ...Or. 465] State v. Rose, 147 La. 243, 84 So. 643, 646; State v. Hennessy, 114 Wash. 351, 195 P. 211, 215; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86, 29 Sup.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417. The indictment follows the language of the statute which defines the crime, and consequently the indictment is ......
  • 87 N.E. 823 (Ind. 1909), 21,187, Knight & Jillson Co. v. Miller
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 16 Marzo 1909
    ...to deter resort to the courts for determination of the rights of those against whom it is directed. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas (1909), 212 U.S. 86, 29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417. It must be borne in mind that no new offense is created, and, being declaratory of the common law, no doubtful ......
  • 107 S.W.2d 550 (Tex. 1937), 7162, State v. Standard Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court of Texas
    • 16 Junio 1937
    ...statutes have repeatedly been held valid. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. State of Texas, 48 Tex.Civ.App. 162, 106 S.W. 918 (writ refused); Id., 212 U.S. 86, 29 S.Ct. 220, 53 L.Ed. 417; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. State of Texas, 19 Tex. Civ.App. 1, 44 S.W. 936; Id., 177 U.S. 28, 20 S.Ct. 518, 44 L.E......
  • United States v. Quality Egg, LLC, 041415 IWNDC, C 14-3024-MWB
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • 14 Abril 2015
    ...216, 223). Even a fine may be immoderate ( Standard Oil Co. of Indiana v. Missouri, 224 U.S. 270, 286; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86, 111). But in sustaining the power to fine, we are not to be understood as sustaining to a like length the power to imprison. We leave that ques......
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6 books & journal articles
  • State farm and punitive damages: call the jury back.
    • United States
    • The Journal of High Technology Law Vol. 5 Nbr. 1, January 2005
    • 1 Enero 2005
    ...due to the absence of any requirement that the state show intentional or reckless wrongdoing. Id. at 491. Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86 (1909), upheld $1.6 million in penalties imposed under a Texas anti-trust statute. The Court found the penalty not excessive, solely on the b......
  • Let the burden fit the crime: extending proportionality review to sex offenders.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 123 Nbr. 5, March - March 2014
    • 1 Marzo 2014
    ...Sw. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Danaher, 238 U.S. 482, 490-91 (1915) (finding the penalty excessive); Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86, 111-12 (1909) (finding the penalty not excessive); see also TXO Prod. Corp. v. Alliance Res. Corp., 509 U.S. 443, 479 (1993) (O'Connor, J., dissentin......
  • Due process forgotten: the problem of statutory damages and class actions.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 74 Nbr. 1, January 2009
    • 1 Enero 2009
    ...process standards to federal statute without any discussion). (85.) E.g., St. Louis Railway, 251 U.S. 63; Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86 (86.) E.g., State Farm, 538 U.S. at 416. (87.) Although part of the Lochner Court's substantive due process legacy, these statutory damages c......
  • REINVIGORATING CRIMINAL ANTITRUST?
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 60 Nbr. 4, March 2019
    • 1 Marzo 2019
    ...Int'l Harvester Co. of Am. v. Kentucky, 234 U.S. 216 (1914); Nash v. United States, 229 U.S. 373 (1913); Waters-Pierce Oil Co. v. Texas, 212 U.S. 86 (253.) 520 U.S. 259, 261 (1997). (254.) Id. at 266. (255.) Id. (256.) Id. at 267. (257.) 229 U.S. 373(1913). (258.) 193 U.S. 197 (1904) (Holme......
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