Caldor's, Inc. v. Bedding Barn, Inc.

Citation417 A.2d 343,177 Conn. 304
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Decision Date10 April 1979
Parties, 10 A.L.R.4th 230, 88 Lab.Cas. P 55,230 CALDOR'S, INC., et al. v. BEDDING BARN, INC., et al.

Page 343

417 A.2d 343
177 Conn. 304, 10 A.L.R.4th 230, 88
Lab.Cas. P 55,230
CALDOR'S, INC., et al.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Feb. 13, 1979.
Decided April 10, 1979.

Page 344

William R. Murphy, New Haven, with whom was Robert W. Allen, Hartford, for appellants-appellees (plaintiffs).

Maurice T. FitzMaurice, Hartford, Bernard Green, Bridgeport, and James E. Kernan, Southbury, with whom, on the brief, were John E. D'Amico, Hartford, John E. Noyes, West Hartford, and Francis B. Feeley, Waterbury, for appellees-appellants (defendants).

Arnold B. Feigin and Robert M. Langer, Asst. Attys. Gen., with whom, on the brief, was Carl R. Ajello, Atty. Gen., amici curiae.

Norman Zolot and Burton S. Rosenberg, Hamden, filed a brief as amici curiae.

Bourke G. Spellacy, Charles F. Corcoran, III, and Michael P. Meotti, Hartford, filed a brief as amici curiae.


[177 Conn. 305]

Page 345

PETERS, Associate Justice.

This case concerns the constitutionality of the Sunday closing law, Public Acts 1978, No. 78-329, hereinafter referred to as Public Act 78-329. The plaintiffs, four retail establishments doing business in Connecticut, brought an action to enjoin the defendants, four competing retail establishments, from engaging in business operations on Sundays in violation of the act. The defendants interposed answers challenging both the applicability and the constitutionality of the act. The trial court initially was asked to hold a hearing on the plaintiffs' application for a temporary injunction, but this proceeding was converted, with the consent of all of the parties, into a full hearing on the merits of a permanent injunction. The trial court ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs would have been entitled to the relief they sought if the act were constitutional but determined it to be unconstitutional because, in operation, it failed to bear a reasonable and substantial relationship to its purpose of providing a common day of rest, and hence violated the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. From the court's rendition of judgment denying the plaintiffs' petition for injunctive relief, both the plaintiffs and the defendants have appealed. The plaintiffs' appeal challenges the trial court's decision that the act violates the requirements of substantive due process. The defendants' cross appeals raise constitutional challenges that the trial court did not reach, and attack the propriety of the substantive nonconstitutional conclusions of the trial court. 1

[177 Conn. 306] Sunday closing laws, often referred to as Blue Laws, are no newcomers to the legislative scene. Connecticut's Blue Laws were first codified in 1650. Although in origin such laws were intimately related to the establishment of religious principles, over time their acknowledged purpose and justification have shifted to secular grounds. Today, Sunday closing laws, in their objectives, fall within the general legislative power to determine what is reasonably required to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 444-45, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961). It is for the legislature to decide whether the public welfare is best served by establishing a common day of rest and recreation. State v. Shuster, 145 Conn. 554, 557-58, 145 A.2d 196 (1958); State v. Hurliman, 143 Conn. 502, 507, 123 A.2d 767 (1956). Legislative regulation in the economic sphere is an exercise of the police power that is entitled to substantial judicial deference; Exxon Corporation v. Governor of Maryland, 437 U.S. 117, 124, 98 S.Ct. 2207, 57 L.Ed.2d 91 (1978); New Orleans v. Dukes, 427 U.S. 297, 303, 96 S.Ct. 2513, 49 L.Ed.2d 511 (1976); nonetheless, even economic regulation must meet minimal standards of rationality and reasonableness. State v. Rao, 171 Conn. 600, 603, 370 A.2d 1310 (1976). While we do not agree with the basis upon which the trial court determined that Public Act 78-329 does not pass constitutional muster, we agree with its ultimate conclusion that the act, despite the legitimacy of its purpose, is, as drafted, unconstitutional.

The present Sunday closing law represents the most recent revision of a statute compiled at the turn of the century, General Statutes §§ 1369-1371 (Rev.1902). Since 1902, the legislative pattern of [177 Conn. 307] reenactment and amendment has been fairly consistent overall. In an effort to accommodate restriction of business on Sunday with the need to provide services ancillary to a day of rest and recreation, and in recognition of significant individual variation in what constitutes rest and recreation, the legislature has provided an increasing number of exemptions from Sunday closings. This pattern has prevailed in other states as well, and has undergone consistent constitutional challenge, with markedly inconsistent results. A series of landmark cases in the

