People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, No. 582

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation309 U.S. 543,84 L.Ed. 916,60 S.Ct. 699
Docket NumberNo. 582
Decision Date25 March 1940
PartiesPEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO v. RUBERT HERMANOS, Inc

309 U.S. 543
60 S.Ct. 699
84 L.Ed. 916
PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO

v.

RUBERT HERMANOS, Inc.

No. 582.
Argued March 7, 8, 1940.
Decided March 25, 1940.

Mr. Wm. Cattron Rigby, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Mr. Melvin H. Siegel, of Washington, D.C., amicus curiae for the United States.

Messrs. Henri Brown, of San Juan, P.R., and George M. Wolfson, of New York City, for respondent.

Page 544

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question here in controversy is a matter of great importance to Puerto Rico and involves the power of its legislature to enforce Congressional policies affecting the Island. We therefore brought the case here on a writ of certiorari, 309 U.S. 642, 60 S.Ct. 467, 84 L.Ed. —-, to review a decision of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. 106 F.2d 754. That court had reversed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, 53 P.R.R. 779 (Spanish edition) sustaining a proceeding in quo warranto brought against respondent.

The proceeding was initiated in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico under jurisdiction conferred upon it by the local legislature. The substance of two measures, enacted in 1935, and set out below, authorized the Government of Puerto Rico to bring a quo warranto proceeding in its Supreme Court against any corporation violating federal law.1 Accordingly, the Attorney General of the Island

Page 545

brought the present suit against respondent, a corporation organized in 1927 under Puerto Rico's corporation law. The gravamen of the suit was alleged defiance by respondent of the Congressional restriction imposed upon 'every corporation authorized to engage in agriculture * * * to the ownership and control of not to exceed five hundred acres of land.' This restriction, according to the complaint, embodied 'the public policy of the

Page 546

People of Puerto Rico' first declared by Congress in its Joint Resolution of May 1, 1900, 31 Stat. 715, supplementing the Foraker Act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. 77.2 This limitation upon the corporate ownership of land was continued when Congress in 1917 revised the constitutional framework of Puerto Rico's government in what is the existing Organic Act, § 39 of the Act of March 2, 1917, 39 Stat. 951, 964, 48 U.S.C. § 752, 48 U.S.C.A. § 752.

The present controversy derives from the fact that Congress affixed no direct consequences to disobedience of its land policy for Puerto Rico. The main issue presented here is whether Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly has power to graft such consequences upon the Con-

Page 547

gressional prohibition. This was the issue as the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico conceived it, and we are not disposed to deal with it differently. It was suggested by the dissenting judge in the Court of Appeals that the Supreme Court's judgment may be supported by construing the 1935 legislation as a means of enforcing the local land policy—identic, to be sure, with that declared by Congress-embodied in the 1911 corporation law of Puerto Rico. To do so, however, would take us into niceties of pleading and of local law which were not canvassed by the insular court. Such a course would be peculiarly gratuitous when the issue which the local court in fact decided is easily resolved.

In the setting of the traditional relation between the broad outlines designed by Congress for the government of territories and the powers of local legislatures to move freely within those outlines, the difficulties conjured up against the view taken by the Puerto Rican court rapidly evaporate. The objections urged against it illustrate vividly the power of subtle argument to give an appearance of difficulty to what is relatively simple. The breadth of local autonomy reposed by Congress in the Legislative Assembly was elucidated too recently and too thoroughly in Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253, 58 S.Ct. 167, 82 L.Ed. 235, to call for repetition here. Suffice it to say that the opinion in that case underlined the fullness of scope which Congress gave to Puerto Rico when it provided by § 37 of the Organic Act of 1917 that 'the legislative authority shall extend to all matters of a legislative character not locally inapplicable * * *.' 39 Stat. 964, 48 U.S.C. § 821, 48 U.S.C.A. § 821. Drawing on the practice of Congress in its treatment of territories throughout our history, and assimilating that practice into the Puerto Rican situation, the Court concluded that 'The grant of legislative power in respect of local matters, contained in section 32 of the Foraker Act and continued in force by section 37 of the

Page 548

Organic Act of 1917 (48 U.S.C.A. §§ 774, 821), is as broad and comprehensive as language could make it.' 302 U.S. at page 261, 58 S.Ct. at page 171, 82 L.Ed. 235.

