279 U.S. 438 (1929), 17, Ex parte Bakelite Corporation

Docket Nº:No. 17 Original
Citation:279 U.S. 438, 49 S.Ct. 411, 73 L.Ed. 789
Party Name:Ex parte Bakelite Corporation
Case Date:May 20, 1929
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 438

279 U.S. 438 (1929)

49 S.Ct. 411, 73 L.Ed. 789

Ex parte Bakelite Corporation

No. 17 Original

United States Supreme Court

May 20, 1929

Argued January 2, 3, 1929

PETITION FOR WRIT OF PROHIBITION

Syllabus

1. The power of this Court to issue a writ of prohibition need not be determined in a case where, assuming the power to exist, there is no basis for exercising it. P. 448.

2. Article III of the Constitution does not express the full authority of Congress to create courts. Other Articles invest Congress with powers in the exertion of which it may create inferior courts and clothe them with functions deemed essential or helpful in carrying these powers into execution. P. 449.

3. Courts established under the specific power given in § 2 of Article III are called constitutional courts. They share in the exercise of the judicial power defined in that section, can be invested with no other jurisdiction, and have judges who hold office during good behavior, with no power in Congress to provide otherwise. Id.

4. Courts created by Congress in the exertion of other powers are called legislative courts. Their functions always are directed to the execution of one or more of such powers and are prescribed by Congress independently of § 2 of Article III, and their judges hold for such term as Congress prescribes, whether it be a fixed period of years or during good behavior. Id.

Page 439

5. A duty to give decision which are advisory only, and so without force a judicial judgment, may be laid on a legislative court, but not on a constitutional court established under Article III. P. 454.

6. In Miles v. Graham, 268 U.S. 501, the question whether the Court of Claims is a statutory or a constitutional court was not mooted; and the decision is not to be taken as attributing to that court a constitutional status contrary to earlier rulings. P. 455.

7. A court may be a court of the United States within the meaning of § 375 of Title 28 U.S.C., Jud.Code § 260, and yet not be a constitutional court. Id.

8. The Court of Customs Appeals is a legislative court. P. 458.

9. The matter involved in this case -- an appeal under § 316 of the Tariff Act of 1922 from findings of the Tariff Commission sustaining a charge of unfair competition and from the recommendation of the Commission to the President that the article to which the findings relate shall be excluded from entry -- is within the jurisdiction of the Court of Custom Appeals, whether or not it be a case or controversy within the meaning of Article III, § 2, of the Constitution. P. 460.

Prohibition denied.

Petition for a writ of prohibition to the Court of Customs Appeals prohibiting it from entertaining an appeal from findings of the Tariff Commission. See also 16 Ct.Cust. App. 191; 53 T.D. 716.

Page 446

VANDEVANTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a petition for a writ of prohibition to the Court of Customs Appeals prohibiting it from entertaining an appeal from findings of the Tariff Commission in a proceeding begun and conducted under section 316 of the Tariff Act of 1922, c. 356, 42 Stat. 858, 943; §§ 174-180, Title 19, U.S.C. A rule to show cause was issued; return was made to the rule; and a hearing has been had on the petition and return.

Section 316 of the Tariff Act is long, and not happily drafted. A summary of it will suffice for present purposes. It is designed to protect domestic industry and trade against "unfair methods of competition and unfair acts" in the importation of articles into the United States and in their sale after importation. To that end, it empowers the President, whenever the existence of any such unfair methods or acts is established to his satisfaction, to deal with them by fixing an additional duty upon the importation of the [49 S.Ct. 412] articles to which the unfair practice relates, or, if he is satisfied the unfairness is extreme, by directing that the articles be excluded from entry.

The section provides that, "to assist the President" in making decisions thereunder, the Tariff Commission shall investigate allegations of unfair practice, conduct hearings, receive evidence, and make findings and recommendations, subject to a right in the importer or consignee,

Page 447

if the findings be against him, to appeal to the Court of Customs Appeals on questions of law affecting the findings. There is also a provision purporting to subject the decision of that court to review by this Court upon certiorari. Ultimately, the Commission is required to transmit its findings and recommendations, with a transcript of the evidence, to the President, so that he may consider the matter and act thereon.

