James Clark Distilling Company v. Western Maryland Railway Company No 75 James Clark Distilling Company v. American Express Company No 76 10 11, 1915 1916, s. 75 and 76

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWhite
Citation242 U.S. 311,61 L.Ed. 326,37 S.Ct. 180
PartiesJAMES CLARK DISTILLING COMPANY, Appt., v. WESTERN MARYLAND RAILWAY COMPANY and the State of West Virginia. NO 75. JAMES CLARK DISTILLING COMPANY, Appt., v. AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY and the State of West Virginia. NO 76. Argued May 10 and 11, 1915. Ordered for reargument November 8 and 9, 1916
Docket NumberNos. 75 and 76,s. 75 and 76
Decision Date08 January 1917

242 U.S. 311
37 S.Ct. 180
61 L.Ed. 326



Nos. 75 and 76.
Argued May 10 and 11, 1915.

Ordered for reargument November 8 and 9, 1916.

Decided January 8, 1917.

[Syllabus from pages 311-313 intentionally omitted]

Page 313

Messrs. Lawrence Maxwell, Joseph S. Graydon, Walter C. Capper, and J. Phillip Roman for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 313-315 intentionally omitted]

Page 315

Messrs. W. B. Wheeler and Fred O. Blue for the state of West Virginia.

Mr. Wiley E. Jones, Attorney General of Arizona, Mr. Clifford Walker, Attorney General of Georgia, Mr. J. H. Peterson, Attorney General of Idaho, Mr. George Cosson, Attorney General of Iowa, Mr. S. M. Brewster, Attorney General of Kansas, Mr. Ross Collins, Attorney General of Mississippi, Mr. T. W. Bickett, Attorney General of North Carolina, Mr. Henry J. Linde, Attorney General of North Dakota, Mr. S. P. Freeling, Attorney General of Oklahoma, Mr. George M. Brown, Attorney General of Oregon, Mr. Thomas H. Peebles, Attorney General of South Carolina, Mr. Frank M. Thompson, Attorney General of Tennessee, Mr. John Garland Pollard, Attorney General of Virginia, Mr. W. V. Tanner, Attorney General of Washington, and Mr. William L. Martin, Attorney General of Alabama, as amici curiae.

Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

To refer to the principal state law relating to these suits, to the pleadings and the decision of the court below, will make the issues in these cases clear and point directly to the elements required to be considered in deciding them.

West Virginia in February, 1913, enacted a prohibition

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law to go into effect on July 1st of the following year. Code 1913, chap. 32A. Putting out of view the right of druggists, under stringent regulations provided by the statute, to sell for medicinal purposes, and the right otherwise to sell wine for sacramental and alcohol for scientific and manufacturing purposes, the law forbade 'the manufacture, sale, keeping or storing for sale in this state, or offering or exposing for sale,' intoxicating liquors, and the intoxicants embraced were comprehensively defined. The statute contained many restrictions concerning hotels, restaurants, clubs, and so-called associations where liquor was kept and served either as a result of membership or by gift or otherwise, which were evidently intended to prevent the frustration of the prohibitions against the keeping of intoxicants for sale and purchase by subterfuge in the guise of the exercise of an individual right. There was no express prohibition against the individual right to use intoxicants and none implied unless that result arose (a) from the prohibition in universal terms of all sales and purchases of liquor within the state, (b) from the clause providing that every delivery made in the state by a common or other carrier of the prohibited intoxicants should be considered as a consummation of a sale made in the state at the point of delivery, and (c) from the prohibitions which the statute contained against solicitations made to induce purchases of liquor, and against the publication in the state of all circulars, advertisements, price lists, etc., which might tend to stimulate purchases of liquor.

