358 U.S. 121 (1958), 32, United States v. A & P Trucking Co.

Docket Nº:No. 32
Citation:358 U.S. 121, 79 S.Ct. 203, 3 L.Ed.2d 165
Party Name:United States v. A & P Trucking Co.
Case Date:December 08, 1958
Court:United States Supreme Court

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358 U.S. 121 (1958)

79 S.Ct. 203, 3 L.Ed.2d 165

United States


A & P Trucking Co.

No. 32

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 8, 1958

        Argued October 20, 1958




        A partnership may be prosecuted as an entity under § 222(a) of the Motor Carrier Act for "knowingly and willfully" violating certification requirements and motor carrier regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission and under 18 U.S.C. § 835 for "knowingly" violating regulations for the safe transportation in interstate commerce of explosives and other dangerous articles. Pp. 121-127.

        (a) The words "knowingly and willfully" in § 222(a) and the word "knowingly" in § 835 do not eliminate partnerships from the coverage of these statutes. Pp. 125-126.

        (b) A partnership can violate each of these statutes quite apart from the participation and knowledge of the partners as individuals. Pp. 126-127.


        HARLAN, J., lead opinion

        MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

       This case raises issues similar to those involved in United States v. American Freightways Co., 352 U.S. 1020, where a dismissal of an information charging a partnership entity with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 835 [79 S.Ct. 205] was affirmed by an equally divided Court.

        Appellees, two partnerships, were charged, as entities, in separate informations with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 835, which makes it criminal knowingly to violate Interstate

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Commerce Commission regulations for the safe transportation in interstate commerce of "explosives and other dangerous articles." Appellee A & P Trucking Company was also charged with numerous violations of 49 U.S.C. § 322(a) (§ 222(a) of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935).1 The District Court dismissed, on motion, the informations on the ground that a partnership entity cannot be guilty of violating the statutes involved. The Government appealed directly to this Court under the Criminal Appeals Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3731, and we noted probable jurisdiction. 356 U.S. 917. For reasons set forth below, we hold that the informations were erroneously dismissed.

        49 U.S.C. § 322(a), the comprehensive misdemeanor provision of the Motor Carrier Act, provides that

any person knowingly and willfully violating any provision of this chapter (Part II of the Interstate Commerce

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Act), or any rule, regulation, requirement, or order [of the Interstate Commerce Commission] thereunder, or any term or condition of any certificate, permit, or license, for which a penalty is not otherwise herein provided, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined. . . .

        The Motor Carrier Act also contains its own definition of the word "person":

The term "person" means any individual, firm, copartnership, corporation, company, association, or joint-stock association; . . .

        (Italics supplied.) 49 U.S.C. § 303(a).

        18 U.S.C. § 835 provides that

whoever knowingly violates any such regulation [ICC regulations pertaining to the safe transport of dangerous articles] shall be fined not more one year, or both; . . .

        The section makes such regulations binding on "all common carriers" engaged in interstate commerce. And 1 U.S.C. § 1, part of a chapter entitled "Rules of Construction" and in light of which § 835 must be read, provides that,

in determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise -- . . . the words "person" and "whoever" include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as [79 S.Ct. 206] well as individuals; . . .

        (Italics supplied.) The word "whoever" in 18 U.S.C. § 835 must, therefore, be construed to include partnerships "unless the context indicates otherwise."2

        We think that partnerships as entities may be proceeded against under both § 322(a) and § 835. The purpose

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of both statutes is clear: to ensure compliance by motor carriers, among others, with safety and other requirements laid down by the Interstate Commerce Commission in the exercise of its statutory duty to regulate the operations of interstate carriers for hire. In the effectuation of this policy, it certainly makes no difference whether the carrier which commits the infraction is organized as a corporation, a joint stock company, a partnership, or an individual proprietorship. The mischief is the same, and we think that Congress intended to make the consequences of infraction the same.

        True, the common law made a distinction between a corporation and a partnership, deeming the latter not a separate entity for purposes of suit. But the power of Congress to change the common law rule is not to be doubted. See United States v. Adams Express Co., 229 U.S. 381...

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