344 F.Supp. 302 (N.D.Ala. 1972), Civ. A. 71-380, Hodgson v. Mauldin

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 71-380
Citation:344 F.Supp. 302
Party Name:Hodgson v. Mauldin
Case Date:June 12, 1972
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Northern District of Alabama
 
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Page 302

344 F.Supp. 302 (N.D.Ala. 1972)

James D. HODGSON, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,

v.

Edward F. MAULDIN, in his Individual Capacity and as Administrator of the Estate of Leonard S. Preuit, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 71-380.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama,

June 12, 1972

As Amended June 15, 1972.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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George Palmer, U. S. Dept. of Labor, Birmingham, Ala., for plaintiff.

E. B. Haltom, Jr., of Haltom & Patterson, Florence, Ala., for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

LYNNE, Chief Judge.

This action was initiated by the Secretary of Labor for the purpose of enjoining and redressing alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. In its complaint, the Labor Department prays for the following specific forms of relief:

(1) a mandatory injunction compelling the defendant (a) to compensate his employees at prevailing minimum wage rates as required by 29 U.S.C. § 206, and (b) to keep and preserve accurate records of employee wages, hours, and other conditions of employment in compliance with 29 C.F.R. § 516; and

(2) a monetary judgment representing the amount of unpaid minimum wages withheld by defendant from certain employees during the period extending from January 3, 1969, through December 23, 1970.

By way of answer, the defendant concedes his noncompliance with federal minimum wage and record-keeping requirements, but insists that such strictures have no application to him in view of the exemption embodied in § 13(a) (6) (E) of the Act, 29 U.S.C. § 213(a) (6) (E) (Supp.1972). It has been formally stipulated between the parties that the single issue to be adjudicated by this Court is whether the exemption relied upon by the defendant is available within the factual context of this case.

Section 13(a) (6) (E) reads as follows:

The provisions of sections 206 and 207 of this title shall not apply with respect to ... any employee employed in agriculture ... if such employee is principally engaged in the range production of livestock. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a) (6) (E) (Supp.1972) (emphasis added).

This exemption was enacted by Congress in 1966 and to date has remained unexposed to judicial construction or application. In view of the novel and abstruse nature of the question presented, an extensive non-jury trial has been conducted in an effort to develop all factual data which might bear on the applicability of § 13(a) (6) (E) to the defendant's enterprise.

II. FACTS

At all times relevant to this lawsuit, the defendant, Edward F. Mauldin, has conducted a vast cattle raising operation (herein referred to as the Mauldin-Preuit 1 enterprise) spanning some 7,215 acres in Lawrence and Colbert Counties, Alabama. Of the total acreage embraced by the defendant's operation, approximately 4,895 acres are devoted on a year-round basis to the production of beef cattle for commercial purposes. 2 This full-time cattle production land is divided either topographically or artificially into fifteen separate tracts, which have been euphemistically denominated

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by the defendant as "ranges." Each tract, or "range," is in turn subdivided into from one to four fenced-in pastures. Fourteen of the fifteen tracts and their component pastures are used exclusively for herding and grazing purposes, whereas the fifteenth tract, locally known as the "Hall Place Range," serves as a central base for the reception, assortment, and dispersal of cattle, as well as a general headquarters for the entire Mauldin-Preuit enterprise.

The following charts roughly summarize the data on file concerning the various tracts of land which make up the defendant's cattle production enterprise:


FULL-TIME BEEF CATTLE PRODUCTION LAND


Name of Tract No. Fenced-in Acres No. Pastures Miles From Hqts. Approx. No. Head of Cattle