Page 346

Supreme Court of the United States upheld Sunday closing laws. McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393 (1961); Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown, Inc. v. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582, 81 S.Ct. 1135, 6 L.Ed.2d 551 (1961); Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 81 S.Ct. 1144, 6 L.Ed.2d 563 (1961); and Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Market, 366 U.S. 617, 81 S.Ct. 1122, 6 L.Ed.2d 536 (1961). State cases after McGowan v. Maryland, however, continue to be divided. Sunday closing laws have been struck down, in whole or in part, in Alabama, Piggly-Wiggly of Jacksonville, Inc. v. Jacksonville, 336 So.2d 1078 (Ala.1976); in Georgia, Rutledge v. Gaylord's, Inc., 233 Ga. 694, 213 S.E.2d 626 (1975); in Illinois, Courtesy Motor Sales v. Ward, 24 Ill.2d 82, 179 N.E.2d 692 (1962); in Kansas, Boyer v. Ferguson, 192 Kan. 607, 389 P.2d 775 (1964); in Kentucky, City of Ashland v. Heck's, Inc., 407 S.W.2d 421 (Ky.1966); in Louisiana, West v. Winnsboro, 252 La. 605, 211 So.2d 665 (1968); in Minnesota, State v. Target Stores, Inc., 279 Minn. 447, 156 N.W.2d 908 (1968); in Nebraska, Skag-Way Department Stores, Inc. v. Omaha, 179 Neb. 707, 140 N.W.2d 28 (1966); in New York, People v. Abrahams, 40 N.Y.2d 277, 386 N.Y.S.2d 661, 353 [177 Conn. 308] N.E.2d 574 (1976); in North Carolina, State v. Greenwood, 280 N.C. 651, 187 S.E.2d 8 (1972); in Oklahoma, Spartan's Industries, Inc. v. Oklahoma City, 498 P.2d 399 (Okl.1972); in Pennsylvania, Kroger Co. v. O'Hara Township, 481 Pa. 101, 392 A.2d 266 (1978); in Utah, Skaggs Drug Centers, Inc. v. Ashley, 26 Utah 2d 38, 484 P.2d 723 (1971); in Washington, County of Spokane v. Valu-Mart, Inc., 69 Wash.2d 712, 419 P.2d 993 (1966); and in Wyoming, Nation v. Giant Drug Co., 396 P.2d 431 (Wyo.1964). Sunday closing laws have survived constitutional challenge in Arkansas, Bill Dyer Supply Co., Inc. v. State, 255 Ark. 613, 502 S.W.2d 496 (1973); in Iowa, Brown Enterprises, Inc. v. Fulton, 192 N.W.2d 773 (Iowa 1971); in Maine, State v. S. S. Kresge, Inc., 364 A.2d 868 (Me.1976); in Maryland, Hechinger Co. v. State's Attorney, 272 Md. 706, 326 A.2d 742 (1974); in Massachusetts, Zayre Corporation v. Attorney General, 372 Mass. 423, 362 N.E.2d 878 (1977); in Mississippi, Genesco, Inc. v. J. C. Penney Co., Inc., 313 So.2d 20 (Miss.1975); in New Hampshire, Opinion of the Justices, 108 N.H. 103, 229 A.2d 188 (1967); in New Jersey, Vornado, Inc. v. Hyland, 77 N.J. 347, 390 A.2d 606 (1978); in North Dakota, Bismarck v. Materi, 177 N.W.2d 530 (N.D.1970); in South Carolina, Whitney Trading Corporation v. McNair, 255 S.C. 8, 176 S.E.2d 572 (1970); in Texas, Gibson Products Co., Inc. v. State, 545 S.W.2d 128 (Tex.1976); in Vermont, State v. Giant of St. Albans, Inc., 128 Vt. 539, 268 A.2d 739 (1970); and in Virginia, Malibu Auto Parts, Inc. v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 467, 237 S.E.2d 782 (1977). Although each of these judicial decisions is, of course, directly responsive only to the particular language of the particular statute under review, nonetheless the persistence of controversy in both legislatures[177 Conn. 309] and courthouses serves to underline the complexity of the issues before us and the importance of close examination of the text of the relevant statutory provisions.

In 1978, when the Connecticut General Assembly turned again to consideration of the Sunday closing law and enacted Public Act 78-329, it was legislating against a background of mixed Connecticut judicial reaction to earlier Sunday laws. The immediate predecessors of §§ 53-300, 53-301, 53-302, 53-303, and 52-207 of the General Statutes, regulating work on Sunday had been declared constitutional in State v. Hurliman, 143 Conn. 502, 123 A.2d 767 (1956), and State v. Shuster, 145 Conn. 554, 145 A.2d 196 (1958). The operative section in this series was § 53-300, which generally barred "secular business . . . unless required by necessity or mercy," but permitted retail sale of certain listed items including food, newspapers, and medical supplies. After numerous amendments, and after the disapproval of the Court of Common Pleas; State v. Anonymous (1976-7), 33 Conn.Sup. 55, 364 A.2d 244 (1976); § 53-300 was repealed in 1976 and replaced by § 53-302a. This section also was held unconstitutional by the Court of Common Pleas. State v. Anonymous (1976-12), 33

Page 347

Conn.Sup. 141, 366 A.2d 200 (1976). Related sections which had survived until 1978 included: § 53-300a, validating Sunday real estate contracts; § 53-301, forbidding Sunday dealing in automobiles; § 53-303, allowing a Sabbatarian exemption from Sunday closing for those conscientiously observing Saturday as a Sabbath; § 53-303b, treating certain holidays as if they were Sundays; § 53-303c, providing criminal penalties; § 53-303d, permitting civil injunctions; § 53-303e, prohibiting employment of more than six days in [177 Conn. 310] any calendar week; and § 52-207, requiring restitution as a condition of avoidance of Sunday contracts. Public Act 78-329...

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