Harry Hall v. Company, No 438 Harry Hall v. Don Coultrap No 439 Harry Hall v. William Rose No 440 440, GEIGER-JONES

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation242 U.S. 539,61 L.Ed. 480,37 S.Ct. 217
Docket NumberNos. 438,439,GEIGER-JONES,s. 438
PartiesHARRY T. HALL, Superintendent of Banks and Banking of the State of Ohio, Appt., v. COMPANY, NO 438. HARRY T. HALL, Superintendent of Banks and Banking of the State of Ohio, Appt., v. DON C. COULTRAP. NO 439. HARRY T. HALL, Superintendent of Banks and Banking of the State of Ohio, Appt., v. WILLIAM R. ROSE and the RiChard Auto Manufacturing Company. NO 440. , and 440
Decision Date22 January 1917

These cases were heard together in the district court and there disposed of in one opinion. They were argued and submitted together here. The bills of complaint attacked from different angles the so-called Blue Sky Law of the state of Ohio, which provides:

'Sec. 6373-1. Except as otherwise provided in this act, no dealer shall, within this state, dispose or offer to dispose of any stock, stock certificates, bonds, debentures, collateral trust certificates or other similar instruments (all hereinafter termed 'securities') evidencing title to or interest in property, issued or executed by any private or quasi public corporation, copartnership or association (except corporations not for profit), or by any taxing subdivision of any other state, territory, province or foreign government, without first being licensed so to do as hereinafter provided.'

'Sec. 6373-2. . . . The term 'dealer,' as used in this act shall be deemed to include any person or company, except national banks, disposing or offering to dispose, of any such security, through agents or otherwise, and any company engaged in the marketing or flotation of its own securities either directly or through agents or underwriters or any stock promotion scheme whatsoever, except:

'(a) An owner, not the issuer of the security, who disposes of his own property, for his own account; when such disposal is not made in the course of repeated and successive transactions of a similar character by such owner; or a natural person, other than the underwriter of the security, who is a bona fide owner of the security and disposes of his own property for his own account; . . .

'As used in this act, the term 'company' shall include any corporation, copartnership or association, incorporated or unincorporated, and whenever and wherever organized; . . .' [Laws 1914, p. 110.]

The Geiger-Jones Company is an Ohio corporation, licensed to do the business of buying and selling investment securities, and of buying and selling the stocks and bonds of industrial corporations. It has a regularly established clientage, it alleges, of about 11,000 persons residing in the state of Ohio and other states, and has sold and there are now outstanding in the hands of persons to whom it has sold, securities of about twenty to twenty-five million dollars, par value, and has stockholders in Ohio and other states. That the securities above referred to consist of securities of over twenty corporations of Ohio and other states and foreign countries. That it is still selling such securities and is and has been engaged in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce.

The appellee, Don C. Coultrap, in No. 439, repeats the allegations made by Geiger-Jones Company, with enumeration of some of the companies in whose stocks and securities that corporation is engaged in dealing, and alleges that he is the owner and holder of its stocks and of the stocks of other companies, and is engaged in buying and selling and offering to sell such stocks in the state of Ohio and in the state of Pennsylvania, and in the course of such transactions travels back and forth between those states and conducts a correspondence from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and receives certificates evidencing the ownership of stock from the state of Ohio, and sends them from Pennsylvania to Ohio.

William R. Rose, one of the appellees in No. 440, alleges himself to be a citizen of Ohio and engaged in that state in the business of buying and selling investment securities, and particularly the stocks and bonds of industrial corporations, and that he has built up and maintained a large and profitable business and an enviable reputation.

The RiChard Auto Manufacturing Company, the other appellee, is a corporation of West Virginia, but has its principal place of business in Cleveland, Ohio, and has a contract to manufacture and is ready to manufacture automobiles under certain patents obtained by Francois RiChard as soon as and not until the stock of the company can be put upon the market and a sufficient amount realized therefrom for such purposes.

That on September 25, 1914, and prior thereto, Rose was actively engaged in buying and selling stocks and bonds of industrial corporations and investment securities in general, and particularly the stock of the RiChard Auto Manufacturing Company, of which company he was the secretary, and for which business he had unusual aptitude and was able to prosecute more successfully 'than any other man whose services were available to said corporation.'

