218 U.S. 57 (1910), 139, Shevlin-Carpenter Co. v. Minnesota

Docket Nº:No. 139
Citation:218 U.S. 57, 30 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed. 930
Party Name:Shevlin-Carpenter Co. v. Minnesota
Case Date:May 31, 1910
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 57

218 U.S. 57 (1910)

30 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed. 930

Shevlin-Carpenter Co.

v.

Minnesota

No. 139

United States Supreme Court

May 31, 1910

Argued April 6, 1910

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA

Syllabus

Where the purpose of a state statute does not depend upon the inseparableness of its punishments the fact that a statute provides both double damages and fine and imprisonment does not necessarily prevent a construction that the provisions are independent.

There must be a first jeopardy before there can be a second, and on the first, the defense of second jeopardy cannot be raised in anticipation of deprivation of the constitutional immunity on a subsequent trial.

Page 58

Quaere, whether a state statute which inflicts two punishments in separate proceedings for the same act is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The mere fact that a state police statute punishes an offense actually committed without regard to intent does not render the statute unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Constitution declares the principle upon which the public welfare is to be promoted and opposing ones cannot be substituted. Connolly v. Union Sewer Pipe Co., 184 U.S. 540, 558.

A state does not offend the equality clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by taking as a basis of classification the ways by which a law may be defeated. St. John v. New York, 201 U.S. 633.

Innocence cannot be asserted as to an action which violates existing law, and ignorance of law will not excuse.

Courts cannot set aside legislation simply because it is harsh.

The statute of Minnesota punishing the cutting and removal of timber on state lands and imposing double or triple damages and fine and imprisonment for violation, whether the offense be willful or not, is not unconstitutional under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment either as putting one violating it in second jeopardy or because inflicting the penalties upon him regardless of his intent.

102 Minn. 470 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a statute of Minnesota regulating cutting timber on the public lands of the state and fixing penalties therefor, are stated in the opinion.

Page 62

MCKENNA, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves the consideration of the validity under the Constitution of the United States of the imposition of double damages under an act of the State of Minnesota for a "casual and involuntary trespass," made by cutting or assisting to cut timber upon the lands of the state. The act is set out in the margin. *

[30 S.Ct. 664] The action was brought to recover the sum of $51,324.42 for timber cut by plaintiffs in error from certain lands of

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the state "without a valid and existing permit." The question in the case revolves around this permit and the extensions of it alleged by plaintiffs in error to have been given.

The findings of the court show the following facts: the state sold at public auction, in accordance with the statute, the timber on the lands to John F. Irwin, one of the plaintiffs in error, acting for himself and as agent of the Shevlin-Carpenter Company, and a permit was issued by the auditor and land commissioners of the state, which contained the following clause: "That no extension of time of this permit shall be granted except as provided in section 24, chapter 163, General Laws 1895." The section provides that no permit shall be issued to cover more than two seasons, and no permit shall be extended except by unanimous consent of the board of timber commissioners, and under no circumstances shall an extension be granted for more than one year, and then only for good and sufficient reasons. Irwin gave bond as required by law. On the seventh of May, 1902, the permit was extended until the first of June, 1903. At the time the permit was extended, the sum of $1,307, as required by law, was paid by plaintiffs in error into the treasury of the state, that sum being twenty-five percent of the appraised value of the timber. In the winter of the years 1903-1904, plaintiffs in error, knowing that there had been one extension of the permit, and that that extension had expired, entered upon the land and cut and removed therefrom 2,444,020 feet of timber, which it was agreed was worth $6 per thousand feet, board measure. After the timber was cut, the surveyor general of the lumber district scaled and returned the amount of the same to the auditor of the state, which officer erroneously computed the amount due from the plaintiffs in error at the contract price of stumpage value thereof, as if the permit were still in force, finding the same to be $18,574.39.

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This amount was paid to the state, and no part of it has been returned.

From these facts, the court deduced the conclusion that the permit expired on the first of June, 1902, and that the extension thereof expired on the first of June, 1903, and that, after the latter date, it was of no effect and absolutely void, and was known to be so to plaintiffs in error when they cut the timber in controversy, and that their entry upon the lands was in violation of the law. They were adjudged willful violators of the law, and damages were assessed against them at treble the value of the timber; to-wit, $43,992.36. The court, however, decided that a deduction should be made from that sum of $16,997, money paid by plaintiffs in error to the state after the permit had expired. There were other sums of money with the disposition of which we are not concerned. Judgment was entered against plaintiffs in error for the sum of $26,995.17. The supreme court affirmed the conclusion of the trial court, that the permit had expired, and that the cutting and removing of the timber were illegal, but disagreed with that court as to the character of the trespass. The supreme court said:

The finding of the trial court that appellant was guilty of a willful trespass is not sustained by the evidence. On the contrary, the record conclusively shows that appellant had reasonable ground for believing authority had been granted, and honestly acted on such belief. The court hence decided that the judgment should only have been for double, not treble, damages, saying:

Being of opinion that, in this action the state is limited to a recovery of double damages, and the timber cut having been paid for, the judgment is necessarily to the value as found.

The case was remanded with directions to reduce the judgment to $14,664.12. In all other respects, it was affirmed.

On the question of the validity of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United

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States, the court said:

On a former appeal upon demurrer to the complaint, State v. Shevlin-Carpenter Company, 99 Minn. 158, the constitutional questions were raised, and it was there held that the act was constitutional, and that in case of trespass the state might recover either the double value of the property taken, or treble its value, according to whether the facts constituted a casual or involuntary, or a willful and unlawful trespass. We adhere to that decision, and for [30 S.Ct. 665] the reasons set forth in the opinion then filed.

This statement of the facts and the rulings of the courts of Minnesota exhibit the controversy, the state contending that the penalties of the statute are incurred by a casual or involuntary trespass, the plaintiffs in error insisting that to attach that consequence to acts done in good faith violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

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