Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Charlet, No. 10290.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtHUTCHESON, HOLMES, and McCORD, Circuit
Citation134 F.2d 213
Decision Date24 May 1943
Docket NumberNo. 10290.
PartiesGREAT LAKES DREDGE & DOCK CO. et al. v. CHARLET.

134 F.2d 213 (1943)

GREAT LAKES DREDGE & DOCK CO. et al.
v.
CHARLET.

No. 10290.

Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

February 11, 1943.

Judgment affirmed May 24, 1943.


Eberhard P. Deutsch, R. Emmett Kerrigan, and James J. Morrison, all of New Orleans, La., for appellants.

W. C. Perrault, of Baton Rouge, La., for appellee.

Before HUTCHESON, HOLMES, and McCORD, Circuit Judges.

Judgment affirmed May 24, 1943. See ___ U.S. ___, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 87 L.Ed. ___.

HUTCHESON, Circuit Judge.

Alleging that an actual controversy had arisen and was existing between them and Charlet, as Administrator of the Louisiana Unemployment Compensation Law,1 over whether the said law could be lawfully applied to and enforced against them in respect to the employment by them of officers and crewmen in furtherance of their dredging operations on the navigable waters of the United States within the State of Louisiana, plaintiffs brought this suit for a declaration that in respect of the relation of employment between plaintiffs and their employees, they are not subject to the act. As their complaint alleges it, the basis of their claim to a declaration is: That the Louisiana Unemployment Compensation Law was amended in 1938 to bring within its provisions all the vessels and all the employees of plaintiffs, with the result that if valid, plaintiffs were required thereby to pay to the state unemployment fund, contributions, measured by the wages paid by them to their employees, and in addition, under the Act of 1936, to withhold a portior

134 F.2d 214
of the wages due their employees; that in view of the provisions of Art. 1, Sec. 8 and Art. 3, Sec. 2 of the Constitution of the United States, giving to the Congress exclusive power to legislate with respect to matters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States and depriving the states of all power to legislate thereto, the act as so amended is unconstitutional, null and void. The defense was: That the act levied a nondiscriminatory excise tax, based upon the exercise of the right or privilege of employing individuals, measured by the wages paid; that the right to levy such tax is inherent in state sovereignty and was not surrendered to the United States; that the statute in no way affects the rights, duties or obligations as between themselves of parties to a maritime contract, and in no way interferes with or contravenes the maritime law or affects the uniformity of that law, or contravenes the purpose or intent of any act of Congress. Submitted to the court on a stipulation of fact, these defenses were maintained, the claim for declaratory judgment was accordingly denied, and the action was dismissed. The district judge, in a thorough and exhaustive opinion, canvassing the facts and the law,2 set out both fully and precisely the facts upon which the decision of the case turned, and gathered and adequately discussed the controlling authorities. We agree not only with the conclusion reached, but generally with what is said in the opinion. We shall not, therefore, enter into any detailed statement or discussion of either the facts or the authorities, but, referring to the opinion for that detail, shall content ourselves with a brief summation. In reaching this conclusion, we have assumed, without deciding, though appellee vigorously contests this,3 that within the exception of Subd. 3, Sec. 1107 (c), 42 U.S.C.A., all of plaintiffs' employees are officers and members of the crew of a vessel on the navigable waters of the United States. So assuming, we entirely agree with the district judge that plaintiffs are not entitled to the declaration they seek that the Louisiana Unemployment Compensation Act may not, because of the invoked constitutional provisions, be enforced as to them. It is stipulated that the employment relation sought to be taxed involves employees, described in detail, including what are called "shore crews", employed in the customary and usual way in the operation and navigation of dredges, pile drivers and other appurtenances used for deepening, widening, improving, extending and cleaning navigation channels and other navigable waters in Louisiana and for creating fill and other similar operations, and that such vessels do not customarily operate between ports in Louisiana and ports outside of it

