Comb v. Jacksonville Paper Co, No. 110

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation336 U.S. 187,69 S.Ct. 497,93 L.Ed. 599
PartiesMcCOMB, Adm'r v. JACKSONVILLE PAPER CO. et al
Decision Date14 February 1949
Docket NumberNo. 110

336 U.S. 187
69 S.Ct. 497
93 L.Ed. 599
McCOMB, Adm'r

v.

JACKSONVILLE PAPER CO. et al.

No. 110.
Argued Dec. 14, 15, 1948.
Decided Feb. 14, 1949.

Page 188

Bessie Margolin, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Louis Kurz, of Jacksonville, Fla., for respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from page 188 intentionally omitted]

Page 189

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a civil contempt proceeding arising out of Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 63 S.Ct. 332, 87 L.Ed. 460, which we decided January 18, 1943. The District Court had held that none of respondent's employees in specified classes were covered by Fair Labor Stand rds Act. 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. We sustained a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals, Fleming v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 5 Cir., 128 F.2d 395, which reversed the District Court, modifying it slightly to include a larger class of employees than the United States Court of Appeals had held to be covered.

On remand the District Court, without a further hearing, entered a decree enjoining respondents from violating the Act in any of the following particulars: (1) by paying the designated classes of employees less than 30¢ an hour from the date of the judgment to October 24, 1945, or less than 40¢ an hour thereafter, except as permitted by orders of the Administrator under § 8 or § 14 of the Act; (2) by employing such employees for a workweek longer than 40 hours unless they receive compensation for employment in excess of 40 hours in the workweek at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which they are employed; and (3) by failing to keep and preserve records as prescribed by the Administrator, particularly records of the hours worked each workday and each workweek by each of the employees and of the total wages paid to each for each workweek.

Respondent took no appeal from this order. This was in 1943. In 1946 the Administrator instituted this contempt proceeding alleging that respondents had not complied with the minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions of the judgment in many specified respects. He prayed that respondents be required to ter-

Page 190

minate their continuing violations and in order to purge themselves of their contempts to make payment of the amounts of unpaid wages due the affected employees. The District Court found violations of the provisions of the decree. It found that (1) respondents had set up a completely false and fictitious method of computing compensation without regard to the hours actually worked which were unlawful under the Act; (2) respondents had adopted a plan which gave the employees a wage increase in the guise of a bonus and yet excluded that increase from the regular rate of pay for the purpose of computing overtime; (3) respondents had classified some employees as executive or administrative employees in plain violation of the regulations of the Administrator adopted under § 13(a)(1) of the Act; and (4) one of the respondents had employed piece-workers in excess of the maximum workweek without paying them overtime compensation.1

The District Court held that a civil contempt required a 'wilful' violation of a decree; and that there was in this case no showing of any 'wilful' violation of any 'specific' provision of the former decree 'prohibiting the doing of any specific thing.' The District Court further held that it had no power on the application of the Administrator to enforce compliance with its former decree by ordering the payment of unpaid statutory wages. It accordingly considered the application of the Administrator as an amended complaint seeking a broadening of the previous decree and entered such an injunction. 69 F.Supp. 599, 608.

All parties appealed. The United States Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, 5 Cir., 167 F.2d 448. It ruled that respond-

Page 191

ents had violated the provisions of the decree couched in terms of the Act in the respects found by the District Court. It also held that the District Court was warranted in concluding that there was no 'wilful contempt' since neither the law nor the injunction specifically referred to or condemned the practices which were found to violate the Act.

The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted because of the importance of the problem in the administration of the Act.

First. The absence of wilfulness does not relieve from civil contempt. Civil as distinguished from criminal contempt is a sanction to enforce compliance with an order of the court or to compensate for losses or damages sustained by reason of noncompliance. See United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 303, 304, 67 S.Ct. 677, 701, 91 L.Ed. 884; Penfield Co. v. Securities & Exchange Commission, 330 U.S. 585, 590, 67 S.Ct. 918, 921, 91 L.Ed. 1117; Maggio v. Zeitz, 333 U.S. 56, 68, 68 S.Ct. 401, 407. Since the purpose is remedial, it matters not with what intent the defendant did the prohibited act. 2 The decree was not fashioned so as to grant or withhold its benefits dependent on the state of mind of respondents. It laid on them a duty to obey specified provisions of the statute. An act does not cease to be a violation of a law and of a decree merely because it may have been done innocently. The force and vitality of judicial decrees derive from more robust sanctions. And the grant or withholding of remedial relief is not wholly discretionary with the judge, as Mr. Justice Brandeis wrote for a unanimous Court in Union Tool Co. v. Wilson, 259 U.S. 107, 111, 112, 42 S.Ct. 427, 428, 429, 66 L.Ed. 848. The private or public rights that the decree sought to protect are an important measure of the remedy.

