Liberty Warehouse Co v. Grannis

Decision Date03 January 1927
Docket NumberNo. 60,60
PartiesLIBERTY WAREHOUSE CO. et al. v. GRANNIS, Commonwealth Atty
CourtU.S. Supreme Court


Messrs. Aaron Sapiro and Robert S. Marx, both of Chicago, Ill., for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

This proceeding was commenced by a petition filed by the plaintiffs in error on the law side of the Federal District Court for Eastern Kentucky, seeking to obtain a judgment declaring their rights under an Act of the Kentucky Legislature.

The Declaratory Judgment Law of Kentucky, Acts of 1922, ch. 83, provides that in any action in a court of record of that Commonwealth having general jurisdiction wherein it is made to appear that an actual controversy sexists, the plaintiff may, by means of a petition on the law or equity side of the court, as the nature of the case may require, ask for and obtain 'a declaration of rights, either alone or with other relief; and the court may make a binding declaration of rights, whether or not consequential relief is or could be asked' (section 1); and that further relief, based on such declaratory judgment, may be granted by the court whenever necessary or proper, either in the same proceeding or in an independent action, upon notice to any adverse party whose rights have been adjudicated by the declaratory judgment.

The petition alleged that the plaintiffs, a Kentucky corporation and a citizen of North Carolina, were engaged in operating a looseleaf tobacco warehouse in Kentucky, in which they sold leaf tobacco at public auction for their customers and patrons; that their rights were materially and seriously affected by chapter 10 of the Kentucky Acts of 1924, regulating the sales of leaf tobacco at public auction; that this Act was invalid and repugnant to the Bill of Rights and Constitution of Kentucky, the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States (art. 1, § 8, cl. 3), the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (section 1), and the Sherman Anti-Trust Law (Comp. St. §§ 8820-8823, 8827-8830); that an actual controversy existed with respect thereto, in that the plaintiffs had been threatened with various civil and criminal punishments and penalties for the violation of the Act, which were about to be enforced thereunder; that in conducting their business, it was necessary for them to know whether the Act was valid or invalid, and whether they were liable for the crimes therein denounced, and subject to the fines and penalties it prescribed, and they could not continue their business without a financial loss, amounting to confiscation of their rights, business and property, unless the court made a declaration of their rights and duties under the Act; that they made this application to the court in accordance with the Federal Conformity Statute and the Declaratory Judgment Law of Kentucky 'for the purpose of securing a declaration of their rights and duties' under the Act of 1924, and having the 'court determine whether in the conduct of their business it will be necessary for them to comply' with the provisions of the Act, or whether it is 'invalid in whole or in part, and if so, in what part'; and that the Commonwealth Attorney was made a party defendant as the representative of the Commonwealth charged with the duty of enforcing the Act, and who, as such, 'prepared the indictments referred to herein.' No other reference, however, was made to any such indictments in the petition.

The plaintiffs prayed the court 'by its judgment to declare what their rights and duties under said Act of 1924 are, and that a judgment be rendered declaring said Act of 1924 invalid, and for all proper relief.'

The defendant demurred to the petition, on the ground, among others, that the court had no jurisdiction of the cause of action set forth, having no power or authority as a Federal Court to entertain a proceeding for a declaration of the rights of parties or to act under the provisions of the Declaratory Judgment Law of Kentucky. This demurrer was sustained. Twelve days later a final judgment was ntered, reciting that the plaintiffs having failed to amend their petition, and the court being of opinion that it had no jurisdiction of the action, the same was dismissed. This direct writ of error was allowed upon the question of jurisdiction, under section 238 of the Judicial Code (Comp. St. § 1215) before the amendment made by the Jurisdictional Act of 1925 became effective.

The sole purpose of the petition, as shown by its express allegations, is to obtain a declaration from the District Court of the rights and duties of the plaintiffs under the Act of 1924, and a determination of the extent to which they must comply with its provisions in the conduct of their business. This is its entire scope. While the Commonwealth Attorney is made a defendant as a representative of the Commonwealth, there is no semblance of any adverse litigation with him individually; there being neither any allegation that the plaintiffs have done or contemplate doing any of the things forbidden by the Act before being advised by the court as to their rights nor any allegation that the Commonwealth Attorney has threatened to take or contemplates taking any action against them for any violation of the Act, either past or prospective. And no relief of any kind is prayed against him, by restraining action on his part or otherwise.

