323 U.S. 101 (1944), 62, Spector Motor Co. v. McLaughlin

Docket NºNo. 62
Citation323 U.S. 101, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101
Party NameSpector Motor Co. v. McLaughlin
Case DateDecember 04, 1944
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 101

323 U.S. 101 (1944)

65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101

Spector Motor Co.

v.

McLaughlin

No. 62

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 4, 1944

Argued November 9, 1944

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Since the answers to the questions of local law involved in this case may render unnecessary, or may affect, the decision of the questions arising under the Federal Constitution, and since the local questions have not been passed upon by the state courts though an appropriate proceeding is available, the cause is remanded to the District Court with directions to retain the bill pending the determination of proceedings to be brought with reasonable promptitude in the state court. P. 105.

139 F.2d 809 vacated.

FRANKFURTER, J., lead opinion

[65 S.Ct. 153] MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit brought in a United States district court to enjoin the enforcement of a State tax and for a declaratory judgment.

The Connecticut Corporation Business Tax Act of 1935, as amended, imposed on every corporation, not otherwise specially taxed, carrying on or having the right to carry

Page 102

on business within the State "a tax or excise upon its franchise for the privilege of carrying on or doing business within the state. . . ." Conn.Gen.Stat.Cum.Supp.1935, § 418c, as amended by Conn.Gen.Stat.Supp.1939, § 354e. Petitioner, a Missouri corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois, is engaged exclusively in the interstate trucking business. It is neither authorized by Connecticut to do intrastate trucking nor in fact does it engage in it. It maintains two leased terminals in Connecticut solely for the purpose of carrying on its interstate business. At the request of its lessor, it has filed with the Secretary of State in Connecticut a certificate of its incorporation in Missouri, has designated an agent in Connecticut for service of process, and has paid the statutory fee. On this state of facts, the State Tax Commissioner determined that petitioner was subject to the Act of 1935, as amended, and assessed the tax against Spector for the years 1937 to 1940. Whereupon petitioner brought this suit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut to free itself from liability for the tax. Alleging appropriate grounds for equitable relief, petitioner claims that the "tax or excise" levied by the Act does not apply to it, and, in the alternative, that, if it should be deemed within the scope of the statute, the tax offends provisions of the Connecticut Constitution as well as the Commerce and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution, art. 1, § 8, cl. 3, and amend. 14.

The District Court construed the statute to be "a tax upon the exercise of a franchise to carry on intrastate commerce in the state," and therefore not applicable to petitioner. Spector Motor Service v. Walsh, 47 F.Supp. 671, 675. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit construed the statute to reach all corporations having activity in Connecticut, whether doing or authorized to do intrastate business or, like the petitioner, engaged exclusively in interstate commerce. It further decided all contentions under the Connecticut

Page 103

Constitution against the petitioner. And so the court below found itself compelled "to face directly the main issue whether the tax is in fact an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce." 139 F.2d 809, 813. The dissenting judge thus phrased the issue: "[W]e have before us in the barest possible form the effort of a state to levy an excise directly upon the privilege of carrying on an activity which is neither derived from the state nor within its power to forbid." 139 F.2d at 822. It was conceded below that, if the Connecticut tax was construed to cover petitioner, it would run afoul the Commerce Clause, were this Court to adhere to what Judge Learned Hand called "an unbroken line of decisions." On the basis of what it deemed foreshadowing "trends", the majority ventured the prophecy that this Court would change its course, and accordingly sustained the tax. In view of the far-reaching import of such a disposition by the Circuit Court of Appeals, we brought the case here. 322 U.S. 720.

Once doubts purely local to the Constitution and laws of Connecticut are resolved against the petitioner, there are at stake in this case questions of moment touching the taxing powers of the States and their relation to the overriding national interests...

