278 U.S. 1 (1928), 68, Foster-Fountain Packing Co. v. Haydel

Docket Nº:No. 68
Citation:278 U.S. 1, 49 S.Ct. 1, 73 L.Ed. 147
Party Name:Foster-Fountain Packing Co. v. Haydel
Case Date:October 15, 1928
Court:United States Supreme Court

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278 U.S. 1 (1928)

49 S.Ct. 1, 73 L.Ed. 147

Foster-Fountain Packing Co.



No. 68

United States Supreme Court

Oct. 15, 1928

        Argued April 18, 1928




        1. An order of the district court refusing a temporary injunction will not be disturbed on appeal unless the refusal was contrary to some rule of equity, or was the result of improvident exercise of judicial discretion. P. 6.

        2. The Louisiana "Shrimp Act" declares all shrimp and parts thereof in Louisiana waters to be the property of the state; forbids exportation of shrimp from which the heads and "hulls" or shells have not been removed, but grants the taker a qualified interest which may be sold within the state, and provides that the meat, when the hulls are removed within the state, shall belong to the taker or possessor, and may be sold and shipped beyond the state without restriction. The raw shells, "as they are required to be manufactured into fertilizer or used for an element in chicken feed," are not to be exported, but, when "conserved for the purpose herein stated," the right of property therein is to pass to the taker or possessor. Upon an application for a temporary injunction to restrain enforcement of the Act, it was made to appear by allegations of the bill and affidavits, and the provisions of the Act, that conservation of the heads and hulls is a feigned purpose; that the conditions imposed upon the interstate movement of the meat and other parts of the shrimp are not intended, and do not operate, to conserve them

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for the use of the people of the state, and that the real purpose of the legislation is to prevent the raw shrimp from being moved, as heretofore, from Louisiana to a point in Mississippi where they are packed or canned and sold in interstate commerce, and thus, through commercial necessity, to bring about the removal of these packing and canning industries from Mississippi to Louisiana,


        (1) One challenging the validity of a state enactment on the ground that it is repugnant to the commerce clause is not necessarily bound by the legislative declarations of purpose, but may show that, in their practical operation, the provisions directly burden or destroy interstate commerce. P. 10.

        (2) In determining what is interstate commerce, courts look to practical considerations and the established course of business. Id.

        (3) Interstate commerce embraces all the components of commercial intercourse among states. A state statute that operates directly to burden any of its essential elements is invalid. Id.

        (4) A state cannot prevent privately owned articles of trade from being shipped and sold in interstate commerce on the ground that they are required to satisfy local demands or because they are needed by the people of the state. Id.

        (5) The statute (upon the facts alleged) is not sustainable as an exercise of the power of the state, as trustee for her people, to conserve the shrimp, as common property, for intrastate use. Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519, distinguished. P. 11.

        (6) Taking the shrimp, with authority from the state to ship and sell all the products thereof in interstate commerce, ends the trusts upon which the state is deemed to own and control the shrimp for the benefit of her people, and those so taking them necessarily thereby become entitled to the rights of private ownership and the protection of the commerce clause; they are not bound to comply with, or estopped from objecting to enforcement of, conditions that conflict with the Constitution. P. 13.

        (7) From the record, it clearly appears that refusal of a temporary injunction was an improvident exercise of judicial discretion. P. 14. Reversed.

        Appeal from an order of the district court, of three judges refusing a temporary injunction in a suit to restrain the enforcement of the Louisiana "Shrimp Act." The case was argued with the one next following.

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        BUTLER, J., lead opinion

        MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

        Appellants, plaintiffs below, are engaged in the business of catching and canning shrimp for shipment and sale in interstate commerce. Appellees, defendants below, are public officers in Louisiana charged with the duty of enforcing Act No. 103, known as the "Shrimp Act," passed in July, 1926; so far as material here, it is printed in the margin. * Plaintiffs sued to enjoin enforcement of certain

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of its provisions on the ground, among others, that they violate the commerce clause of the federal Constitution. The district judge granted a restraining order pending application for a temporary injunction. There was a hearing before the court, consisting of three judges, organized as required by § 266 of the Judicial Code, U.S.C. Tit. 28, § 380; it set aside the restraining order and denied the injunction. Then the court allowed this appeal, found that the plaintiffs will sustain irreparable harm and damage, and stayed the enforcement of the act pending determination here.

        The case has not been tried, and the sole question is whether, having regard to the particular facts and circumstances, the lower court's refusal to grant a temporary injunction was contrary to some rule of equity or the result

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of improvident exercise of judicial discretion. Meccano, Ltd. v. John Wanamaker, 253 U.S. 136, 141.

        A brief statement of the allegations of the complaint follows. The Foster Company is a Louisiana corporation, and operates a shrimp hulling plant in that state. It gets shrimp from the tidal waters in the "Louisiana marshes." The Sea Food Company is a Mississippi corporation, and cans and packs shrimp in its plant at Biloxi in that state. Its product is shipped and sold in interstate commerce. The Foster Company and the Sea Food Company have a contract by which the former agrees to catch in Louisiana waters and deliver to the latter in Biloxi a carload of raw shrimp per month during specified periods. The supply

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is intended for the interstate and foreign business of the Sea Food Company, and, if prevented from obtaining such shrimp, the business of that [49 S.Ct. 3] company will be destroyed and its plant will be of no value.

        There are located at Biloxi plants comprising about one-fourth of the shrimp canning industry in the United States. The waters of Mississippi do not contain an adequate supply of shrimp, and practically all that are packed there come from the Louisiana marshes. Shrimp are taken by nets dragged by power boats, and are then put on larger vessels and transported to Biloxi. To prepare the meat for canning, the heads and hulls are picked off; most of them are thrown into the water where they are consumed by scavengers of the sea. But some are made into "shrimp bran," which is used to a small extent in the manufacture of commercial fertilizer.

        The Act declares all shrimp and parts thereof in Louisiana waters to be the property of the state, and regulates their taking and reduction...

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