305 U.S. 5 (1938), 29, Polk Company v. Glover

Docket Nº:No. 29
Citation:305 U.S. 5, 59 S.Ct. 15, 83 L.Ed. 6
Party Name:Polk Company v. Glover
Case Date:November 07, 1938
Court:United States Supreme Court

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305 U.S. 5 (1938)

59 S.Ct. 15, 83 L.Ed. 6

Polk Company



No. 29

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 7, 1938

Argued October 20, 1938




1. In deciding a motion to dismiss a bill upon the ground that it fails to state a cause of action, the court is not at liberty to consider affidavits or other evidence produced in support of an accompanying application for an interlocutory injunction, but must decide upon the facts set up in the bill. P. 9.

The motion was accompanied also by answers; but plaintiffs did not submit the case to be decided upon the merits upon the bill, answers, and affidavits.

2. Before deciding grave constitutional questions, the essential facts upon which they depend should be determined after a hearing in due course upon the issues raised by the pleadings. P. 9.

A Florida statute required that the labels upon containers of canned citrus fruit or fruit juice name the State or country where the contents were produced, and, if produced in Florida, that the name "Florida" be in or embossed upon the substance of each container. Violation was made punishable as a crime and by confiscation. Canners of citrus products grown in Florida attacked the statute upon the ground that its present enforcement would inflict immediate and irreparable injury because of the cost of sorting, classifying, and overprinting large stocks of labels on hand, and because the tinned containers on hand, of great value, could not be embossed as required without impairing the protective coating of tin, so that subsequent use would result in spoilage of contents and much loss to the plaintiffs' business. It is held, without intimating any opinion on constitutional issues, that the facts alleged in the bill were such as to entitle plaintiffs to an opportunity to prove their case, and that the court below should not have undertaken to dispose of those issues in denial of that opportunity. The allegations as to trade conditions and practices, and as to the effect of the required embossing of cans, raised particular questions which could hardly be said to lie within the range of judicial notice.

22 F.Supp. 575 reversed.

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Appeal from a decree of a District Court of three judges denying an interlocutory injunction and dismissing the bill, in a suit to enjoin enforcement of a statute relating to the labeling &c. of canned citrus products.

Per curiam opinion.


Plaintiffs, engaged in the business of canning citrus products grown in the Florida, challenged by this suit the validity of Chapter 17,783 of the Acts of 1937 of that State upon the ground that the statute violated the state constitution and also the commerce clause, and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, of the Federal Constitution. An interlocutory injunction was sought, and a court of three judges was convened.

Reciting that certain persons are engaged in importing into Florida citrus fruit and citrus juice produced and canned elsewhere, and in labeling the same in Florida whence it is sold, with the result that dealers are deceived and producers and canners in Florida are injured, the statute provides that every label upon any container of canned citrus fruit or juice shall show accurately the name of the State or country in which the fruit or juice was produced, and that every container used for such fruit or juice produced in Florida "shall have stamped into or embossed upon the tin, glass or other substance of which such container is made" the word "Florida," and it is made unlawful for anyone to use any container

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bearing the name "Florida" for any canned citrus fruit or juice produced elsewhere. The Florida Citrus Commission is authorized to [59 S.Ct. 16] prescribe the method of marking the labels and embossing the containers. Violation of the Act is punishable by imprisonment or fine, or both, and by confiscation of all goods misbranded.

The Act was approved June 10, 1937, and provided that it should take effect immediately. On September 4, 1937, the Commission resolved that, "for the present," it felt that "an educational and adjustment period" was necessary before the labeling provisions were enforced. On October 4, 1937, the Commission adopted regulations prescribing the method of stamping or embossing the cans.

The bill of complaint set forth facts relating to the character of the trade, the process of canning, and the trade practices as to labeling. It alleged that plaintiffs were without knowledge as to the authority of the Commission to postpone the enforcement of the labeling provisions of the Act, and had no assurance from any enforcement officer that failure to comply therewith would not result in criminal prosecution or in the confiscation of products packed; that the "classification, sorting, and overprinting of both packer and private brand labels now on hand" would result in immediate increased cost to each of the plaintiffs in an amount in excess of $3,000; that, as to the required embossing, the statute made no provision for the use of the tin containers not so embossed which the plaintiffs had on hand in a value in excess of $33,000; that these containers would no longer be usable in the packing of canned citrus products if the statute were enforced; that the embossing of the tin plate of the can would cause what is known as "hydrogen flippers" due to action of the acid in the fruit upon the sheet steel underlying the tin plate through the weakening or penetration of the tin covering; that this would result in "untold

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spoilage, swelling of cans, unmarketability and loss of products, loss of consumers' good will, and other damage," in an amount not presently calculable, and that the requirement of embossing would cause each of the plaintiffs a loss in excess of $3,000 because of the refusal of distributors to purchase and handle cans so embossed. The effect of the Act upon plaintiffs' trade was described in support of the claim that the enforcement of its provisions would inflict immediate and irreparable injury.

Defendants, including the Florida Citrus Commission (which intervened) and other officials, filed answers putting in issue the allegations as to the injurious operation of the statute. They also moved to dismiss the bill of complaint upon the ground that it failed to state a cause of action. On the application for interlocutory injunction, the parties submitted affidavits setting forth facts in support of their respective contentions. At the same time, the court heard the motions to dismiss. Injunction was denied, the motions to dismiss were granted, and a final decree was entered accordingly. 22 F.Supp. 575. This is a direct appeal from the decree of dismissal. 28 U.S.C. § 380.

The District Court made findings. After reciting the statements in the preamble of the statute, the court found that no sufficient facts had been shown by affidavits or otherwise to overcome the findings of fact so made by the legislature; that the statute was enacted in pursuance of the police power of the State, and that all citrus fruit canners in Florida were affected by its provisions, without exceptions; that plaintiffs had on hand unembossed containers of a value in excess of $33,000 which would no longer be usable if the Act were enforced, but that "such containers could be used for packing of vegetables or commodities other than citrus products," and that there was no showing "that they could not be exchanged with the manufacturer for properly embossed

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cans at little or no extra expense;" that, if the practices and abuses as found by the legislature were not stopped "the price which the producer of citrus fruit grown in Florida receives for his product will be greatly reduced" and he will "ultimately be forced out of business;" that it did not sufficiently appear that the embossing of cans would be injurious or harmful to the citrus contents; that,

apart from the conflicting...

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