Second. As we have noted the decree directed respondents to obey the provisions of the Act dealing with mini-

Page 192

mum wages, overtime, and the keeping of records. There was no appeal from it. By its terms it enjoined any practices which were violations of those statutory provisions. Decrees of that generality are often necessary to prevent further violations where a proclivity for unlawful conduct has been shown. See May Stores Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 326 U.S. 376, 390, 391, 66 S.Ct. 203, 211, 212, 90 L.Ed. 145; United States v. Crescent Amusement Co., 323 U.S. 173, 186, 65 S.Ct. 254, 260, 89 L.Ed. 160. Respondent's record of continuing and persistent violations of the Act would indicate that that kind of a decree was wholly warranted in this case. Yet if there were extenuating circumstances or if the decree was too burdensome in operation, there was a method of relief apart from an appeal. Respondents could have petitioned the District Court for a modification, clarification or construction of the order. See Regal Knitwear Co. v. National Labor Relations Board, 324 U.S. 9, 15, 65 S.Ct. 478, 481, 89 L.Ed. 661. But respondents did not take that course either....

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907 practice notes
  • Jove Engineering, Inc. v. I.R.S., No. 94-6372
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 29, 1996
    ...Since the purpose is remedial, it matters not with what intent the defendant did the prohibited act. McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 499, 93 L.Ed. 599 In this case, the district court stated "[t]here was absolutely no malice and nothing approaching 'arroga......
  • United States v. JB Williams Company, Inc., No. 70 Civ. 1589.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 22, 1973
    ...to a civil contempt penalty does not require that violation of a court order be wilful. See McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Company, 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 93 L.Ed. 599 (1947); National Labor Relations Board v. Local 282, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousem......
  • Mitchell v. Superior Court (People), S.F. 24790
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 2, 1987
    ...order of the court or to compensate for losses or damages sustained by reason of noncompliance." (McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co. (1949) 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 499, 93 L.Ed. 599 [contempt judgment requiring contemners to purge themselves by paying damages in the form of unpaid wa......
  • In re Gravel, Chapter 13 Case # 11-10112
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court —District of Vermont
    • June 27, 2019
    ...uncertainty in the decree ... on [the] shoulders' of the party who violated the court order.") (quoting McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187, 192–93, 69 S.Ct. 497, 93 L.Ed. 599 (1949) ). Neither the record in this case, nor the Remand Decision, indicate there was any "fair ground ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
907 cases
  • Jove Engineering, Inc. v. I.R.S., No. 94-6372
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 29, 1996
    ...Since the purpose is remedial, it matters not with what intent the defendant did the prohibited act. McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 499, 93 L.Ed. 599 In this case, the district court stated "[t]here was absolutely no malice and nothing approaching 'arroga......
  • United States v. JB Williams Company, Inc., No. 70 Civ. 1589.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 22, 1973
    ...to a civil contempt penalty does not require that violation of a court order be wilful. See McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Company, 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 93 L.Ed. 599 (1947); National Labor Relations Board v. Local 282, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousem......
  • Mitchell v. Superior Court (People), S.F. 24790
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 2, 1987
    ...order of the court or to compensate for losses or damages sustained by reason of noncompliance." (McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co. (1949) 336 U.S. 187, 191, 69 S.Ct. 497, 499, 93 L.Ed. 599 [contempt judgment requiring contemners to purge themselves by paying damages in the form of unpaid wa......
  • In re Gravel, Chapter 13 Case # 11-10112
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court —District of Vermont
    • June 27, 2019
    ...uncertainty in the decree ... on [the] shoulders' of the party who violated the court order.") (quoting McComb v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 336 U.S. 187, 192–93, 69 S.Ct. 497, 93 L.Ed. 599 (1949) ). Neither the record in this case, nor the Remand Decision, indicate there was any "fair ground ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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