257 U.S. 312 (1921), 13, Truax v. Corrigan

Docket Nº:No. 13
Citation:257 U.S. 312, 42 S.Ct. 124, 66 L.Ed. 254
Party Name:Truax v. Corrigan
Case Date:December 19, 1921
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 312

257 U.S. 312 (1921)

42 S.Ct. 124, 66 L.Ed. 254




No. 13

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 19, 1921

Argued April 29, 30, 1920

Restored to docket for reargument June 6, 1921

Reargued October 5, 6, 1921




1. Where the issue is whether a state statute, in its application to facts specifically alleged and admitted by demurrer, violates the plaintiff's rights under the Constitution, this Court must analyze the facts as averred and draw its own inferences as to their ultimate effect; it is not bound by the state court's conclusion in this regard, nor by that court's declaration that the statute is merely a rule of evidence. P. 324.

2. The bill showed in substance that the defendants, for the purpose of winning a strike called by the defendant labor union over terms and conditions of employment in plaintiffs' restaurant, conspired to injure or destroy the business by inducing actual and prospective customers to withhold their patronage, and to that end caused the restaurant to be picketed by men who, throughout business hours, were stationed at the entrance proclaiming in a loud voice its "unfairness" to union labor, and who patrolled the sidewalk before it and, by word of mouth and through banners and handbills, made and circulated abusive and libelous attacks upon the plaintiffs, their business, their employees and customers, with threats of like consequences to future customers, and that much injury to the business resulted. Held that the bill stated a plain case of conspiracy and actionable wrong. P. 327.

3. If, as it seems to have been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Arizona, the law of that state (Rev.Stats., 1913, par. 1464) regulating injunctions in labor controversies grants the defendants in this case immunity from any civil or criminal action for the wrongs above stated, or leaves them merely subject to criminal prosecution for libel, it violates the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving the plaintiffs of their property without due process of law. P. 328.

4. The legislative power of a state can only be exerted in subordination to the fundamental principles of right and justice which

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the guaranty of due process in the Fourteenth Amendment is intended to preserve, and a purely arbitrary or capricious exercise of that power, whereby a wrongful and highly injurious invasion of property rights is practically sanctioned and the owner stripped of all real remedy, is wholly at variance with those principles. P. 329. New York Central R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188, distinguished.

5. The distinction between peaceful secondary boycotts and the present case considered. P. 330.

6. The relations of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment considered. P. 331.

7. The equal protection clause was aimed at undue favor and individual or class privilege, on the one hand, and at hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality, on the other; it secures equality of protection not only for all, but against all, similarly situated; it is a pledge of the protection of equal laws. P. 332.

8. Assuming that a state legislature may vary equitable relief in the state courts at its discretion, and even take away their equity jurisdiction altogether, the equality clause forbids that it deny such relief to one man while granting it to another under like circumstances and in the same territorial jurisdiction. P. 334.

9. A state law which specially exempts ex-employees, when committing tortious and irreparable injury to the business of their former employer, from restraint by injunction, while leaving subject to such restraint all other tortfeasors engaged in like wrongdoing, is unreasonable and without any just relation to the acts in respect of which it is proposed. P. 337.

10. Such a classification cannot be upheld as a legalized experiment in sociology; the very purpose of the Constitution was to prevent experimentation with the fundamental rights of the individual. P. 338. Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1; New York Central R. Co. v. White, supra, and similar cases distinguished.

11. In view of the construction placed by the state court upon Ariz.Rev.Stats., 1913, par. 1464, in this case, and because the equal protection clause applies only to state action, the conclusion that the statute is in part unconstitutional does not mean that § 20 of the Clayton Act, an act of Congress similarly worded but very differently construed, is also invalid. P. 340. Cf. American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council, ante, 184.