Hall Place Range 1040 4
75

Streater Place Range 300 2 15 100

Beavers Crossroad Range 460 1 12 200

White Oak Range 160 2 13 50

Preuit Place Range 200 4 10 100

Reeder Place Range 600 4 8 300

Pullen Place Range 375 2 5 125

Rocky Hill Range 60 1 5 40

Sykes Place Range 250 2 4 150

Harris Place Range 280 3 4 50

Pittman Place Range 300 1 3 225

Second Street Range 160 1 3 50

Johnson Place Range 160 1 2 125

East Meadow Range 220 1 2 150

West Meadow Range 330 1 2 250


TOTAL GRAZING ACREAGE W/IN ENTERPRISE


Full-time grazing acreage 4,895 acres

Part-time grazing acreage (Sudex) 210 acres

Part-time grazing acreage (Wheat) 360 acres

Other acreage set aside for grazing in winter months 1,750 acres

TOTAL GRAZING ACREAGE 7,215 acres

The normal operation of the Mauldin-Preuit enterprise may be very generally described as follows. At periodic intervals during each year, Mr. Jack Mitchell, manager and field director of Mauldin-Preuit cattle operations, attends various livestock sales held around the state for the purpose of purchasing groups of yearlings. Following the consummation of any such purchase, the newly-acquired yearlings are transported by truck to the Hall Place Range where, upon arrival, they are innoculated, branded, tagged, dehorned, castrated, sprayed, and wormed. Thereafter, the calves are placed in an 80-acre "sick pasture" within the Hall Place Range for a three day recuperation period. Upon recuperation, the animals are sorted into herds according to size, quality, and breed, and each herd is collectively driven by horseback or transported by truck to a designated grazing pasture within any of the other fourteen tracts comprising the enterprise. It is contemplated that while the herds are in their respective Page 306 grazing pastures, each individual cow will gain from one-and-a-half to two pounds daily. Typically, when the average weight of the animal units within a particular herd reaches the 700-750 pound range, the herd is sold for profit to a "feeder" in a western or midwestern state. 3 The incessant process of purchasing, grazing, and selling beef cattle constitutes the very essence of the Mauldin-Preuit operation, and it recurs on a fairly large scale throughout each year. 4 Certainly two of the most critical factual areas in determining the availability of the "range production" exemption in any case are (1) the nature and quality of the lands comprising the livestock operation in question, and (2) the principal duties and activities of the employees whose wages are at issue. For the most part, the defendant's lands are both noncultivated and unsuitable for cultivation because of poor soil texture and intermittently rugged terrain. Certain portions of the grazing surface, however, have at one time or another been artificially seeded or fertilized to supplement those grasses which are indigenous to the area. The duties of the Mauldin-Preuit employees are substantially identical, 5 and, according to the undisputed evidence on record, consist primarily of constantly surveying and actively tending to the defendant's cattle. Because the potential availability of the "range production" exemption hinges so directly upon the nature of the Mauldin-Preuit lands and employee duties, each of these vital areas of fact will be explored in depth in the course of the discussion which follows. 6 III. DISCUSSION Broadly stated, the single issue raised by this litigation is whether the employees of the Mauldin-Preuit beef cattle enterprise are "principally engaged in the range production of livestock" within the purview of 29 U.S.C. § 213(a) (6) (E). In approaching this issue, it should be recognized at the outset that the Mauldin-Preuit employees are undeniably engaged in producing "livestock" as that term has been traditionally used in both common parlance and judicial circles. 7 The vexing constructional problems which must now be resolved emanate wholly from Congress's inclusion of the word "range" within the statutory matrix. The presence of this single amorphous concept raises the following narrow questions of interpretation under the facts presented:

(1) whether the lands comprising the Mauldin-Preuit enterprise constitute

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"range" within the meaning of § 13(a) (6) (E); and

(2) whether the principal duties and activities of the Mauldin-Preuit employees constitute "range production" within the meaning of § 13(a) (6) (E).

The balance of this memorandum opinion will address each of these questions independently.

A. Do the lands comprising the Mauldin-Preuit enterprise constitute "range" within the meaning of § 13(a) (6) (E)?

It is an elementary principle of statutory interpretation that "where the words [of a statute] are plain, there is no room for construction.... If the language be clear it is conclusive." Osaka Shosen Kaisha Line v. United States, 300 U.S. 98, 101, 57 S.Ct. 356, 357, 81 L.Ed. 532 (1937); United States v. General Elec. Co., 209 F.Supp. 197, 203 (E.D.Pa.1962). Since in the case at bar the key to the application of § 13(a) (6) (E) lies in the meaning of the word "range," a morass of expert testimony and documentary evidence has been presented by each side in attempt to establish that "range" has a clear-cut intrinsic meaning. Regrettably, however, a dispassionate review of all the pertinent evidence reveals quite conclusively that there is far from an authoritative consensus as to what types of land may constitute "range." 8 Many of the proferred definitions, for example, are very broadly framed and would readily encompass the Mauldin-Preuit grazing lands; others, by contrast, are narrowly drawn and would clearly not extend to the defendant's lands. 9 In view of this sharp inconsistency, legislative history and...

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