Commonwealth v. International Harvester Co. of America

CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky
Writing for the CourtO'REAR, J.
Citation115 S.W. 703
Decision Date26 January 1909

115 S.W. 703


Court of Appeals of Kentucky.

January 26, 1909

Appeal from Circuit Court, Hardin County.

"To be officially reported."

The International Harvester Company of America was indicted for violating the antitrust act of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209 (U. S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 3200), and, from a judgment sustaining a demurrer to the indictment, the Commonwealth appeals. Affirmed. [115 S.W. 705]

N. B. Hays, C. H. Morris, and J. R. Layman, for the Commonwealth.

L. A. Faurest, Humphrey & Humphrey, and Arthur M. Rutledge, for appellee.


Appellee was indicted on June 9, 1906, under the Kentucky anti-trust statute, the indictment reading:

"The grand jurors of the county of Hardin, in the name and by the authority of the commonwealth of Kentucky, accuse the International Harvester Company of America, a corporation of the offense of unlawfully and willfully creating establishing, organizing, entering into and becoming and being a member and party to and interested in a pool trust, combine and agreement, and understanding with a number of machine companies, which are independent companies from it for the purpose of controlling and fixing prices of certain articles of farming machinery and repairs, and fixing and controlling the output and number manufactured, committed in manner and form as follows, towit: The said International Harvester Company of America, a corporation, in said county of Hardin on the ___ day of ___, 1906, and before the finding of this indictment being a corporation created under and by the laws of one of the states of the United States of America other than Kentucky, organized for the purpose and engaged in doing business in Kentucky and other states of said United States, did unlawfully create, establish, organize, enter into, become a member of a party to and interested in a pool, trust, combine, agreement, confederation and understanding with the McCormick Machine Company, the Champion Machine Company, the Plano Machine Company, Deering Harvester Company, some of which are corporations and some of which are joint-stock companies but this jury cannot say which are corporations and which are not, nor can they say who constitute the members of any joint-stock company named or in what state those companies being corporations, are incorporated, and various other companies and incorporations to this grand jury unknown, for the purpose of controlling and fixing the prices, and limiting the quantity of mowers, reapers, binders, rakes and repairs for same, and various other articles unknown to this grand jury, and binder twine, and said understanding, agreement, arrangement and combine now exists and has existed for some time, and said International Harvester Company of America handles and disposes of such articles in said county. This grand jury does not know and cannot say what state said company is incorporated in. All business done in said county by all of said companies is done pursuant to said agreement and understanding by said parties against the peace and dignity of the commonwealth of Kentucky."

The statute under which the indictment was returned is section 3915, Ky. St. (Ed. 1903) and is the act adopted and approved May 20, 1890. It is as follows: "That if any corporation under the laws of Kentucky, [115 S.W. 706] or under the laws of any other state or county, for transacting or conducting any kind of business in this state, or any partnership, company, firm or individual, or other association of persons, shall create, establish, organize or enter into, or become a member of, or a party to, or in any way interested in any pool, trust, combine, agreement, confederation or understanding with any other corporation, partnership, individual or person, or association of persons, for the purpose of regulating or controlling or fixing the price of any merchandise, manufactured articles or property of any kind, or shall enter into, become a member of, or party to or in any way interested in any pool, agreement, contract, understanding, combination or confederation, having for its object the fixing, or in any way limiting the amount or quantity of any article of property, commodity or merchandise to be produced or manufactured, mined, bought or sold, shall be deemed guilty of the crime of conspiracy, and punished therefor as provided in the subsequent sections of this act."

An act of the General Assembly was passed and approved March 21, 1906, being chapter 117, p. 429, of the Acts of 1906, the first section of which reads: "It is hereby declared lawful for any number of persons to combine, unite or pool, any or all of the crops of wheat, tobacco, corn, oats, hay, or other farm products raised by them, for the purpose of classifying, grading, storing, holding, selling or disposing of same, either in parcels or as a whole, in order or for the purpose of obtaining a greater or higher price therefor than they might or could obtain or receive by selling said crops separately or individually."