A further provision declares that

any additional duty or any refusal of entry under this section shall continue in effect until the President shall find and instruct the Secretary of the Treasury that the conditions which led to the assessment of such additional duty or refusal of entry no longer exist.

The present petitioner, the Bakelite Corporation, desiring to invoke action under that section, filed with the Tariff Commission a sworn complaint charging unfair methods and acts in the importation and subsequent sale of certain articles and alleging a resulting injury to its domestic business of manufacturing and selling similar articles. The Commission entertained the complaint, gave public notice thereof, and conducted a hearing in which interested importers appeared and presented evidence claimed to be in refutation of the charge. The Commission made findings sustaining the charge, and recommended that the articles to which the unfair practice relates be excluded from entry. The importers appealed to the Court of Customs Appeals, where the Bakelite Corporation challenged the court's jurisdiction on constitutional grounds. The court upheld its jurisdiction and announced its purpose to entertain the appeal. Thereupon the Bakelite Corporation presented to this Court its petition for a writ of prohibition. Pending a decision on the petition, further proceedings on the appeal have been suspended.

Page 448

The grounds on which the jurisdiction of the Court of Customs Appeals was challenged in that court, and on which a writ of prohibition is sought here, are:

1. That the Court of Customs Appeals is an inferior court created by Congress under section 1 of Article 3 of the Constitution, and, as such, it can have no jurisdiction of any proceeding which is not a case or controversy within the meaning of section 2 of the same Article.

(2) That the proceeding presented by the appeal from the Tariff Commission is not a case or controversy in the sense of that section, but is merely an advisory proceeding in aid of executive action.

The Court of Customs Appeals considered these grounds in the order just stated, and, by its ruling, sustained the first and rejected the second. 16 Ct.Cust.App. 378, 53 Treasury Decisions 716.

In this Court, counsel have addressed arguments not only to the two questions bearing on the jurisdiction of the Court of Customs Appeals, but also to the question whether, if that court be exceeding its jurisdiction, this Court has power to issue to it a writ of prohibition to arrest the unauthorized proceedings.

The power of this Court to issue writs of prohibition never has been clearly defined by statute1 or by decisions.2 And the existence of the power in a situation like the present is not free from doubt. But the doubt need not be resolved now, for, assuming that the power exists, there is here, as will appear later on, no tenable basis for exercising it. In such a case, it is admissible, and is common practice, to pass the question of power and to deny the writ because without warrant in other respects.3

Page 449

While Article III of the Constitution declares, in section 1, that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in "such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish," and prescribes, in section 2, that this power shall extend to cases and controversies of certain enumerated classes, it long has been settled that Article III does not express the full authority of Congress to create courts, and that other articles invest Congress with powers in the exertion of which it may create inferior courts and clothe them with functions deemed essential or helpful in carrying those powers into execution. But there is a difference between the two classes of courts. Those established under the specific power given in section 2 of Article III are called constitutional courts. They share in the exercise of the judicial power defined in [49 S.Ct. 413] that section, can be invested with no other jurisdiction, and have judges who hold office during good behavior, with no power in Congress to provide otherwise. On the other hand, those created by Congress in the exertion of other powers are called legislative courts. Their functions always are directed to the execution of one or more of such powers, and are prescribed by Congress independently of section 2 of Article III; and their judges hold for such term as Congress prescribes, whether it be a fixed period of years or during good behavior.

The first pronouncement on the subject by this Court was in American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 1 Pet. 511, where the status and jurisdiction of courts created by Congress for the Territory of Florida were drawn in question.

Page 450

Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the court, said, p. 546:

These Courts, then, are not constitutional Courts, in which the judicial power conferred by the Constitution on the general government can be deposited. They are incapable of receiving it. They are legislative courts, created in virtue of the general right of sovereignty which exists in the government, or in virtue of that clause which enables Congress to make all needful...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP