Goltra v. Weeks, No. 718

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtTAFT
Citation271 U.S. 536,46 S.Ct. 613,70 L.Ed. 1074
Decision Date07 June 1926
Docket NumberNo. 718
PartiesGOLTRA v. WEEKS, Secretary of War, et al

271 U.S. 536
46 S.Ct. 613
70 L.Ed. 1074
GOLTRA

v.

WEEKS, Secretary of War, et al.

No. 718.
Argued April 27, 28, 1926.
Decided June 7, 1926.

Page 537

Messrs. Joseph T. Davis and Douglas W. Robert, both of St. Louis, Mo., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from page 537 intentionally omitted]

Page 538

Mr. Lon O. Hocker, of St. Louis, Mo., for respondents.

Mr. Chief Justice TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.1

This was a suit in equity brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, and reaches here from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the

Page 539

Eighth Circuit by certiorari. The general purpose of the bill filed by Edward F. Goltra, petitioner here, was to enjoin the seizure of a fleet of towboats and barges on the Mississippi river which had been held by him as lessee. It charged that the Secretary of War, the Chief of Engineers, and Col. T. Q. Ashburn, Chief Inland and Coastwise Waterways Service, were engaged in a conspiracy unlawfully to deprive him of the boats. He sought to enjoin the threatened seizure of them and to have those of them which had already been taken restored to his possession.

The lease to Goltra was made May 28, 1919, by Gen. Black, Chief of Engineers, as the lessor, by direction of the Secretary of War, acting for the United States. It leased 19 barges, nearing completion, and 3 or 4 towboats, not yet constructed, for a term of five years from the date the first towboat or barge was delivered to the lessee. The lessee covenanted to operate as a common carrier the whole fleet on the Mississippi river and its tributaries for the period of the lease and of any renewals thereof, transporting iron ore, coal, and other commodities at rates not in excess of the prevailing rail tariffs, and at not less than the prevailing rail tariffs without the consent of the Secretary of War. The lessee was to pay all operating expenses of the fleet, and to maintain during the term each towboat and barge of the fleet in good operating condition, to the satisfaction of the lessor. The salvage earned by any of the fleet was to be for the benefit of the United States, after deducting expenses. The net earnings above operating expenses and maintenance for each ton of cargo were to be turned over by the lessee to the Secretary of War every 90 days, for deposit to his credit in the Treasury, until the net earnings equaled the full amount of the cost of the several vessels, plus interest on the cost of 4 per cent. per annum, and

Page 540

then for deposit in St. Louis banks, to be held for the fulfillment of the terms of the lease. The lessee was to keep accurate detailed accounts of all tonnage moved, and all moneys received, and his operating expenses, subject to the inspection of the lessor or his representatives, and the overhead expenses were to be subject to the approval of the lessor, and any items objected to were to be referred to the Secretary of War, whose decision was to be final. Within three months prior to the expiration of the lease, or of any period of renewal, or sooner, if so desired by the lessee, a board was to appraise the value of the fleet, and the lessee was given the option of purchasing the fleet by the fund from the net earnings and by 15 promissory notes running for 15 years, the title of the property to remain in the United States until the payment of the whole of the purchase price of the property.

Section 8 of the lease, the important provision in this case, reads as follows:

'The lessor reserves the right to inspect the plant, fleet, and work at any time to see that all the said terms and conditions of this lease are fulfilled, and that the crews and other employees are promptly paid, monthly or oftener; and noncompliance, in his judgment, with any of the terms or conditions, will justify his terminating the lease and returning the plant and said barges and towboats to the lessor, and all moneys in the Treasury or in bank to the credit of the Secretary of War shall be deemed rentals earned by and due to the lessor for the use of said vessels.'

There was a supplemental agreement in 1921, approved by the Secretary of War, made by Lansing H. Beach, the Chief of Engineers, who had then succeeded Chief of Engineers Black. This made provision for the construction of additional facilities for the use of the fleet and brought them within the terms of the original contract.

