Packard v. Banton

Decision Date02 January 1924
Docket NumberNo. 126,126
Citation264 U.S. 140,68 L.Ed. 596,44 S.Ct. 257
PartiesPACKARD v. BANTON, Dist, Atty., et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. A. B. Silverman and Louis J. Vorhaus, both of New York City (Elijah N. Zoline and Frederick Hemley, both of New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

Messrs. John Caldwell Myers and Felix C. Benvenga, both of New York City, for appellee Banton.

Messrs. Carl Sherman, Atty. Gen. (Edward G. Griffin and Claude T. Dawes, Deputy Attys. Gen., of counsel), for appellee Sherman.

Messrs. Leffert & Tyroler and Katz & Rosen, both of New York City, amici curiae.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit to enjoin the enforcement of a statute of New York (Laws 1922, p. 1566, c. 612), alleged to be in contravention of the equal protection of the laws and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The statute requires every person, etc., engaged in the business of carrying passengers for hire in any motor vehicle, except street cars and motor vehicles subject to the Public Service Commission Law, upon any public street in a city of the first class, to file with the state tax commission, either a personal bond with sureties, a corporate surety bond, or a policy of insurance in a solvent and responsible company in the sum of $2,500, conditioned for the payment of any judgment recovered against such person, etc., for death or injury caused in the operation or by the defective construction of such motor vehicle. The bill alleges that the rate of premium for the required policy is fixed by the insurance companies at $960; that the net income from the operation of a motor vehicle is about $35 a week, which would be reduced by the operation of the law to $16.50 per week, resulting in confiscation of the earnings of appellant for the benefit of the insurance companies. The statute makes it a misdemeanor to operate such motor vehicle without having furnished the required bond or policy, and appellant avers that appellees, as prosecuting officers of the state, have threatened, and, if not enjoined, will proceed, to prosecute him, unless he complies with the law. The court below was constituted of three judges, under section 266 of the Judicial Code (Comp. St. § 1243). Upon the return of the order to show cause a hearing was had, and the court denied a motion for an injunction pendente lite, and dismissed the bill for want of equity, without handing down an opinion.

1. Appellees insist that the District Court was without jurisdiction because the matter in controversy does not exceed the value of $3,000. Judicial Code, § 24, subd. 1 (Comp. St. § 991). The bill discloses that the enforcement of the statute sought to be enjoined will have the effect of materially increasing appellant's expenditures, as well as causing injury to him in other respects. The allegations, in general terms, are that the sum or value in controversy exceeds $3,000, which the affidavits filed in the lower court tend to support; that appellant is the owner of four motor vehicles, the income from which would be reduced, if the law be enforced, to the extent of $18.50 each per week; and that his business would otherwise suffer. The object of the suit is to enjoin the enforcement of the statute, and it is the value of this object thus sought to be gained that determines the amount in dispute. Railroad Co. v. Ward, 2 Black, 485, 17 L. Ed. 311; Railway Co. v. Kuteman, 54 Fed. 547, 552, 4 C. C. A. 503; Nashville, C. & St. L. R. R. Co. v. McConnell (C. C.) 82 Fed. 65, 73; Scott v. Donald, 165 U. S. 107, 114, 17 Sup. Ct. 262, 41 L. Ed. 648; City of Hutchinson v. Beckham, 118 Fed. 399, 402, 55 C. C. A. 333; Evenson v. Spaulding, 150 Fed. 517, 520, 82 C. C. A. 263, 9 L. R. A. (N. S.) 904; Hunt v. N. Y. Cotton Exchange, 205 U. S. 322, 336, 27 Sup. Ct. 529, 51 L. Ed. 821.

Counter affidavits were filed, tending to show that the expenses incident to compliance with the statute would be less than alleged; but it sufficiently appears that the value of the right of appellant to carry on his business, freed from the restraint of the statute, exceeds the jurisdictional amount.

2. Another preliminary contention is that the bill cannot be sustained, because there is a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law; that is, that the question may be tried and determined as fully in a criminal prosecution under the statute as in a suit in equity. The general rule undoubtedly is that a court of equity is without jurisdiction to restrain criminal proceedings, unless they are instituted by a party to a suit already pending before it to try the same right that is in issue there. In re Sawyer, 124 U. S. 200, 209-211, 8 Sup. Ct. 482, 31 L. Ed. 402; Davis & Farnum Manufacturing Co. v. Los Angeles, 189 U. S. 207, 217, 23 Sup. Ct. 498, 47 L. Ed. 778.

But it is settled that 'a distinction obtains, and equitable jurisdiction exists to restrain criminal prosecutions under unconstitutional enactments, when the prevention of such prosecutions is essential to the safeguarding of rights of property.' Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33, 37, 38, 36 Sup. Ct. 7, 60 L. Ed. 131, L. R. A. 1916D, 545, Ann. Cas. 1917B, 283. The question has so recently been considered that we need do no more than cite Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U. S. 197, 44 Sup. Ct. 15, 68 L. Ed. ——, decided November 12, 1923, where the cases are collected, and state our conclusion that the present suit falls within the exception and not the general rule. Huston v. City, 176 Iowa, 455, 464, 156 N. W. 883; Dobbins v. Los Angeles, 195 U. S. 223, 25 Sup. Ct. 18, 49 L. Ed. 169.

3. We come then, to the question whether the statute assailed contravenes the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. That the selection of cities of the first class for the application of the regulations and the exclusion of all others is not an unreasonable and arbitrary classification does not admit of controversy. Hayes v. Missouri, 120 U. S. 68, 7 Sup. Ct. 350, 30 L. Ed. 578. We cannot say that there are not reasons applicable to...

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