As regards those activities which are directly connected with commerce and navigation in their interstate and international aspects, it has been held,4 with respect to workmen's compensation laws, that the law must be uniform throughout the United States, and the laws of the various states are not competent to modify or vary it. The rationale of these cases is that a state law cannot, as between the parties, change or affect rights and obligations arising under a maritime contract or matters having a direct relation thereto. But so narrow and tenuous is the authority of these cases that it is now the well settled rule that, though a contract be maritime, if it is local in character and has no direct relationship to navigation as navigation, state compensation laws may validly apply to persons the contract affects, and this is so because such laws do not interfere with any characteristic feature of general maritime law, do not substantially affect essentially maritime rights and obligations. Thus exception after exception to the broad rule the Jensen case...

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4 practice notes
  • United States v. State Tax Commission, No. 72-1380
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 28, 1973
    ...unconstitutional. The district court held the tax constitutional, and was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, 43 F.Supp. 981 (E.D.La.1942), 134 F.2d 213 (5th Cir. 1943). The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of dismissal, "but solely on the ground that, in the appropriate exercise of the co......
  • Sorensen v. City of New York, No. 72-76
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 20, 1953
    ...5 Cir., 198 F.2d 536, 538; Travelers Ins. Co. v. McManigal, 4 Cir., 139 F.2d 949, 951; Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. v. Charlet, 5 Cir., 134 F.2d 213, 214, affirmed 319 U.S. 293, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 87 L.Ed. 12 For a discussion of Congressional attempts to vitiate the Jensen rule, see Davis v.......
  • Great Lakes Dredge Dock Co v. Huffman, No. 849
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 24, 1943
    ...to petitioners is constitutional; it is thus in effect a declaratory judgment. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, 134 F.2d 213, holding that the statute, in exacting from employers contributions to the state unemployment compensation fund, is a valid exercise of the state ......
  • Lehigh Valley Co-op. Farmers v. Com., Bureau of Employment Sec. Dept. of Labor and Industry
    • United States
    • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 25, 1980
    ...in general and excise taxes in particular. 6 See, e. g. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Charlet, 43 F.Supp. 981 (E.D.La.1942), aff'd, 134 F.2d 213 (5th Cir.), aff'd sub nom. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Huffman, 319 U.S. 293, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 87 L.Ed. 1407 (1943); Beeland Wholesale Co. v......
4 cases
  • United States v. State Tax Commission, No. 72-1380
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 28, 1973
    ...unconstitutional. The district court held the tax constitutional, and was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, 43 F.Supp. 981 (E.D.La.1942), 134 F.2d 213 (5th Cir. 1943). The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of dismissal, "but solely on the ground that, in the appropriate exercise of the co......
  • Sorensen v. City of New York, No. 72-76
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 20, 1953
    ...5 Cir., 198 F.2d 536, 538; Travelers Ins. Co. v. McManigal, 4 Cir., 139 F.2d 949, 951; Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. v. Charlet, 5 Cir., 134 F.2d 213, 214, affirmed 319 U.S. 293, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 87 L.Ed. 12 For a discussion of Congressional attempts to vitiate the Jensen rule, see Davis v.......
  • Great Lakes Dredge Dock Co v. Huffman, No. 849
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 24, 1943
    ...to petitioners is constitutional; it is thus in effect a declaratory judgment. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, 134 F.2d 213, holding that the statute, in exacting from employers contributions to the state unemployment compensation fund, is a valid exercise of the state ......
  • Lehigh Valley Co-op. Farmers v. Com., Bureau of Employment Sec. Dept. of Labor and Industry
    • United States
    • Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
    • November 25, 1980
    ...in general and excise taxes in particular. 6 See, e. g. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Charlet, 43 F.Supp. 981 (E.D.La.1942), aff'd, 134 F.2d 213 (5th Cir.), aff'd sub nom. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. v. Huffman, 319 U.S. 293, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 87 L.Ed. 1407 (1943); Beeland Wholesale Co. v......

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