The bill set out that there was delay in the construction and delivery of the fleet, and that both parties after

Page 541

the war found difficulty in performing their undertakings; that, after the making of the lease, the plaintiff had secured a good many contracts for the shipment of commodities of different kinds-of oil from New Orleans to Illinois, coal from Kentucky to St. Louis and Manganese from New Orleans to St. Louis; that the rate which he arranged for was 80 per cent. of the prevailing rail rate; that, when he applied to the Secretary of War, he could not obtain permission to transport some of his commodities at a proper rate; that conditions were imposed requiring the consent of officers in charge of the Mississippi Warrior, another enterprise of the government, to Goltra's rate, and that by reason thereof it was impossible for him to operate as a common carrier; that by the acts of the Secretary of War the plaintiff was wrongfully prevented by the lessor from carrying out the terms and conditions of the contract; that John W. Weeks and T. Q. Ashburn, named as defendants, acting in combination, wrongfully undertook to declare the contracts terminated, and on March 3, 1923, demanded from the plaintiff the immediate possession of the boats without warrant of law, and wrongfully and unlawfully threatened to take them by force, caused some of the towboats and barges to be actually seized, and were threatening to take them all, and that unless restrained would do so; that the plaintiff had no adequate remedy at law for the redress of the wrongs complained of. He therefore asked a temporary restraining order to be granted immediately, and a restoration of the fleet to him, and a rule on the defendants to show cause why a temporary injunction should not issue. A rule to show cause was issued on March 25, 1923, on defendant.

It appeared that the whole fleet had been taken over by Col. Ashburn under an order of the Secretary of War. The taking over was on Sunday, and there was a purpose on the part of Col. Ashburn, anticipating an

Page 542

injunction, to remove such of the fleet as was in St. Louis across the river, to be out of the jurisdiction of the Missouri District Court. All of the defendants filed returns to the rule, setting out defenses. A hearing was had on the motion for a temporary injunction, evidence was taken, and the District Court found that the fleet had been improperly seized and should be restored to the plaintiffs and the defendants be enjoined from any attempt to resume possession until a final hearing of the case.

The defendants the sought a writ of prohibition out of this court to prevent the further consideration of the cause by the District Court. Ex parte United States, 263 U. S. 389, 44 S. Ct. 130, 68 L. Ed. 351. The leave to file a petition for prohibition was denied, on the ground that the remedy by appeal from the District Court was adequate.

The evidence shows that in March, 1921, Goltra applied to have his rates as a common carrier fixed at 80 per cent. of the prevailing rail rates, and he was allowed from that time on until March, 1922, to make those rates. In March, 1922, the Secretary of War notified him that he could not approve any operation on the lower Mississippi entering into competition with the government Mississippi Warrior line, and that he could not approve an 80 per cent. rate there. In April, 1922, Goltra objected to the limitation, saying that he had obligated himself to transport coal from Kentucky and managanese and oil from New Orleans at this rate. Thereupon the Secretary of War advised him that the rate on the lower Mississippi must be raised from 80 per cent. to 100 per cent. of the rail tariffs for the future, thus allowing him to complete the contracts of transportation already entered into, of which he had written. By letter of May 25, 1922, he was allowed a rate not less than 80 per cent. of the rail rates for many different commodities. The Secretary assured him that if he decided to operate his boats on

Page 543

the upper Mississippi he was authorized to carry all commodities at not less than 80 per cent., and that the officers of the Warrior Service had been instructed to co-operate with him to the fullest extent in making his fleet a success.

After a year, on March 13, 1923, the Secretary of War, in view of the little use he had made of the fleet, sent the following notice to Goltra:

'Pursuant to the right reserved in paragraph supplement thereto dated May 26, 1921, between you and the United States, for the operation as a common carrier of a fleet of 4 towboats and 19 barges, and the erection of unloading facilities, you are hereby notified that in my judgment you have not complied with the terms and conditions of said contract, in that you have failed to operate the said towboats and barges as a common carrier, and in other particulars.

