299 U.S. 334 (1937), 138, Kentucky Whip & Collar Co. v. Illinois Central R. Co.

Docket Nº:No. 138
Citation:299 U.S. 334, 57 S.Ct. 277, 81 L.Ed. 270
Party Name:Kentucky Whip & Collar Co. v. Illinois Central R. Co.
Case Date:January 04, 1937
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 334

299 U.S. 334 (1937)

57 S.Ct. 277, 81 L.Ed. 270

Kentucky Whip & Collar Co.

v.

Illinois Central R. Co.

No. 138

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 4, 1937

Argued November 20, 1936

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce is plenary and subject to no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution. P. 345.

2. Congress may prevent interstate transportation from being used to bring into a State articles which are innocuous in themselves, but the local traffic in which, because of its harmful consequences, has been constitutionally forbidden by the State. Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251, distinguished. P. 348.

3. While the power to regulate interstate commerce resides in the Congress, which must determine its own policy, the Congress may shape that policy in the light of the fact that the transportation in interstate commerce, if permitted, would aid in the frustration of valid state laws for the protection of persons and property. P. 347.

4. In the exercise of its control over interstate commerce, the means employed by the Congress may have the quality of police regulations. P. 346.

5. The Act of July 24, 1935, known as the Ashurst-Sumners Act, makes it unlawful to transport in interstate or foreign commerce goods made by convict labor into any State where the goods are intended to be received, possessed, sold, or used in violation of its laws, and requires that packages containing convict-made goods shipped in interstate commerce shall be plainly labeled so as to show the names and addresses of shipper and consignee, the nature of the contents, and the name and location of the penal or reformatory institution where produced. Violation is punished by fine and forfeiture.

Held:

(1) Within the federal power over commerce and consistent with due process of law; not an attempt to delegate authority to the State, nor an usurpation of state power, nor an assumption of power enlarged by state action. P. 351.

(2) Where the subject of commerce is one as to which the power of the State may constitutionally be exerted by restriction or prohibition in order to prevent harmful consequences, the Congress

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may, if it sees fit, put forth its power to regulate interstate commerce so as to prevent that commerce from being used to impede the carrying out of the state policy. P. 352.

(3) The requirement of labels was appropriate to the prohibition against transportation. P. 352.

(4) The fact that the labeling was required in all shipments of convict-made goods, regardless of the law of the destination, does not invalidate the provision, as its scope could reasonably be deemed to be necessary to accomplish the legitimate purpose of the Act. P. 354.

84 F.2d 168 affirmed.

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a decree of the District Court, 12 F.Supp. 37, which dismissed a bill brought by the present petitioner to compel the respondent railroad company to accept numerous shipments of convict-made goods.

Page 343

HUGHES, J., lead opinion

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

This controversy relates to the constitutional validity of the Act of Congress of July 24, 1935, known as the Ashurst-Sumners Act, 49 Stat. 494.

The act makes it unlawful knowingly to transport in interstate or foreign commerce goods made by convict labor into any state where the goods are intended to be received, possessed, sold, or used in violation of its laws. Goods made by convicts on parole or probation, or made in federal penal and correctional institutions for use by the federal government, are excepted. Packages containing convict-made goods must be plainly labeled so as to show the names and addresses of shipper and consignee, the nature of the contents, and the name and

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location of the penal or reformatory institution where produced.1 Violation is punished by fine and forfeiture.2

Petitioner manufactures in Kentucky, with convict labor, horse collars, harness, and strap goods which it markets in various states. It tendered to respondent, a common carrier, twenty-five separate shipments for transportation in interstate commerce, of which ten were consigned to customers in states whose laws prohibited the

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sale of convict-made goods within their respective borders, five to states whose laws did not prohibit such sale, but required that the goods should be plainly marked so as to show that they were made by convicts, and the remaining ten to states whose laws imposed no restriction upon sale or possession. None of the packages was labeled as required by the Act of Congress, and, in obedience to the act, respondent refused to accept the shipments.

Petitioner then brought this suit for a mandatory injunction to compel the transportation. The District Court dismissed the bill, and the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decree. The District Court declared the Act to be invalid so far as it prohibited transportation of convict-made goods into states which proscribed sale or possession, but sustained the provision which required labeling. 12 F.Supp. 37. The Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the act in its entirety. 84 F.2d 168. This Court granted certiorari.

Petitioner contends (1) that the Congress is without constitutional authority to prohibit the movement in interstate commerce of useful and harmless articles made by convict labor and (2) that the Congress has no power to exclude from interstate commerce convict-made goods which are not labeled as such.

First. The commerce clause (Art. I, § 8, cl. 3) confers upon the Congress "the power to regulate, that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed." This power "is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution." Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196. By the Act now before us, the Congress purports to establish a rule governing interstate transportation, which is unquestionably interstate commerce. The question is whether this rule goes beyond the authority to "regulate."

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Petitioner's argument necessarily recognizes that, in certain circumstances, an absolute prohibition of interstate transportation is constitutional regulation. The power to prohibit interstate transportation has been [57 S.Ct. 280] upheld by this Court in relation to diseased livestock,3 lottery tickets,4 commodities owned by the interstate carrier transporting them, except such as may be required in the conduct of its business as a common carrier,5 adulterated and misbranded articles, under the Pure Food and Drugs Act,6 women, for immoral purposes,7 intoxicating liquors,8 diseased plants,9 stolen motor vehicles,10 and kidnaped persons.11

The decisions sustaining this variety of statutes disclose the principles deemed to be applicable. We have frequently said that, in the exercise of its control over interstate...

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