258 U.S. 495 (2021), Stafford v. Wallace

Citation:258 U.S. 495, 42 S.Ct. 397, 66 L.Ed. 735
Party Name:Stafford v. Wallace
Case Date:May 01, 1922
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 495

258 U.S. 495 (2021)

42 S.Ct. 397, 66 L.Ed. 735




United States Supreme Court

May 1, 1922




1. Under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, c. 64, § 316, 42 Stat. 159, an order of the district court refusing a temporary injunction in a suit to enjoin the enforcement of orders made under the act by the Secretary of Agriculture, is appealable directly to this Court. P. 512.

2. It is for Congress to decide from its general information and from the special evidence brought before it the nature of evils, present or threatening, and to enact such legislation within its power as it deems necessary to remedy them, and this environment should be considered by the courts in interpreting the scope and effect of the act in order to determine its validity. P. 513.

3. Commerce among the states is not a technical legal conception but a practical one, drawn from the course of business. P. 518. Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375.

4. Streams of commerce among the states are under the national protection and regulation, including subordinate activities and facilities which are essential to such movements, though not of interstate character when viewed apart from them. P. 519.

5. Such a current of interstate commerce is found in the uninterrupted movement of livestock from the West and Southwest into the great stockyards at Chicago and elsewhere, where it is sold by the consignee commission merchants to packers and livestock dealers at the stockyards, and in the movement thence into other states of the meat and other products of the animals slaughtered at the packing establishments and the live animals which are resold at the yards by the dealers for further feeding and fattening. P. 514.

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6. The commission merchants who receive the livestock as consignees of the shippers and sell it to the packers and dealers at the stockyards, and the dealers in reselling there to stock farmers and feeders, are essential factors in this interstate movement; their sales, though local transactions in that they create a local change of title, do not interrupt the current but, on the contrary, are indispensable to its continuity. P. 516.

7. For the purpose of protecting this interstate commerce from the power of the packers to fix arbitrary prices for livestock and meat, through their monopoly, aided, as was thought, by their control of stockyards, and from exorbitant charges, duplication of commissions, and other deceptive practices in respect of prices, in the passage of livestock through the stockyards, made possible by collusion between the stockyards management and the commission men, on the one hand, and the packers and dealers, on the other, Congress, in connection with regulation of the packers, had power to regulate business done in the stockyards. P. 514.

8. A reasonable fear upon the part of Congress that acts, usually lawful and affecting only intrastate commerce when occurring alone, will probably and more or less constantly be performed in aid of conspiracies against interstate commerce or constitute a direct and undue burden upon it, serves to bring such acts within the current of interstate commerce for federal restraint. P. 520.

9. It is primarily for Congress to consider and decide the danger of such acts or practices, and to meet it, and it is not for this Court to substitute its judgment in such a matter unless the relation of the subject to interstate commerce and its effect upon it are clearly nonexistent. P. 521.

10. The Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, which seeks to regulate the business of the packers done in interstate commerce and incidentally provides for supervision and control of facilities furnished in stockyards in connection with the receipt, purchase, and sale of livestock and its care, shipment, weighing, or handling in interstate commerce, requiring commission men and dealers as well as stockyard owners to register with the Secretary of Agriculture, and prescribing that all rates and charges for services and facilities in the yards and all practices concerning the livestock passing through them shall be just, reasonable, nondiscriminatory and nondeceptive, and that a schedule of such charges be kept open for public inspection, only to be changed upon notice to the Secretary of Agriculture, and empowering him to inquire into and regulate such charges and practices, to prescribe the forms of accounts and make rules and regulations for the enforcement of the act, etc., is

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not objectionable from the standpoint of the commission men and dealers upon the ground that their business is merely intrastate, but is within the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause. P. 513.


[42 S.Ct. 398] These cases involve the constitutionality of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, approved August 15, 1921, so far as that act provides for the supervision by federal authority of the business of the commission men and of the livestock dealers in the great stockyards of the country. They are appeals from the orders of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois refusing to grant interlocutory injunctions as prayed. The bills sought to restrain enforcement of orders of the Secretary of Agriculture in carrying out the act, directed against the appellants in No. 687, as the commission men in the Union Stockyards of Chicago, and against the appellants in No. 691, as dealers in the same yards. The ground upon which the prayers for relief are based is that the Secretary's orders are void because made under an act invalid as to each class of appellants. The bill in No. 687 makes defendants the Secretary of Agriculture and the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, averring that the latter is charged with the duty of enforcing the severe penalties imposed by the act for failure to comply with orders of the Secretary thereunder. The bill in No. 691 makes the United States attorney the only defendant, with the same averment.

The two bills in substance allege that the Union Stockyards & Transit Company was incorporated by the State of Illinois in 1865, and given authority to acquire, construct, and maintain enclosures, structures, and railway lines for the reception, safekeeping feeding, watering, and for weighing, delivery, and transfer, of cattle and livestock of every description, and to carry on a public livestock

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market, with all the necessary appurtenances and facilities; that it is the largest stockyards in the world, and in 1920 handled 15,000,000 head of livestock of all descriptions, including cattle, calves, hogs, and sheep, shipped mainly from outside the [42 S.Ct. 399] State of Illinois; that the livestock are loaded at the point of origin and shipped under a shipping contract which is a straight bill of lading, consigning them to the commission merchants at the yard; that, on arrival, the livestock are at once driven from the cars by the commission merchant, who is the consignee, to the pens assigned by the stockyards company to such merchant for his use; that they are then in the exclusive possession of the commission merchant, and are watered and fed by the stockyards company at his request; that, with the delivery to the commission merchant, the transportation is completely ended; that all the livestock consigned to commission merchants are sold by them for a commission or brokerage, and not on their own account; that they are sold at the stockyards, and nowhere else; that the commissions are fixed at an established rate per head; that the commission men remit to the owners and shippers the proceeds of sale, less their commission and the freight and yard charges paid by them; that the livestock are sold (1) to purchasers, who buy the same for slaughter at packing houses, located at the stockyards or adjacent thereto; (2) to purchasers, who buy to ship to packing houses outside the State of Illinois for slaughter; (3) to purchasers, who buy to feed and fatten the same, and (4) to dealers or traders; that about on-third of all the livestock received are sold to the dealers; that not until after the delivery of the livestock to the commission merchants and the transportation has completely ceased does the business of the dealers begin; that they do not buy or sell on commission, but buy and sell for cash exclusively for their own profit; that the greater part of livestock received by commission men at

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the yards are in carload or trainload lots, and a substantial part are not graded or conditioned to meet the specific requirements of the buyers; that the dealers, after purchase, put the livestock in pens assigned to them by the stockyards owner and do the sorting and classification; that the dealers buy in open market in competition with each other; that they pay the expense of the custody, care, and feeding and watering the stock while they hold them; that they sell promptly, and have nothing to do with the shipment of the livestock they sell from the yards to points outside.

In the bill in No. 691, the appellants aver that they are members of the Chicago Live Stock Exchange and of the National Live Stock Exchange, the members of which are dealers in all the stockyards of the country, numbering 2,000, and that they bring their bill for all of them who may choose to join and take the benefit of the litigation.

The chairman of the Committee of Agriculture, in reporting to the House of Representatives the bill which became the act here in question (May 18, 1921, 67th Congress, 1st Session, Report No. 77, to accompany H.R. 6320), referred to the testimony printed in the House Committee Hearings of the 66th Congress, 2d...

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