Horton v. Humphrey

Decision Date20 June 1956
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 1038-56.
Citation146 F. Supp. 819
PartiesA. W. HORTON, John C. Fryer, and Camarge Trading Co., Inc., Plaintiffs, v. George M. HUMPHREY, Secretary of the Treasury, and United States Tariff Commission, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Sharp & Bogan, Washington, D. C., James R. Sharp, William J. Barnhard, Washington, D. C., of counsel, and Louis P. Haffer, Washington, D. C., for plaintiffs Horton, Fryer and Camarge Trading Co., Inc.

Albert A. Caretta, Caretta & Counihan, Washington, D. C., for Cast Iron Pipe, amicus curiae.

Herbert Brownell, Jr., Atty. Gen., George Cochran Doub, Asst. Atty. Gen., Oliver Gasch, U. S. Atty., Edward P. Troxell, Wm. F. Becker, Frank H. Strickler, Asst. U. S. Attys., Washington, D. C., Samuel Slade and John G. Laughlin, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C.

Before WASHINGTON, Circuit Judge, and WILKIN and McGUIRE, District Judges.

WASHINGTON, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs are importers of cast iron soil pipe from the United Kingdom. They are threatened with application of a "special dumping duty" under the Antidumping Act of 1921, as amended, 19 U.S.C.A. § 160 et seq. They ask a declaratory judgment that the Act is in violation of the United States Constitution, that certain procedures under the Act or under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.A. § 1001 et seq., have not been complied with, and that certain findings of the Secretary of the Treasury and the United States Tariff Commission, defendants here, are invalid. For these reasons, they ask that the Secretary of the Treasury and his agents and subordinates be enjoined from further action under the Antidumping Act with respect to their pipe imports.

Because one of the reasons given for seeking issuance of the injunction is alleged repugnance of the Antidumping Act to the Constitution, a three-judge district court has been convened. 28 U.S.C. § 2282 (1952). Plaintiffs urge two constitutional contentions. The first is that the effect of the Act is retroactive, in that the dumping duty may be imposed on goods imported up to 120 days prior to the time the question of dumping was first raised by or presented to the Secretary of the Treasury, and in that the time when the question is first raised or presented to the Secretary of the Treasury may itself be substantially before the importer first hears of the proceeding or of the possibility of an additional duty being imposed. This, they say, deprives plaintiffs of their property without due process. The second contention is that the failure to define important terms in the Act constitutes an invalid delegation of legislative power because it leaves the Secretary of the Treasury and the Tariff Commission free to act without any legislative standards to guide them.

The Antidumping Act has long since been ruled constitutional by the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, Kleberg & Co. v. United States, 1933, 71 F.2d 332, 21 C.C.P.A., Customs, 110; C. J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 1934, 71 F.2d 438, 21 C.C.P.A., Patents, 417, and by the Second Circuit, Kreutz v. Durning, 1934, 69 F.2d 802. However, particularly since the Supreme Court has not passed on the matter, we feel that at least the questioned portion of the Act, which is being applied here and which is alleged to impose the tax retroactively, involves sufficient constitutional problems to warrant the holding of a three-judge court — provided jurisdiction of these problems is not placed elsewhere. In the instant case the complaint asserts that the tax will be applied to importations starting on April 21, 1954,1 and that there was no notice to plaintiffs that would warn them of risk of liability for the duty until midsummer 1955. Taking these allegations at their face value, the hardship to plaintiffs is apparent.2

Nonetheless, we think that the complaint must be dismissed. The imposition of a duty may under the statutory plan be reviewed by the Customs Court and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals (with recourse to the Supreme Court through petition for certiorari). This statutory form of review has been held, in comparable situations, to constitute an adequate remedy at law and therefore to bar equitable relief, and to be the exclusive method of review. Boston Wool Trade Ass'n v. Snyder, 1947, 82 U.S.App.D.C. 144, 161 F.2d 648; Cottman Co. v. Dailey, 4 Cir., 1938, 94 F.2d 85; cf. Kreutz v. Durning, supra. And see Morgantown Glassware Guild, Inc., v. Humphrey, D.C.Cir., 1956, 236 F.2d 670; Patchogue-Plymouth Mills Corp., v. Durning, 2 Cir., 1939, 101 F.2d 41; Riccomini v. United States, 9 Cir., 1934, 69 F.2d 480. The fact that an importer does not need to pay a challenged duty until this method of review has been exhausted goes far to sustain the decisions just cited. So also does the possibility that the specialized customs courts may never be required to reach the question of constitutionality: they may decide for plaintiffs on some quite unrelated ground. Plaintiffs contend that the present case is different from those cited because, they say, the specialized customs courts cannot review the constitutionality of the Act or whether the Secretary of the Treasury's findings or those of the Tariff Commission are supported by the evidence. That the jurisdiction of the Customs Court and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals extends beyond the mere review of accuracy of appraisals and classifications of merchandise is shown by the cases noted above, and particularly those in which the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals passed on the constitutionality of the Antidumping Act; see also United States v. Central Vermont Ry. Co., 1929, 17 C.C.P.A., Customs, 166.3 It is true that in T. M. Duche & Sons v. United States, 1948, 36 C.C.P.A., Customs, 19, certiorari denied, 1949, 336 U.S. 931, 69 S.Ct. 738, 93 L.Ed. 1091, and T. M. Duche & Sons v. United States, 1952, 39 C.C. P.A., Customs, 186, certiorari denied, 344 U.S. 830, 73 S.Ct. 35, 97 L.Ed. 646, the court did decline to examine the validity of certain...

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15 cases
  • JC PENNEY COMPANY v. United States Dept. of Treasury
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • December 3, 1970
    ...whether the Antidumping Act is constitutional has been held to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Customs Court. Horton v. Humphrey, D.C.D.C., 146 F.Supp. 819, affirmed, 352 U.S. 921, 77 S.Ct. 224, 1 L.Ed.2d A recent statute, enacted by Congress in 1970,24 as a new section in the C......
  • Akins v. Saxbe
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • June 20, 1974
    ...Cir. 1934); Cottman Co. v. Dailey, 94 F.2d 85 (4th Cir. 1938); Altieri v. United States, 299 F.Supp. 458 (D.P.R.1969); Horton v. Humphrey, 146 F.Supp. 819 (D.D.C.), aff'd without opinion, 352 U. S. 921, 77 S.Ct. 224, 1 L.Ed.2d 157 (1956). Particularly apposite to the present case is Argosy ......
  • Commodities Export Co. v. U.S. Customs Service
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • March 30, 1992
    ...that final adjudication of constitutional questions in the customs courts offends the requirements of due process." Accord Horton v. Humphrey, 146 F.Supp. 819 (D.D.C.), aff'd, 352 U.S. 921, 77 S.Ct. 224, 1 L.Ed.2d 157 (1956). Thus, we transfer this case in its entirety to the CIT, pursuant ......
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    ...for it is clear that the customs courts can and do, as in the two companion cases, pass upon constitutional questions. Horton v. Humphrey, D.C.D.C., 146 F.Supp. 819, 821 (3-judge court), affirmed per curiam, 1956, 352 U.S. 921, 77 S.Ct. 224, 1 L.Ed. 2d 157; Morgantown Glassware Guild, Inc. ......
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