336 U.S. 368 (1949), 52, Stainback v. Mo Hock Ke Lok Po

Docket Nº:No. 52
Citation:336 U.S. 368, 69 S.Ct. 606, 93 L.Ed. 741
Party Name:Stainback v. Mo Hock Ke Lok Po
Case Date:March 14, 1949
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 368

336 U.S. 368 (1949)

69 S.Ct. 606, 93 L.Ed. 741

Stainback

v.

Mo Hock Ke Lok Po

No. 52

United States Supreme Court

March 14, 1949

Argued January 11-12, 1949

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII

Syllabus

1. Section 266 of the Judicial Code (now 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 1253, etc.), which required that a suit to enjoin state officers from enforcing a state statute on the ground of unconstitutionality be heard and determined by a district court of three judges, and which authorized a direct appeal to this Court from a final decree in such suit, held not applicable to the Territory of Hawaii. Pp. 374-380.

2. A final judgment of the United States District Court for Hawaii in a suit heard and determined by three judges, although not appealable directly to this Court because of the inapplicability of Judicial Code § 266 (now 28 U.S.C. § 1253), was nevertheless reviewable in the Court of Appeals, and could be considered here on certiorari to that court. Pp. 380-381.

3. A final judgment of the United States District Court for Hawaii, erroneously constituted of three judges under Judicial Code § 266 (now 28 U.S.C. § 2281), enjoined territorial officers from enforcing an Act of the Territory on the ground of unconstitutionality. A direct appeal was erroneously taken to this Court; an appeal was also taken to the Court of Appeals, and this Court was petitioned to review the case in the Court of Appeals by certiorari before judgment.

Held: as the record, arguments and briefs here and the opinions of the District Court fully present the case decided by the District Court, and to avoid further futile proceedings, this Court grants certiorari to review the case in the Court of Appeals before judgment. Pp. 370-371.

Page 369

4. Claiming that it was invalid under the Federal Constitution, certain Chinese School Associations, a Chinese school, and a teacher of Chinese in Chinese language schools sued in the United States District Court for Hawaii to enjoin officers of the Territory from enforcing an Act of the Territory which forbids the teaching of foreign languages to children in certain circumstances. The sole sanction for its enforcement was by injunction, in a suit for which the defense of unconstitutionality would be available. The Act had not been construed by the Hawaiian courts.

Held: assuming the existence of federal and equitable jurisdiction, the District Court, as a matter of its discretion, should have refused to grant the injunction. Pp. 381-384.

5. Where equitable interference with state and territorial acts is sought in federal courts, judicial consideration of acts of importance primarily to the people of the state or territory should, as a matter of discretion, be left by the federal courts to the courts of the legislating authority, unless exceptional circumstances command a different course. P. 383-384.

74 F.Supp. 852, reversed.

Respondents sued in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii to enjoin officers of the Territory from enforcing an Act of the Territory challenged as invalid under the Federal Constitution. The suit was heard and determined by a court of three judges, which granted the injunction. 74 F.Supp. 852. The defendants took a direct appeal to this Court (No. 52) and an appeal to the Court of Appeals. They also petitioned this Court for review of the case in the Court of Appeals by certiorari before judgment (No. 474). In No. 52, the appeal is dismissed; in No. 474, certiorari is granted, the judgment is reversed, and the cause is remanded to the District Court with directions to dismiss the complaint. P. 384.

Page 370

REED, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appeal in No. 52, Stainback, Governor of the Territory of Hawaii, et al. v. Mo Hock Ke Lok Po, An Eleemosynary Corporation, et al., and the writ of certiorari in No. 474, a case with the same short title, seek review of a judgment of the District Court of the United States for the District of Hawaii. This judgment was passed by a special three-judge court that was called pursuant to Judicial Code § 266, and, by that section's provision, was brought directly here on May 7, 1948, in case No. 52. To guard against a frustration of review by this Court's refusal to accept jurisdiction, a timely appeal by the petitioners here in No. 52 has been taken by them in No. 474 to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No judgment on that appeal has been entered by the Court of Appeals, and appellants there, the Governor of Hawaii et al., petitioned here on December 21, 1948, for