The question whether the District Court has jurisdiction to entertain such a petition for a declaration of rights admits of but one answer under the prior decisions of this Court.

We need not review these at length. It sufficies to say that in the light of the decisions in Muskrat v. United States, 219 U. S. 346, 357, 31 S. Ct. 250, 55 L. Ed. 246; Fairchild v. Hughes, 258 U. S. 126, 129, 42 S. Ct. 274, 66 L. Ed. 499; Texas v. Interstate Commerce Comm., 258 U. S. 158, 162...

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84 cases
  • Nashville St Ry v. Wallace
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 6 Febrero 1933
    ...what the law would be on an uncertain or hypothetical state of facts, as was thought to be the case in Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 47 S.Ct. 282, 71 L.Ed. 541, and Willing v. Chicago Auditorium Ass'n, 277 U.S. 274, 48 S.Ct. 507, 72 L.Ed. 880. See, also, Liberty Warehouse C......
  • In re American States Public Service Co., 7851.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 7 Noviembre 1935
    ...522, 75 L.Ed. 1154; Willing v. Chicago Auditorium Association, 277 U.S. 274, 48 S. Ct. 507, 72 L.Ed. 880; Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 47 S.Ct. 282, 71 L.Ed. 541; New Jersey v. Sargent, 269 U.S. 328, 46 S.Ct. 122, 70 L.Ed. 289; Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 43 S.C......
  • Morrow v. Corbin, 6542.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • 24 Junio 1933
    ...a case before it for a decision. Muskrat v. United States, 219 U. S. 346, 31 S. Ct. 250, 55 L. Ed. 246; Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U. S. 70, 47 S. Ct. 282, 71 L. Ed. 541; 11 Texas Jurisprudence, pp. 711, 712, § 9, and cases cited in the "Jurisdiction" of a particular court is tha......
  • Beatty v. Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., 1915
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 10 Diciembre 1935
    ...... Muskrat v. U.S. 219 U.S. 346; Liberty Company v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70 and cases cited. Willing v. Association, 277 U.S. 274; ...The action herein. was not removable under the decisions in Liberty. Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 47 S.Ct. 282, 71. L.Ed. 541; Willing v. Chicago Auditorium Ass'n., ......
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4 books & journal articles
  • Rethinking the Supreme Court’s Interstate Waters Jurisprudence
    • United States
    • Georgetown Environmental Law Review No. 33-2, January 2021
    • 1 Enero 2021
    ...Comm. to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 220–23 (1974); Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433, 437 (1939); Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 73 (1927). It may be worth noting that standing doctrine’s historical underpinnings have been challenged as forcefully as has 246 THE GEORGETOWN EN......
  • State sovereign standing: often overlooked, but not forgotten.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 64 No. 1, January 2012
    • 1 Enero 2012
    ...omitted). (84.) New Jersey v. Sargent, 269 U.S. 328, 330-31 (1926). (85.) Id. at 334. (86.) See Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 75-76 (1927) (characterizing the relief sought in Sargent as "an abstract judicial (87.) 273 U.S. 12, 15-16 (1927). (88.) Id. at 18. (89.) 301 U.S. ......
  • Declaratory judgment actions, covenants not to sue, and bad patents: a call to allow the judiciary to weed out bad patents while adhering to the "case or controversy" requirement.
    • United States
    • The Journal of High Technology Law Vol. 13 No. 1, January 2013
    • 1 Enero 2013
    ...a state court enforcement of the declaratory judgment act in the prior Liberty Warehouse case); see also Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 76 (1927) (interpreting a Kentucky declaratory judgment act as stepping outside of the confines of the Conformity Act of 1872 and thus runn......
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 169 No. 8, August 2021
    • 1 Agosto 2021
    ...act and the original language of Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). (25) See, e.g., Liberty Warehouse Co. v. Grannis, 273 U.S. 70, 76 (1927) (dismissing a claim brought under the Kentucky declaratory judgment act because the state had not threatened to enforce the allegedly u......

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