'I therefore declare the said contract and the supplement thereto terminated. You are hereby directed, upon the receipt of this notice, immediately to deliver possession of the said towboats and barges, and any unloading facilities erected pursuant to the supplemental contract, and paid for by funds of the United States, to Col. T. Q. Ashburn, Chief Inland and Coastwise Waterways Service, who will deliver this notice, and who is instructed and authorized to receive and receipt for the property herein mentioned.'

April 27, 1923, the Chief of...

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92 practice notes
  • Banco de Espana v. Federal Reserve Bank, No. 370-372.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • July 8, 1940
    ...v. Wesley, 167 U.S. 204, 17 S.Ct. 770, 42 L.Ed. 137; Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 5 S.Ct. 903, 29 L.Ed. 185; Goltra v. Weeks, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074; see Ickes v. Fox, 300 U.S. 82, 57 S.Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525. On the other hand, an action cannot be maintained agai......
  • Ramirez de Arellano v. Weinberger, No. 83-1950
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • October 5, 1984
    ...v. Monsanto Co., supra, 104 S.Ct. at 2880 (footnote omitted), citing Larson. 6 In fact, Larson expressly overruled Goltra v. Weeks, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074 (1926), which was one of the cases Land cited to support the statement relied upon by the majority, see Land, supra, ......
  • Rank v. Krug, Civ. No. 685-ND
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 13, 1950
    ...U.S. 82, 57 S. Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525; Work v. State of Louisiana, 1925, 269 U.S. 250, 46 S.Ct. 92, 70 L.Ed. 259; Goltra v. Weeks, 1926, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074; Payne v. Central Pacific R. Co., 1921, 255 U.S. 228, 41 S.Ct. 314, 65 L.Ed. 598; Scranton v. Wheeler, 1900, 179 ......
  • Rex v. Cia. Pervana De Vapores, S. A., No. 80-2335
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 22, 1981
    ...comity which induces every sovereign state to respect the independence and dignity of every other sovereign state." Id. at 575, 46 S.Ct. at 613 (quoting The Parlement Belge, 5 P.D. 197, 217, (1874-80) All E.R. 104, ____, Page 68 The first crack in the wall of absolute immunity was not cause......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
92 cases
  • Banco de Espana v. Federal Reserve Bank, No. 370-372.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • July 8, 1940
    ...v. Wesley, 167 U.S. 204, 17 S.Ct. 770, 42 L.Ed. 137; Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 270, 5 S.Ct. 903, 29 L.Ed. 185; Goltra v. Weeks, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074; see Ickes v. Fox, 300 U.S. 82, 57 S.Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525. On the other hand, an action cannot be maintained agai......
  • Ramirez de Arellano v. Weinberger, No. 83-1950
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • October 5, 1984
    ...v. Monsanto Co., supra, 104 S.Ct. at 2880 (footnote omitted), citing Larson. 6 In fact, Larson expressly overruled Goltra v. Weeks, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074 (1926), which was one of the cases Land cited to support the statement relied upon by the majority, see Land, supra, ......
  • Rank v. Krug, Civ. No. 685-ND
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 13, 1950
    ...U.S. 82, 57 S. Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525; Work v. State of Louisiana, 1925, 269 U.S. 250, 46 S.Ct. 92, 70 L.Ed. 259; Goltra v. Weeks, 1926, 271 U.S. 536, 46 S.Ct. 613, 70 L.Ed. 1074; Payne v. Central Pacific R. Co., 1921, 255 U.S. 228, 41 S.Ct. 314, 65 L.Ed. 598; Scranton v. Wheeler, 1900, 179 ......
  • Rex v. Cia. Pervana De Vapores, S. A., No. 80-2335
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • October 22, 1981
    ...comity which induces every sovereign state to respect the independence and dignity of every other sovereign state." Id. at 575, 46 S.Ct. at 613 (quoting The Parlement Belge, 5 P.D. 197, 217, (1874-80) All E.R. 104, ____, Page 68 The first crack in the wall of absolute immunity was not cause......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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