Gibson v. State

Citation214 Ala. 38,106 So. 231
Decision Date15 October 1925
Docket Number6 Div. 341
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

Rehearing Denied Nov. 19, 1925

Appeal from Circuit Court, Jefferson County; William M. Walker Judge.

Proceeding by the State of Alabama to condemn grain, etc., offered for sale in violation of law, claimed by Alexander Gibson. From a decree of condemnation, claimant appeals. Affirmed.

"Bill adopting a Code" within exception to constitutional prohibition against bills containing more than one subject defined.

The title of the act of 1923 (Acts, p. 399) is as follows:

"An act to provide a general system of legislation pertaining to agriculture and industries, and related subjects, including therein the establishment of a department of agriculture and industries; a state board of agriculture the abolishment of the board of agriculture as provided by an act approved February 11, 1911, and known as the board of agriculture; the abolishment of the board provided for by chapter 24 of the Code of 1907, as subsequently amended and known as the state board of horticulture; and the abolishment of a board provided for by article 4 of chapter 22 of the Code of 1907, as subsequently amended and known as the state live stock sanitary board; the transfer of all the powers and duties vested in and required to be performed by the said boards abolished, and of any unexpended balances of fees or appropriations to the said board created in this act; the prescribing of the powers and duties of the commissioner of agriculture and industries, and of the state board of agriculture; and including ample provisions governing and regulating the subjects of fertilizers and fertilizer materials; limestone; white lead or paints, linseed oil, and turpentine, kerosene and other illuminating oils insecticides and fungicides; commercial feeds; agricultural seeds; eggs, vinegar; sausage, imitation butter and cheese; milk, cream, ice cream and other dairy products, and the premises thereof; foods and drugs; corn meal; mills and millers; bees and honey; weights and measures, and the legal weights and measures of certain commodities; public gins; cotton; cotton standards and public cotton classers; public warehouses; uniform law of warehouse receipts; horticultural and floracultural products; trees, fruit trees, seeds, plants and vines as to name, variety and kind; citrus fruits; sale of farm produce by the producer; standards for agricultural products and their containers; standards for grain; live stock; live stock pedigrees, estrays; the sale of farm produce on commission; the leveeing, ditching and draining of wet, swamp and overflowed lands; the purchase and support of experimental farms by counties; the approval and support of county agents; the establishment of an agricultural fund in the state treasury out of the sums accruing from the operation of the provisions of this act, and the appropriations from said fund, for the support of these provisions; and the repeal of all laws and parts of laws in conflict with the provisions of this act."

Stokely, Scrivner, Dominick & Smith, and Frank Bainbridge, all of Birmingham, for appellant.

Harwell G. Davis, Atty. Gen., Jim Davis, Sol., L. Herbert Etheridge, Asst. Sol., and Thos. C. McClellan, all of Birmingham, and James J. Mayfield, of Montgomery, for the State.


This is a proceeding in the name of the state, instituted by agents of the department of agriculture and industries, for the condemnation and confiscation of "100 sacks, 160 pounds per sack, mill oats and screenings," under section 2, article 21, of the Agricultural Code of Alabama. Acts 1923, p. 452. The complaint charged that the product described, located on premises of defendant in Birmingham, was being sold, offered, or exposed for sale in this state in violation of section 4, article 20, of the Agricultural Code. This section (Acts 1923, p. 451) reads:

"Any person who shall sell what is known to the trade as 'mill oats' or like product either by itself or in combination with a commercial feed (as defined in article 15 of this act) or who shall sell corn, oats, rye, wheat or barley which has been adulterated, by means of the addition thereto of screenings, chaff, weed seed, wild oats, 'mill oats,' or water, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and the corn, oats, rye, wheat or barley so adulterated, shall be subject to seizure from confiscation by writ of attachment for condemnation, as provided for in article 21 of this act."