12. Paragraph 1456, Ariz.Rev.Stats., 1913, making general provision for issuance of injunctions, is separable from par. 1464, supra, having been adopted by the Territory and continued by

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the state constitution as a state law before par. 1464 was enacted as an amendment, and the unconstitutionality of the latter does not affect the continued operation of the former. P. 341. Connolly v. Union Sewer Pipe Co., 184 U.S. 540, distinguished.

20 Ariz. 7 reversed.

Error to review a decree of the Supreme Court of Arizona which affirmed a decree of the Superior Court of Cochise County dismissing upon demurrer the complaint of the present plaintiffs in error in their suit to restrain the defendants from committing the acts described in the opinion.

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TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiffs in error, who were plaintiffs below, and will be so called, own, maintain, and operate, on Main Street, in the City of Bisbee, Arizona, a restaurant known as the "English Kitchen." The defendants are cooks and waiters formerly in the employ of the plaintiffs, together with the labor union and the trades assembly of which

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they were members. All parties are residents of the State of Arizona.

The complaint set out the following case:

In April, 1916, a dispute arose between the plaintiffs and the defendants' union concerning the terms and conditions of employment of the members of the union. The plaintiffs refused to yield to the terms of the union, which thereupon ordered a strike of those of its members who were in plaintiffs' employ. To win the strike and to coerce and compel the plaintiffs to comply with the demands of the union, the defendants and others unknown to the plaintiffs entered into a conspiracy and boycott to injure plaintiffs in their restaurant and restaurant business by inducing plaintiffs' customers and others theretofore well and favorably disposed, to cease to patronize or trade with the plaintiffs. The method of inducing was set out at length, and included picketing, displaying banners, advertising the strike, denouncing plaintiffs as "unfair" to the union, and appealing to customers to stay away from the "English Kitchen," and the circulation of handbills containing abusive and libelous charges against plaintiffs, their employees, and their patrons, and intimations of injury to future patrons. Copies of the handbills were set forth in exhibits made part of the complaint.

In consequence of defendants' acts, many customers were induced to cease from patronizing plaintiffs, and their daily receipts, which had been in excess of the sum of $156 were reduced to $75. The complaint averred that, if the acts were continued, the business would be entirely destroyed, and that the plaintiffs would suffer great and irreparable injury; that for the plaintiffs to seek to recover damages would involve a multiplicity of suits; that all the defendants were insolvent, and would be unable to respond in damages for any injury resulting from their acts, and the plaintiffs were therefore without any adequate remedy at law.

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The complaint further averred that the defendants were relying for immunity on Paragraph 1464 of the Revised Statutes of Arizona [42 S.Ct. 126] of 1913, which is in part as follows:

No restraining order or injunction shall be granted by any court of this state, or a judge or the judges thereof, in any case between an employer and employees, or between employers and employees, or between employees, or between persons employed and persons seeking employment, involving or growing out of a dispute concerning terms or conditions of employment, unless necessary to prevent irreparable injury to property or to a property right of the party making the application, for which injury there is no adequate remedy at law, and such property or property right must be described with particularity in the application, which must be in writing and sworn to by the applicant or by his agent or attorney.

And no such restraining order or injunction shall prohibit any person or persons from terminating any relation of employment, or from ceasing to perform any work or labor, or from recommending, advising, or persuading others by peaceful means so to do; or from attending at or near a house or place where any person resides or works, or carries on business, or happens to be for the purpose of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or of peacefully persuading any person, to work or to abstain from working; or from ceasing to patronize or to employ any party to such dispute; or from recommending, advising, or persuading others by peaceful means so to do. . . .

The plaintiffs alleged that this paragraph, if it made lawful defendants' acts, contravened the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by depriving plaintiffs of their property without due process of law, and by denying to plaintiffs the equal protection of the laws, and was therefore void and of no effect. Upon the case thus stated, the plaintiffs asked a temporary and a permanent injunction.

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The defendants filed a demurrer, on two grounds: first, that the complaint did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, in...

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