Surely nothing more immediately touches the local concern of Puerto Rico than legislation giving effect to the Congressional restriction on corporate land holdings. This policy was born of the special needs of a congested population largely dependent upon the land for its livelihood.3 It was enunciated as soon as Congress became responsible for the welfare of the Island's people, was retained against vigorous attempts to modify it,4 and was reaffirmed when Congress enlarged Puerto Rico's powers of self-government. Surely Congress meant its action to have significance beyond mere empty words. To treat the absence of a specific remedy for violation of...

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15 practice notes
  • Dreyfus v. Von Finck, No. 194
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 6 Abril 1976
    ...applicability but were peculiarly concerned with the problems of occupied Germany and its people. Cf. Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos Co., 309 U.S. 543, 550, 60 S.Ct. 699, 703, 84 L.Ed. 916, 919 (1940). It did not create a cause of action in favor of the plaintiff which can be enforced in a ......
  • Hosp v. Cass Cnty., No. 6818.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • 2 Enero 1943
    ...S.D. 189, 191 N.W. 635; [7 N.W.2d 451]Groo v. Norman & Robinson, 42 App.D.C. 387, 388, 389;People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 309 U.S. 543, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916. “Foreign corporations enter a state and transact business therein only with that state's consent, express or i......
  • Dyer v. Kazuhisa Abe, Civ. No. 1435.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • 10 Febrero 1956
    ...v. Keyes, supra, footnote 29. But see Note, 16 Geo.Wash.L.Rev. 260 (1947-1948). 40 People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 1940, 309 U.S. 543, 550, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916; American Security & Trust Co. v. Commissioners of District of Columbia, 1912, 224 U.S. 491, 32 S.Ct. 553, 5......
  • Jackson v. W. Indian Co., Civil No. 1995–151.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of the Virgin Islands
    • 17 Octubre 1996
    ...People of Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253, 58 S.Ct. 167, 82 L.Ed. 235 (1937); People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 309 U.S. 543, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916 (1940); Arroyo v. Puerto Rico Transp. Authority, 164 F.2d 748 (1st Cir.1947). These principles apply to the unincorpo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Dreyfus v. Von Finck, No. 194
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 6 Abril 1976
    ...applicability but were peculiarly concerned with the problems of occupied Germany and its people. Cf. Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos Co., 309 U.S. 543, 550, 60 S.Ct. 699, 703, 84 L.Ed. 916, 919 (1940). It did not create a cause of action in favor of the plaintiff which can be enforced in a ......
  • Hosp v. Cass Cnty., No. 6818.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • 2 Enero 1943
    ...S.D. 189, 191 N.W. 635; [7 N.W.2d 451]Groo v. Norman & Robinson, 42 App.D.C. 387, 388, 389;People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 309 U.S. 543, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916. “Foreign corporations enter a state and transact business therein only with that state's consent, express or i......
  • Dyer v. Kazuhisa Abe, Civ. No. 1435.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Hawaii)
    • 10 Febrero 1956
    ...v. Keyes, supra, footnote 29. But see Note, 16 Geo.Wash.L.Rev. 260 (1947-1948). 40 People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 1940, 309 U.S. 543, 550, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916; American Security & Trust Co. v. Commissioners of District of Columbia, 1912, 224 U.S. 491, 32 S.Ct. 553, 5......
  • Jackson v. W. Indian Co., Civil No. 1995–151.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of the Virgin Islands
    • 17 Octubre 1996
    ...People of Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 302 U.S. 253, 58 S.Ct. 167, 82 L.Ed. 235 (1937); People of Puerto Rico v. Rubert Hermanos, Inc., 309 U.S. 543, 60 S.Ct. 699, 84 L.Ed. 916 (1940); Arroyo v. Puerto Rico Transp. Authority, 164 F.2d 748 (1st Cir.1947). These principles apply to the unincorpo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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