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552 practice notes
  • 341 B.R. 615 (Bkrtcy.W.D.Mich. 2006), 05-10937, In re Basch
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
    • April 12, 2006
    ...will not reach constitutional questions in advance of the necessity of deciding them."); Spector Motor Service, Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 104, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944) ("If there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitutional ad......
  • 70 M.J. 507 (Army Ct.Crim.App. 2011), 20080640, United States v. Easton
    • United States
    • Federal Cases Military Appeals
    • July 28, 2011
    ...not to pass on questions of constitutionality ... unless such adjudication is unavoidable." Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944). E.g., Lyng v. Nw. Indian Cemetery Prot. Ass'n, 485 U.S. 439, 445, 108 S.Ct. 1319, 99 L.Ed.2d 534 (1......
  • 85 B.R. 202 (Bkrtcy.D.N.H. 1988), 85-0075, In re Keniston
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts First Circuit
    • March 31, 1988
    ...States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 96 [105 S.Ct. 1785, 1793, 85 L.Ed.2d 64] (1985). As the Court stressed in Spector Motor Co. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105 [65 S.Ct. 152, 154, 89 L.Ed. 101] (1944), "[i]f there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitut......
  • 34 F.3d 1469 (9th Cir. 1994), 93-55242, Meinhold v. United States Dept. of Defense
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • August 31, 1994
    ...claim could be resolved summarily whereas the nonconstitutional claim could not be. See Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105-06, 65 S.Ct. 152, 154-55, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944). In any event, the district court gave no such reason, but simply passed over the nonconstitutiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
531 cases
  • 341 B.R. 615 (Bkrtcy.W.D.Mich. 2006), 05-10937, In re Basch
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
    • April 12, 2006
    ...will not reach constitutional questions in advance of the necessity of deciding them."); Spector Motor Service, Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 104, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944) ("If there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitutional ad......
  • 70 M.J. 507 (Army Ct.Crim.App. 2011), 20080640, United States v. Easton
    • United States
    • Federal Cases Military Appeals
    • July 28, 2011
    ...not to pass on questions of constitutionality ... unless such adjudication is unavoidable." Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105, 65 S.Ct. 152, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944). E.g., Lyng v. Nw. Indian Cemetery Prot. Ass'n, 485 U.S. 439, 445, 108 S.Ct. 1319, 99 L.Ed.2d 534 (1......
  • 85 B.R. 202 (Bkrtcy.D.N.H. 1988), 85-0075, In re Keniston
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts First Circuit
    • March 31, 1988
    ...States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 96 [105 S.Ct. 1785, 1793, 85 L.Ed.2d 64] (1985). As the Court stressed in Spector Motor Co. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105 [65 S.Ct. 152, 154, 89 L.Ed. 101] (1944), "[i]f there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitut......
  • 34 F.3d 1469 (9th Cir. 1994), 93-55242, Meinhold v. United States Dept. of Defense
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • August 31, 1994
    ...claim could be resolved summarily whereas the nonconstitutional claim could not be. See Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105-06, 65 S.Ct. 152, 154-55, 89 L.Ed. 101 (1944). In any event, the district court gave no such reason, but simply passed over the nonconstitutiona......
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6 firm's commentaries
  • Obama NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional (Text Copy)
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • January 25, 2013
    ...Ashwander v. Tenn. Valley Auth., 297 U.S. 288, 347 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring); see also Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105 (1944); United States v. Waksberg, 112 F.3d 1225, 1227 (D.C. Cir. 1997). We must therefore decide whether Noel Canning is entitled to rel......
  • Pro-Plaintiff Hijacking Attempt Against New York Statute Of Limitations Mr James Beck
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 28, 2018
    ...in the womb of time, but whose birth is distant." Spector Motor Service v. Walsh, 139 F.2d 809, 823 (2d Cir. 1943) (dissent), vacated 323 U.S. 101 (1944). It is certainly not our function to apply the rule we think better or wiser. Garland v. Herrin, 724 F.2d 16, 17 (2d Cir. 1983) (emp......
  • Heedless Heeding Presumptions – How New York Law Became a Morass
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • October 8, 2015
    ...of federal courts in diversity cases. Spector Motor Service v. Walsh, 139 F.2d 809, 823 (2d Cir. 1943) (Learned Hand dissenting), vacated, 323 U.S. 101 (1944). That has combined with an unfortunate tendency of some courts to ignore the difference between warning cases based on substance and......
  • Pro-Plaintiff Hijacking Attempt Against New York Statute of Limitations
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • November 26, 2018
    ...be in the womb of time, but whose birth is distant.” Spector Motor Service v. Walsh, 139 F.2d 809, 823 (2d Cir. 1943) (dissent), vacated 323 U.S. 101 (1944). It is certainly not our function to apply the rule we think better or wiser. Garland v. Herrin, 724 F.2d 16, 17 (2d Cir. 1983) (empha......
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15 books & journal articles
  • The Activist Insecurity and the Demise of Civil Rights Law
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 63-3, April 2003
    • April 1, 2003
    ...Timken-Detroit Axle Co., 329 U.S. 129, 136-37, 67 S. Ct. 231, 233-34 (1946) (citing Siler, Ashwander, and Spector Motor Co. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105, 65 S. Ct. 152, 154): This Court has said repeatedly that it ought not pass on the constitutionality of an act of Congress unless such......
  • Extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 114 Nbr. 4, February - February 2016
    • February 1, 2016
    ...Disaster, 644 F.2d at 605-08, 610-33 (same). This selection of substantive law is done based on the controlling choice-of-law rules. See id. at 610-33. These rules may be based on "territorial" considerations, for example, or they may derive from "interest analysis." See, e.g., Lea Brilmayer, Rig......
  • Gazing into the crystal ball: reflections on the standards state judges should use to ascertain federal law.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 40 Nbr. 4, April 1999
    • April 1, 1999
    ...to follow Supreme Court precedent in part because of personnel change), vacated sub nom., Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101 (1944). (301.) Salve Regina College v. Russell, 499 U.S. 225, 241 (1991) (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting). (302.) Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994......
  • Lost in the cloud: cloud storage, privacy, and suggestions for protecting users' data.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 69 Nbr. 3, March - March 2017
    • March 1, 2017
    ...communications). However, this Note will address only federal and constitutional law. (32.) See Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. McLaughlin, 323 U.S. 101, 105 (1944) ("If there is one doctrine more deeply rooted than any other in the process of constitutional adjudication, it is that we ou......
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