The matters of defense set up, and here presented by assignments of error, are, in substance, as follows:

First. The entire act known as the Agricultural Code of Alabama (Acts 1923, pp. 399 to 550) is void, because in violation of section 45, Constitution of 1901, saying:

"Each law shall contain but one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title, except general appropriation bills, general revenue bills, and bills adopting a Code, digest, or revision of statutes."

Second. Section 4, article 20, above quoted, is void because not germane to the subject expressed in the title to the act.

Third. Said section is void because in violation of the interstate commerce clause of the federal Constitution.

Fourth. The "mill oats" seized were not held for sale, offered for sale, nor being otherwise held or used in violation of law, or subject to the condemnation provisions of the statute.

The pertinent evidence upon the issues will be discussed as they are taken up in course of this opinion. The major question stressed in argument on both sides is the constitutionality of the act first above mentioned. The title of the act appears in full in the report of the case.

The state insists in argument that the act in question is a "bill adopting a Code, digest, or revision of statutes," excepted by section 45 of the Constitution from the general rule therein declared. Because of the novelty of this question, and its importance in future legislation, we deal with it first.

Section 1 of the act declares it shall be known and cited as the "Agricultural Code of Alabama." The first clause of the title is:

"To provide a general system of legislation pertaining to agriculture and industries, and related subjects."

A Code has been defined as "a system of law; a systematic and complete body of law." Johnson v. Harrison, 47 Minn. 575, 50 N.W. 923, 28 Am.St.Rep. 382, 2 Words and Phrases, First Series, page 1239.

The act is arranged in a series of articles, with subheadings, dealing with the several matters of legislation. In subject-matter the act is in the main a compilation and revision of a long series of legislative enactments, beginning with the creation of a department of agriculture in 1885 (Code 1886, § 129 et seq.), headed by a commissioner of agriculture, at the time a statutory officer, and extending through the several Codes and session acts thereafter. It represents the growth or enlargement of the activities of the department of agriculture and industries, and the laws relating thereto for 40 years. This act of 1923 also contains new legislation, extending into new fields, notably in correlating and extending the sphere of regulation and activity in keeping with the lead of the federal Department of Agriculture.

The bill was the result of the labors of a joint legislative committee directed to "fully consider and carefully prepare a constructive and practical system of agricultural legislation for the state of Alabama." House Journal 1923, p. 228.

At the legislative session of 1919 (Laws 1919, p. 1066) was passed the act "for the revision, codification, digesting, and promulgation of the public statutes of this state, both civil and criminal," looking to the Code of 1923. This act directed the Code commissioner to omit "the laws relating to the department of agriculture, the laws relating to the game and fish department, these to be published in pamphlet form." Accordingly these laws were omitted, and the act before us to be known as the "Agricultural Code of Alabama" was enacted. It seems clear enough the legislative purpose was to enact a system of laws pertaining to agriculture and industries to be published for distribution separate from the general Code, and to have the effect and name of a special Code. The power of the Legislature to make such provisions for the publication and distribution of the laws pertaining to a department of government as may appear to best acquaint interested persons with the provisions of the law is unquestioned; nor do we see any constitutional hindrance to placing in Code form all the laws pertaining to a department of government. But do these considerations bring the act in question within the exception named in section 45 of the Constitution?

The Constitution of 1819, art. 6, § 20, required that at stated periods "the body of our laws, civil and criminal, shall be revised, digested, and arranged, under proper heads, and promulgated in such manner as the General Assembly may direct."

In the Constitution of 1868, art. 4, § 27, the wording was changed so as to provide for the "revision, digesting and promulgation of all the public statutes of this state, both civil and criminal." This provision was carried without change into the Constitution of 1875, art. 4, § 46, and the Constitution of 1901, § 85.

In the Introduction to 2 Brickell's Digest, p. viii, will be found the history of the several Digests and Codes of Alabama down to and including the Revised Code of 1867, omitting the Penal Code of 1866.

It will be noted that all these Codes and Digests were prepared by a commissioner or commissioners, elected or appointed for the purpose, their work reported to and adopted by the Legislature. The later Codes of 1876, 1886, 1896, 1907, and 1923 were...

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