249 U.S. 389 (1919), 177, Standard Oil Company v. Graves

Docket Nº:No. 177
Citation:249 U.S. 389, 39 S.Ct. 320, 63 L.Ed. 662
Party Name:Standard Oil Company v. Graves
Case Date:April 14, 1919
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 389

249 U.S. 389 (1919)

39 S.Ct. 320, 63 L.Ed. 662

Standard Oil Company



No. 177

United States Supreme Court

April 14, 1919

Argued January 23, 1919




The construction of a state statute must be judged by its necessary effect; the name is not conclusive. P. 394.

A law of the State of Washington requires that products of petroleum, intended for use or consumption in the state, shall be inspected before being sold or offered for sale, and imposes fees for inspection by which in 10 years over $335,000 was collected, of which only about $80,000 was disbursed for expenses, leaving a revenue of over $255,000. Held, in respect of such products imported from another state for sale in Washington, that the charge is excessive, and an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Id.

94 Wash. 291 reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 391

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court

Plaintiff in error filed a complaint and an amended complaint in the Superior Court of Thurston County, Washington, to enjoin the collection of fees prescribed by the Oil Inspection Act of that state upon the ground that the statute was in contravention of the Constitution of the United States. The superior court held the law to be unconstitutional. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court of Washington reversed the judgment. 94 Wash. 291.

The statute is the "state Oil Inspection Law" (Laws 1907, p. 412) of the State of Washington. Its provisions are thus summarized in the opinion of the supreme court of the state:

The inspection law referred to in the complaint was first passed during the legislative session for the year 1905 (Laws 1905, p. 310). That act was amended in 1907, and will be found in chapter 192 of the Laws of 1907, p. 413 (Rem.Code, § 6051 et seq.). Section 3 (id., § 6052) of this act provides that all gasoline, benzine, distillate, or

Page 392

other volatile product of petroleum intended for use or consumption in this state for illuminating, manufacturing, domestic, or power purposes, "before being sold or offered for sale," shall be inspected by the state oil inspector or his deputies. When the inspection is made, a certificate is to be issued, and the barrel or receptacle which contains the oil must be labeled or branded. Section 4 (id., § 6053) of the act contains a schedule of the fees which shall be paid for the inspection. Section 6 (id., § 6055) provides that, if any person or persons, whether manufacturer, vender, or dealer, or as agent or representative of any manufacturer, vender, or dealer, "shall sell or attempt to sell" to any person, firm or corporation in this state, any illuminating oil, gasoline, benzine, distillate, or any volatile product of petroleum intended for use or consumption within this state that has not been inspected and branded according to the provisions of the act "shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." By the Laws of 1913, chapter 60, p. 196 (Rem.Code, § 3000-1 et seq.), it was made the duty of the commissioner of agriculture to exercise all the powers and perform all the duties which, by the law of 1907, were vested in and required to be performed by the state oil inspector.

The case was heard upon demurrer to the amended complaint.

Among other things, the amended complaint set out:

Plaintiff is engaged in the State of California in the business of producing and buying crude petroleum oil, and of manufacturing and refining the same, and of shipping products of such manufacture, to-wit, illuminating oils, gasoline, distillate, and other volatile products of petroleum from its refineries in California into the State of Washington, where the same are sold by this plaintiff in large quantities for use and consumption in the State of Washington for illuminating, manufacturing, domestic, and power purposes. None of the products hereinbefore

Page 393

referred to is manufactured by plaintiff in the State of Washington, but all of said products are shipped into said state from the State of California.

The plaintiff maintains in the State of Washington wharves and docks, tanks, warehouses, buildings, machinery, horses and wagons, and other equipment for receiving, shipping, handling, selling, and otherwise distributing said products shipped as aforesaid from the State of California into the State of Washington.

The fees collected under the inspection acts are set out in the amended bill of complaint:

The total receipts from the fees collected under said statute, chapter 192 of the Laws of 1907, and chapter 161, Laws of 1905, of the State of Washington, for the inspection therein provided for of said products mentioned in said [39 S.Ct. 321] laws intended for sale or consumption in this state, and the total disbursements in connection with the collection thereof, and in connection with the administration of said laws, and the net revenue from such receipts during the following years have respectively been the...

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