Under this statute, and in reliance upon the provisions of the act of Congress known as the Webb-Kenyon Law (Act of Congress of March 1, 1913, 37 Stat. at L. 699, chap. 90, Comp. Stat. 1913, § 8739), the state of West Virginia in one of its courts sued the Western Maryland Railroad Company and the Adams Express Company to enjoin them from carrying from Maryland into West Virginia liquor in violation of law. In sub-

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stance it was charged that very many shipments had been taken by the carriers contrary to the law, both as to solicitations and as to the use for which the liquor was intended. Preliminary injunctions were issued restraining the carrying of liquor into the state, subject to many conditions as to investigation, etc., etc. With these injunctions in force, these suits were commenced by the Clark Distilling Company to compel the carriers to take a shipment of liquor which it was asserted was ordered for personal use, and deliver it in West Virginia, on the ground that the Act of Congress to Regulate Commerce imposed the duty to receive and carry, and that, besides, the West Virginia prohibition law, when rightly construed, did not forbid it. The carriers, not challenging the asserted meaning of the West Virginia law, set up the injunctions and averred that to receive and carry the liquor would violate their provisions, and therefore there was no duty under the United States law to do so. West Virginia intervened in the suits, relying upon the state law and the injunctions which had been issued. At the trial it was shown that the plaintiff Distilling Company had systematically solicited purchases and constantly shipped liquor from Maryland into West Virginia in violation of the prohibition law. The court held that the West Virginia law did not prohibit personal use, and did not forbid shipments for such use, and that, as there was no state prohibition, the Webb-Kenyon Law had no application, and that, as the solicitations forbidden by the state statute were solicitations to do that which was forbidden, that consideration was irrelevant. The construction of the statute made by the state court was held not authoritatively binding, as that court was not one of last resort, and the right to practically modify the injunctions was declared to exist because West Virginia, by making herself a party to the suits, had submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the court. All questions concerning the power of the state of West Virginia

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to pass the prohibition law if it meant otherwise, and of the right of Congress to adopt the Webb-Kenyon Act under a like hypothesis, were reserved. 219 Fed. 333. Before the decrees entered became final, the circuit court of appeals for the fourth circuit, in a case pending before it (West Virginia v. Adams exp. Co. L.R.A.1916C, 291, 135 C. C. A. 464, 219 Fed. 794), decided directly to the contrary. It held that the law of West Virginia did prohibit shipments for personal use; that it did forbid solicitations therefore for such purchases; that, by operation of the Webb-Kenyon Act, there was no longer a right to ship liquor into the state in violation of its laws; and that both the state law and the Webb-Kenyon Act were constitutional. Controlled by such decision, the trial court recalled its opinion, heard a reargument, and, although not changing its view, accepted and gave effect to the conclusions reached by the circuit court of appeals because they were deemed to be authoritative, and the cases were brought directly here, because of the constitutional questions, to review such action.

The issues to be decided may by embraced in four propositions which we proceed separately to consider.

1. The correct meaning of the West Virginia law as to the subjects in dispute.

The difference as to the meaning of the statute in the court below was whether or not the West Virginia law prohibited the receipt of liquor for personal use; and, if it did, whether or not the prohibitions of the law equally applied to shipments from outside and to those originating in the state. But the possibility of dispute over these subjects no longer exists because, after the decision below, and since the cases were first argued (for they have been here argued twice), the state of West Virginia amended the statute so as to leave no room for doubt that it does forbid all shipments, whether for personal use or otherwise, and whether from within or without the state. The pertinent

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provisions of the amendments are placed in the margin.1 As the relief sought is the permanent right to ship in the future, the meaning of the statute now, that is, as amended, is the test by which we must consider the questions requiring solution. Indeed, this is frankly admitted by the

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parties, since it is unequivocally declared that the question is the operation and effect of the statute as amended and its constitutionality. We therefore come to the second question, which is:

2. The power of the state to enact the prohibition law consistently with the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and the exclusive power of Congress to regulate commerce among the several states.

That government can, consistently with the due process clause, forbid the manufacture and sale of liquor and regulate its traffic, is not open to controversy; and that there goes along with this power full police authority to make it effective, is also not open. Whether the general authority includes the right to forbid individual use, we need not consider, since clearly there would be power, as an incident to the right to forbid manufacture and sale, to restrict the means by which intoxicants for personal use could be obtained, even if such use was permitted. This being true, there can be no doubt that the West Virginia prohibition law did not offend against the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

But that it was a direct burden upon interstate commerce and conflicted with the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the several states, and therefore could not be used to prevent interstate shipments from Maryland into West Virginia, has been not open to question since the decision in Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U. S. 100, 34 L. ed. 128, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 36, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 681. And this brings us to consider whether the Webb-Kenyon

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Law has so regulated interstate commerce as to give the state the power to do what it did in enacting the prohibition law, and cause its provisions...

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