The other sections of the latter act, as well as the act of May 20, 1890, have to do with the procedure under the acts, and affect only certain features of the main provisions which are set forth in the sections quoted above.

Appellee demurred to the indictment, on the ground that, as it failed to show when the offense charged had been committed, it must be presumed that it was at any period covered by the indictment most unfavorable to the prosecution, which would be subsequent to March 21, 1906, and prior to the time the indictment was returned. Commonwealth v. T. J. Megibben Co., 101 Ky. 195, 40 S.W. 694. It was therefore contended by appellee that inasmuch as the act of 1890 made the transaction with which it was charged illegal, and as the act of March 21, 1906, allowed farmers to do the same thing as legal, the defendant was not furnished equal protection under the laws of Kentucky, and that in consequence the act of May 20, 1890, must fail, as the state is forbidden by the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States from denying equal protection of the laws to all persons within its jurisdiction. The circuit court sustained the demurrer on the ground that discrimination was worked against appellee under the statute, and dismissed the indictment. From that judgment the commonwealth has prosecuted this appeal for a construction of the law.

We are satisfied the circuit court was not in error in sustaining the demurrer to the indictment, but that it was in error as to the ground upon which it based its ruling. As the construction of these statutes seems to be important to the welfare of the state, we here set down our interpretation of them, as reasons for the conclusion at which we have arrived.

In the first place, there is no denial that if the two statutes in question, when construed according to the canons of statutory construction, confer the right upon one class of citizens to do an act, which is made a criminal offense if done by any other class, it would contravene the fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution, which declares: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws." The federal Constitution is the paramount law of the land. A statute of a state in conflict with it is void. State statutes, therefore, when they come within the domain of the powers of government over which the federal Constitution extends, must be read and applied with reference to the provisions of that instrument.

The laws of a state, particularly its statutory laws, are such enactments as its legislative body promulgates, as expounded and applied by its courts. A state statute has such meaning as the judicial department of that state construes it to have. Bank of Hamilton v. Dudley's Lessee, 2 Pet. 492, 7 L.Ed. 496; Elmendorf v. Taylor, 10 Wheat. 152, 6 L.Ed. 289; Railroad v. Georgia, 98 U.S. 359, 25 L.Ed. 185. This is so, even though, without such judicial construction, the federal courts might have, from the language of the statute, construed it differently. Green v. Neal's Lessee, 6 Pet. 291, 8 L.Ed. 402; Bell v. Morrison, 1 Pet. 351, 7 L.Ed. 174; Nesmith v. Sheldon, 7 How. 812, 12 L.Ed. 925. It is primarily for each state to say what police regulations it will adopt. In that matter it speaks through its Legislature. It is for the judiciary of that state to declare the legislative intent and meaning of such enactments, and that declaration is the extent and limit of the particular statutes when they come to be applied either by the judiciary or the executive departments of the state government. Sutherland, Stat. Const. § 5. In construing a statute, the aim is of course to arrive at the legislative meaning. The first, and most important, rule is to resort to the language of the act itself, [115 S.W. 707] and that language alone, to gather the legislative purpose, if the language used is unambiguous. It is not allowable, in such state of case, to resort to any other source of information to learn what the lawmaking department intended, or as to what evils they proposed remedying. If, however, the Legislature has enacted two or more statutes which from their wording appear to be inconsistent, or if the statue under consideration appears to be in conflict with a provision of the Constitution, state or federal, there is an ambiguity, for it is always presumed that the Legislature did not intend to violate either Constitution; it is always presumed it intended its enactments to become valid and enforceable laws. Nor are repeals by implication favored, as it must be presumed that, if...

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    ......228; Field v. People, 3 Ill. 79, 2 Scam. 79; Commonwealth v. International. Harvester . [94 So. 711] . Co., 131 Ky. 551, 115 ......
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