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the allowance of a writ of certiorari under 28 U.S.C. § 1254(1).1

A jurisdictional question as to whether Judicial Code § 266 was applicable in the Territory of Hawaii arises in No. 52. It was postponed by order of this Court on June 1, 1948, to the hearing of that case on the merits. This Court postponed action on the petition for certiorari in No. 474 until the hearing of No. 52 on the merits. As the record, arguments, and briefs here and the opinions below fully present the case decided by the District Court, to avoid further futile proceedings, we now grant the petition for the writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals before its decree and proceed in No. 474 to a review of the judgment of the District Court of Hawaii. The opinions appeal in 74 F.Supp. 852, Mo Hock Ke Lok Po v. Stainback.

Respondents here were plaintiffs in the trial court. They are Chinese School Associations, a Chinese school, all giving instruction in Chinese, and a teacher of Chinese in Chinese language schools. After December 7, 1941, these schools closed, and have not reopened. Prior to that date, they had more than 2,000 pupils, several hundred of whom were in the first and second grade, and numerous teachers. Under Judicial Code § 266, they sought an injunction against officers of the Territory of Hawaii charged by law with the administration of an Act of the Territory "Regulating the Teaching of Foreign Languages to Children,"2 from enforcing it in any particular against

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the teaching of foreign languages to the respondents' pupils.

The Act was grounded on a legislative finding

that the study and persistent use of foreign languages by children of average intelligence in their early and formative years definitely detract from their ability properly to understand and assimilate their normal studies in the English language.

Revised Laws of Hawaii 1945, § 1871. "School" was defined as any teaching regularly of two or more persons in a group.3 Requirements for pupils and teachers in [69 S.Ct. 609] foreign language schools were set out.4 Visitation of the foreign language schools by appropriate officials for enforcement purposes was authorized. § 1875. The only sanction for enforcement is by injunction.5

Page 373

This lack of coercion by fine or imprisonment, and the limitation of enforcement to injunction, are important factors in our conclusion upon No. 474.

The complaint alleged that, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, the Act deprived plaintiff schools of the right to manage their property by contracting with instructors and parents for the teaching of Chinese, and the plaintiff teacher of Chinese of his right to follow his occupation.6 See Farrington v. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284, 299. The judgment of the special district court granted a sweeping permanent injunction against enforcement of the Hawaiian Act. As our conclusions are based solely upon procedural issues, any further discussion of the facts or of the law applicable to the merits is not appropriate.

Page 374

The complaint asked for and obtained a three-judge court under the provisions of the Judicial Code § 266.7 The minute entries of proceedings and trial and [69 S.Ct. 610] the opinion re applicability of § 266, Judicial Code, 74 F.Supp. at

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858, show suggestions that a special district court under Judicial Code § 266 cannot be called for Hawaii. The statement of jurisdiction laid bare the problem with commendable frankness. It lies at the threshold of any consideration of this appeal.8

Within the present decade, this Court summarized, in Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, the purpose and effect of § 266, and extracted from its history and the precedents for the section's application a congressional requirement of strict construction to protect our appellate docket while assuring the states that exceptionally careful judicial consideration would guard them against all assaults, through federal courts, against their legislative statutes or administrative board orders by applications for injunction when those assaults were based on the Federal Constitution. Pp. 250-251. While we take judicial notice that, since the Phillips case, air carriage has brought Hawaii closer to the continent,9 the interference with the normal adjudicatory and appellate processes of the federal judicial system and our docket persists. The power

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to call a panel of judges under § 266 in Hawaii is to be examined in the light of the Phillips case.

Hawaii is still a territory, but a territory in which the Constitution and laws of the United States generally are applicable. 31 Stat. 141, § 5, as amended, 48 U.S.C. § 495; Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304, 317. Not only its federal courts, but also its [69 S.Ct. 611] territorial courts, are, of course, subject to congressional legislation. 48 U.S.C. § 631, et seq. The Organic Act for Hawaii, § 86,10 provided in 1900:

That there shall be established in said Territory a district court to consist of one judge. . . . Said court shall have, in addition to the ordinary jurisdiction of district courts of the United States, jurisdiction...

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