In re Oberg

Decision Date14 December 1891
Citation21 Or. 406,28 P. 130
PartiesIn re OBERG.
CourtOregon Supreme Court

Appeal from circuit court, Clatsop county; FRANK J. TAYLOR, Judge. Reversed.

Petition by Fred Oberg for a writ of habeas corpus. The trial court discharged petitioner, and the state appeals.

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Section 6 of the act of 1889, providing that no officer or seaman of a sea-going vessel or ship shall be arrested or imprisoned for debt, etc., is not in conflict with section 20 of the bill of rights, which provides that no law shall be enacted granting to any citizen or class of citizens any privilege or immunity which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Fulton Bros., for petitioner.

T.A McBride, Dist.Atty., for the State.

LORD J.

The petitioner was constable of Astoria precinct, and as such constable arrested a sailor on board of a sea-going vessel as an absconding debtor. He was arrested under the provision of section 6 of the act of 1889, which made such arrests unlawful, and for which he was fined the sum of $20. Upon default in the payment of such fine, he was committed to jail, and thereupon sued out a writ of habeas corpus. Upon the hearing the trial court held that the act of 1889 was unconstitutional and void, and discharged the petitioner. While the brief indicates other objections to the act, the main one, and upon which the invalidity of the act was put was that it was class legislation, and prohibited by section 20 of the bill of rights. Section 6 of said act--the one under which the petitioner was prosecuted and convicted--reads as follows: "No officer or seaman of a sea-going vessel or ship shall be arrested or imprisoned for debt; and any officer executing a process of arrest for debt upon such officers or seamen shall, upon conviction thereof before any justice of the peace or circuit court, be fined in a sum not less than $20, nor more than $100." Sess.Laws 1889, p. 80. This section, it is claimed, is in contravention of section 20, art. 1, of the constitution, which provides that "no law shall be passed granting to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens." The argument against the validity of the act is that it grants to a class of citizens privileges and immunities which upon the same terms do not belong to all citizens, in direct opposition to the section of the constitution cited; that is says counsel: "It provides that a class of individuals namely, officers and seamen of a sea-going vessel, are exempt from arrest for debt, which is extending to a class of citizens a privilege and an immunity which is not and cannot be enjoyed by any other class of citizens." It is plain, then, from this statement, that it is the immunity from arrest for debt granted to this class of citizens, and not that any of such class engaged in the same business are subjected to different restrictions, or that they are granted different privileges under the same conditions, which constitutes the ground upon which the invalidity of the section of the act is predicated. All sailors of a sea-going vessel within the prescribed limits are treated alike, and entitled to enjoy the privileges or immunities granted. The act prescribes the same rule of exemption to all persons placed in the same circumstances. It does not grant immunity from arrest for debt to a sailor, and refuse it to his neighbor, if they are similarly situated. The same privilege or immunity is extended by the act to all in the same situation. Any person who is a sailor may enjoy the immunity, and any citizen desiring such immunity may have it, in the words of the constitution, "upon the same terms," by becoming a sailor. While one may enjoy the benefit of the exemption, and another may not, this results, not because the statute favors one and discriminates against another, but because one brings himself within its terms and the other does not. As WRIGHT, J., said: "It gives the same rule to all persons, placed in the same circumstances. It does not prescribe one rule for one citizen or soldier, and another for his neighbor, if they are in the same situation. We have a statute regulating continuances on account of the absence of witnesses, which gives a uniform rule to all litigants; and yet one may be entitled to a continuance and another not. This results, not because a different rule is prescribed for each, but because one brings himself within its terms, and the other does not. So all persons in the actual military service of the United States, or of this state, can claim the benefit of the statute, and any one can have the same benefit, if in the same service. Those that are not, are not entitled to the same advantage, (so to speak,) because, in the discretion and wisdom of the legislature, it was deemed inexpedient; and yet this advantage may be and is extended to all upon the...

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25 cases
  • State v. Clark
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • June 23, 1981
    ...person to sue the state. This dual coverage of article I, section 20, was recognized in the first case under the section, In re Oberg, 21 Or. 406, 28 P. 130 (1891). A constable convicted of arresting a sailor on board a vessel as an absconding debtor, contrary to a law prohibiting such arre......
  • State v. Savastano
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • September 12, 2013
    ...privileges or immunities to one citizen or class of citizens as long as similarly situated people are treated the same. In re Oberg, 21 Or. 406, 410–11, 28 P. 130 (1891). Accordingly, this court held in Oberg that a statute exempting sailors but no one else from arrest for debt did not run ......
  • State v. Freeland
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • July 26, 1983
    ...239, 630 P.2d 810, citing State v. Cory, 204 Or. 235, 282 P.2d 1054 (1955); White v. Holman, 44 Or. 180, 74 P. 933 (1904); In re Oberg, 21 Or. 406, 28 P. 130 (1891). District attorneys, like other officials, are "held to constitutional limits in the exercise of the discretion entrusted to t......
  • Kramer v. City of Lake Oswego
    • United States
    • Oregon Supreme Court
    • August 1, 2019
    ...the terms "debtors and sailors," even though the immunity was not equally available to those who were only "debtors." In re Oberg , 21 Or. 406, 28 P. 130 (1891) ; see also Clark , 291 Or. at 240 n. 11, 630 P.2d 810 (observing that a "principle that like shall be treated alike, cannot rise b......
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