Johnson v. State of Maryland, 289

Decision Date08 November 1920
Docket NumberNo. 289,289
Citation65 L.Ed. 126,254 U.S. 51,41 S.Ct. 16
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. W. C. Herron, of Washington, D. C., for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Alexander Armstrong and J. Purdon Wright, both of Baltimore, Md., for the State of Maryland.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 51-55 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error was an employee of the Post Office Department of the United States, and while driving a government motor truck in the transportation of mail over a post road from Mt. Airy, Maryland, to Washington, was arrested in Maryland, and was tried, convicted and fined for so driving without having obtained a license from the State. He saved his constitutional rights by motion to quash, by special pleas which were overruled upon demurrer and by motion in arrest of judgment. The facts were admitted and the naked question is whether the State has power to require such an employe to obtain a license by submitting to an examination concerning his competence and paying three dollars, before performing his official duty in obedience to superior command.

The cases upon the regulation of interstate commerce can not be relied upon as furnishing an answer. They deal with the conduct of private persons in matters in which the States as well as the general government have an interest and which would be wholly under the control of the States but for the supervening destination and the ultimate purpose of the acts. Here the question is whether the State can interrupt the acts of the general government itself. With regard to taxation, no matter how reasonable, or how universal and undiscriminating, the State's inability to interfere has been regarded as established since McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L. Ed. 579. The decision in that case was not put upon any consideration of degree but upon the entire absence of power on the part of the States to touch, in that way at least, the instrumentalities of the United States; 4 Wheat. 429, 430, 4 L. Ed. 579; and that is the law today. Farmers' & Mechanics' Savings Bank v. Minnesota, 232 U. S. 516, 525, 526, 34 Sup. Ct. 354, 58 L. Ed. 706. A little later the scope of the proposition as then understood was indicated in Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 867 (6 L. Ed. 204)——

'Can a contractor for supplying a military post with provisions, be restrained from making purchases within any State, or from transporting the provisions to the place at which the troops were stationed? or could he be fined or taxed for doing so? We have not yet heard these questions answered in the affirmative.'

In more recent days the principle was applied when the governor of a soldier's home was convicted for disregard of a state law concerning the use of oleomargarine, while...

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184 cases
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    ...Hancock v. Train, 426 U.S. 167, 178, 96 S.Ct. 2006, 48 L.Ed.2d 555 (1976). As Justice Holmes observed in Johnson v. Maryland, 254 U.S. 51, 57, 41 S.Ct. 16, 65 L.Ed. 126 (1920): [T]he immunity of the instruments of the United States from state control in the performance of their duties exten......
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  • Public Utilities Commission of State of California v. United States
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    • U.S. Supreme Court
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    ...where state standards regulating contractors conflicted with federal standards for those contractors, and in Johnson v. State of Maryland, 254 U.S. 51, 41 S.Ct. 16, 65 L.Ed. 126, where a State sought to exact a license requirement from a federal employee driving a mail truck. The conflict s......
  • Schlosser v. Welsh
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • February 19, 1934
    ...may be diverted and defeated by state process or otherwise, the functions of the government may be suspended." In Johnson v. Maryland, 254 U. S. 51, 41 S. Ct. 16, 65 L. Ed. 126, it was held that an employee of the Post Office Department of the United States, driving mail over a post road fr......
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  • The Sovereign Shield.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 73 No. 4, April 2021
    • April 1, 2021 a requirement that they desist from performance until they satisfy a state officer." 352 U.S. at 190 (quoting Johnson v. Maryland, 254 U.S. 51, 57 (1920)). Thus, a seminal case on preemption appears to invoke intergovernmental (60.) See, e.g., La. Pub. Serv. Comm'n v. FCC, 476 U.S. 355, ......
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