That on September 25th he was arrested upon an affidavit filed by one H. R. Young, a subordinate and deputy of the state superintendent of banks and banking for the state of Ohio, under whose immediate direction and control he was then acting. Rose, upon being taken before a magistrate, waived examination and was 'bound over to the grand jury' of Cuyahoga county, which jury subsequently returned an indictment against him for violation of the law.

The grievance alleged in Nos. 438 and 439 is that, under the laws of the state, the attorney general is threatening to give an opinion to Hall, the superintendent of banks and banking, that the law is valid, and that it is the duty of Hall to cancel appellees' license, and that this will result in irreparable injury to appellees and to their security holders from the publicity they will obtain. And it is apprehended that Hall will act on such advice, believing that he is bound by the opinion of the attorney general.

The statute is attached to the bills, and is asserted to be unconstitutional, invalid, and void, and the particulars are enumerated to be that it will deprive appellees of their property without due process of law, deny them the equal protection of the laws, impose burdens on interstate commerce, confer executive powers, delegate such powers and legislative powers, in violation of the Constitution of Ohio. Appellees consider themselves remediless except in equity, and pray injunctions interlocutory and permanent.

The complaint of Rose and the Auto Company is that Hall, superintendent of banks and banking, is actively engaged in the prosecution of the proceedings against Rose, and has, together with the prosecuting attorney, interfered with, interrupted, and completely prevented Rose from carrying on his business in the state of Ohio, and especially in attempting upon his part to dispose of and sell the stock of the Auto Company, and that the prosecuting attorney and the sheriff of Cuyahoga county, unless restrained, will assist and actively cooperate with Hall, to the great and irreparable injury of both Rose and the Auto Company.

The charge is amplified by details which it is unnecessary to give, and the law is charged to be unconstitutional in the same particulars as those enumerated by the Geiger-Jones Company.

Injunctions temporary and perpetual are prayed.

The district court in the Geiger-Jones Case considered that it was without power to enjoin the attorney general, but decided that it could and should, under the charges of the bill, restrain Hall from further action under the law, the restraint to continue until the hearing and determination of the applications of the respective complainants for interlocutory injunctions.

The applications subsequently came to be heard before three judges, and Hall and all of his employees and subordinates were enjoined from attempting to enforce the provisions of the law. There was an exception in No. 440, as follows: '. . . except such proceedings as may be deemed proper in any criminal action pending against said complainants or either of them when the complaint in this cause was filed.' The injunctions in all the cases were to continue until final decision of further order of the court. The court declared the law to be obnoxious to all of the charges made by the respective complainants against it. 230 Fed. 233.

Mr. Edward C. Turner, Attorney General of Ohio, for appellant.

Messrs. John A. Shauck, Timothy S. Hogan, A. M. McCarty, E. N. Huggins, M. B. Johnson, H. H. Johnson, and Francis R. Marvin for appellees.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 544-548 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Robert R. Reed, George W. Wickersham, and Charles K. Allen as amicl curiae.

Statement by Mr. Justice McKenna:

Mr. Justice McKenna, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court:

It will be observed that these cases bring here for judgment an asserted conflict between national power and state power, and bring, besides, power of the state as limited or forbidden by the national Constitution.

The assertion of such conflict and limitation is an ever-recurring one; and yet it is approached as if it were a new thing under the sun. The primary postulate of the state is that the law under review is an exercise of the police power of the state, and that power, we have said, is the least limitable of the exercises of government. Sligh v. Kirkwood, 237 U. S. 52, 59 L. ed. 835, 35 Sup. Ct. Rep. 501. We get no accurate idea of its limitations by opposing to it the declarations of the 14th Amendment that no person shall be deprived of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denied the equal protection of the laws. Noble State Bank v. Haskell, 219 U. S. 104, 110, 55 L. ed. 112, 116, 32 L.R.A.(N.S.) 1062, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 186, Ann. Cas. 1912A, 487. A stricter inquiry is necessary, and we must consider what it is of life, liberty, and property that the...

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