306 U.S. 583 (1939), 534, Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 534
Citation:306 U.S. 583, 59 S.Ct. 744, 83 L.Ed. 1001
Party Name:Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc.
Case Date:April 17, 1939
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 583

306 U.S. 583 (1939)

59 S.Ct. 744, 83 L.Ed. 1001

Clark

v.

Paul Gray, Inc.

No. 534

United States Supreme Court

April 17, 1939

Argued March 27, 1939

[59 S.Ct. 747] APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

1. The Court raises sua sponte the question whether jurisdictional amounts were in controversy in the District Court. P. 588.

2. When several plaintiffs assert separate and distinct demands in a single suit, the amounts involved cannot be added together to satisfy jurisdictional requirements; jurisdiction as to each separate controversy depends upon the amount involved in that controversy. P. 589.

3. When several plaintiffs assert separate and distinct demands in one suit, a general allegation in the bill that the amount involved in the litigation is in excess of $3,000 and a finding of the District Court that the amount involved in the suit exceeds the jurisdictional amount give no indication that the amount in controversy with respect to the claim of any single plaintiff exceeds the jurisdictional amount, and are insufficient to show that the District Court had jurisdiction of the cause. P. 589.

4. The amount in controversy in a suit to restrain illegal imposition of fees or taxes is the amount of the fees and taxes which would normally be collected during the period of the litigation. P. 589.

5. The question whether the jurisdictional amount was involved in the District Court is determined by the record of that court, which cannot be supplemented by affidavits filed in this Court. P. 590.

6. A suit by several plaintiffs, each bound to establish the jurisdictional amount with respect to his own claim, should he dismissed as to those who fail to do so. P. 590.

7. The States have constitutional authority to exact reasonable fees for the use of their highways by vehicles moving interstate, and for that purpose they may classify the vehicles according to the character of the traffic and the burden it imposes on the State by

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that use, and charge for the use a fee not shown to be unreasonable or excessive. P. 593.

8. Such classification is a legislative act, and is presumed to be supported by facts known to the legislature, unless facts judicially known or proved preclude that possibility. P. 594.

9. In passing upon the validity of such a classification, the function of the court is to determine whether it is possible to say that the legislative decision is without rational basis. This is equally the case where the classification, which is one which the legislature was competent to make, is applied to vehicles using the state highways in interstate commerce. P. 594.

10. The California "Caravan" Act of 1937, defining "caravaning" as the transportation of any vehicle operated on its own wheels, or in tow of a motor vehicle, for the purpose of sale, exacts two license fees, each of $7.50, for a six month's permit to "caravan" a vehicle on the state highways. One of the fees is declared to be to reimburse the State for expense incurred in administering police regulations pertaining to the operation of vehicles moved pursuant to such permits, and pertaining to public safety upon the highways as affected by such operation; the other is declared to be compensation for the privilege of using the public highways. Vehicles moving wholly within either of two zones, which are approximately the northern and southern halves of the State, are excepted from the operation of the statute.

Held:

(1) That the tax is not an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce, nor an infraction of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as applied to one engaged in the distinct business of bringing motor cars into the State for sale, in extensive caravans or convoys composed largely of cars coupled in twos, each pair in control of a single driver. Cf. Morf v. Bingaman, 298 U.S. 407. Pp. 594-595.

The evidence shows that coupled cars, under control of a single driver, subject the highways to increased wear and tear because of their tendency to skid and sway on curves and in passing other traffic, and that the length of the caravans and the inefficiency and irresponsibility of the drivers, casually employed, increase traffic congestion and the inconveniences and hazards of automobile traffic. These circumstances have caused the State to make increased provision for the policing of the traffic.

(2) One engaged in this class of highway traffic has no ground or status to complain of the discrimination involved in exacting the fees where cars are transported into the State for sale singly, and

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not where they move singly intrazone or enter the State not for purposes of sale. P. 595.

(3) No unconstitutional discrimination results from failure to apply the statute to cars that move for sale intrazone in caravans, it appearing that cars in that class are driven relatively short distances, over highways of more than two lanes, as distinguished from caravans coming from without the State, which move for long distances over two-lane highways in mountain districts; that such intrazone caravans or convoys as there are consist of two to four cars; that coupling is negligible; that each car is in charge of a regularly licensed driver, and that such intrazone movement is subject to other licensing and taxing provisions, the differences between which and the exactions here in question may bear a fair relation to the differences in the burden of the traffic for which the State must provide. P. 596.

(4) The legislature having made its classification by the establishment of zones, in the light of special conditions in the State, courts are not free to set side its determination unless they can say that it is without any substantial basis. P. 596.

(5) The complainant has not sustained the burden of proving, and the evidence does not show, that the fees exacted by the statute are excessive for the purposes indicated. P. 600.

23 F.Supp. 946 reversed.

Appeal from a final decree of the District Court of three judges which enjoined the appellants, officers of the State of California, from enforcing statutory provisions imposing license fees for the use of the state highways in the transportation for sale of motor vehicles in "caravans."

STONE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The principal questions for decision are whether the California Caravan Act of 1937, exacting fees aggregating

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$15 for each automobile driven into the state for sale, imposes a forbidden burden on interstate commerce or infringes the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This is an appeal under §§ 238(3), 266 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. §§ 345(3), 380, from a final decree of the district court for southern California, three judges sitting, enjoining appellants, officers of the California, from enforcing the license and fee provisions of Chapter 788, p. 2253, California Statutes of 1937. Gray v. Ingels, 23 F.Supp. 946.1

The statute, known as the Caravan Act, was enacted as a substitute for the Caravan Act of 1935, c. 402, p. 1453, Cal.Stat. 1935, held invalid in Ingels v. Morf, 300 U.S. 290, as an infringement of the commerce clause. "Caravaning" is defined in § 1 of the present Act as the

transportation of any vehicle . . . operated on its own wheels, or in tow of a motor vehicle, for the purpose of selling or offering the same for sale . . . within or without this State.

Sections 4, 5, and 6 exact in lieu of all other fees two license fees, each of $7.50 for a six months permit for caravaning a vehicle on the state highways. One of these is

to reimburse the State for expense incurred in administering police regulations pertaining to the operation of vehicles moved pursuant to such permits and to public safety upon the highways as affected by such operation;

the other is declared to be "compensation for the privilege of using the public highways." Section 8, excepts from the

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operation of the statute vehicles moving wholly within either of two zones which are approximately the northern and southern halves of the state. Other sections of the Act make provision for the issuance of licenses and the collection of fees. Section 12 provides for the collection of fees by seizure and sale of vehicles transported in violation of the Act, and § 13 prescribes criminal penalties for violation.

Appellees, numerous individuals, copartnerships, and corporations, joined in bringing the present suit against appellants, state officers charged with the duty of enforcing the Act, alleging that each appellee had driven and would in the course of business drive automobiles into California for the purpose of sale. They prayed an injunction restraining appellants from collecting the fees and enforcing the provisions of the statute in aid of their collection. The district court's findings state that the amount involved in the action is in excess of the sum of $3,000; that each of appellees, in the course of business of selling motor cars, purchases cars previously registered in other states and "caravans" them into the state of California; that cars for sale are often moved between points in a state zone; that the operation of cars in caravans does [59 S.Ct. 748] not create an additional hazard or a traffic problem necessitating special policing of the caravans, and that the caravaning of cars does not create undue wear and tear on the highways of the state; that the fees charged are excessive, and bear no relation to the added expense to the motor vehicle department of policing the highways of the state of California, and that they are disproportionate to other taxes or license fees charged by the state for the use of the highways. The court concluded that the statute discriminated against interstate commerce, deprived...

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