Phillips v. United States, No. 201

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation85 L.Ed. 800,61 S.Ct. 480,312 U.S. 246
Docket NumberNo. 201
Decision Date03 February 1941
PartiesPHILLIPS, Governor of Oklahoma, et al., v. UNITED STATES et al

312 U.S. 246
61 S.Ct. 480
85 L.Ed. 800
PHILLIPS, Governor of Oklahoma, et al.,

v.

UNITED STATES et al.

No. 201.
Argued Jan. 15, 1941.
Decided Feb. 3, 1941.

Page 247

Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Messrs. John B. Dudley and Randell S. Cobb, both of Oklahoma City, Okl., and Villard Martin, of Tulsa, Okl., for appellants.

Francis M. Shea, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellees.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

As part of a flood control and hydroelectric development, the Grand River Dam Authority, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, was empowered to construct the Grand River Dam, with authority to borrow money and accept grants from the United States. Oklahoma Laws of 1935, Art. 4, c. 70, 82 Okl.St.Ann. § 861 et seq. For the construction of the dam the United States allotted twenty million dollars to the Authority. Eight and one-half millions, in round numbers, were to be used as a grant, and eleven and one-half for the bonds of the Authority. Construction began in

Page 248

February, 1938, and by the spring of last year much of the work was nearing completion. During this period, the Governor of Oklahoma unsuccessfully pressed against the Authority claims for the flooding of roads within the dam area. The action which the Governor finally took to enforce his own views in this matter is the source of the present litigation. On March 13, 1940, he declared martial law in an area surrounding part of the dam-site and ordered the Adjutant General of the state to occupy it. The following day the Governor in conjunction with other state officials obtained an ex parte order in a state court restraining further work on the dam by the Authority. Thereupon the United States began the present suit in a federal district court. A temporary order was issued against the Governor and the other officials restraining them from interference with the Grand River project by further prosecution of their suit in the state court and by the use of military force. Deeming the suit to be one arising under § 266 of the Judicial Code, as amended, 28 U.S.C. § 380, 28 U.S.C.A. § 380, a district court of three judges was convened which, after hearing, entered an interlocutory injunction in the terms of the temporary restraining order. This is the decree that is now before us.

But unless § 266 required the present suit to be heard by three judges, under the Jurisdictional Act of 1925 we are without authority to entertain this direct appeal from a district court. § 238 of the Judicial Code, as amended, 28 U.S.C. § 345, 28 U.S.C.A. § 345. Having concluded that there is a fatal bar to our entertaining the appeal, we are without power to consider the other issues that were argued here.

By § 266, which is set forth in the margin,1 Congress provided an exceptional procedure for a well-understood

Page 249

type of controversy. The legislation was designed to secure the public interest in 'a limited class of cases of special importance'. Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. 565, 567, 48 S.Ct. 585, 586, 72 L.Ed. 990.

Page 250

It is a matter of history that this procedural device was a means of protecting the increasing body of state legislation regulating economic enterprise from invalidation by a conventional suit in equity. While Congress thus sought to assure more weight and greater deliberation by not leaving the fate of such litigation to a single judge, it was no less mindful that the requirement of three judges, of whom one must be a Justice of this Court or a circuit judge, entails a serious drain upon the federal judicial system particularly in regions where, despite modern facilities, distance still plays an important part in the effective administration of justice. And all but the few great metropolitan areas are such regions. Moreover, inasmuch as this procedure also brings direct review of a district court to this Court, any loose construction of the requirements of § 266 would defeat the purposes of Congress, as expressed by the Jurisdictional Act of February 13, 1925, to keep within narrow confines our appellate docket. Moore v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 272 U.S. 317, 321, 47 S.Ct. 105, 106, 71 L.Ed. 273. The history of § 266 (see Pogue, State Determination of State Law, 41 Harv.L.Rev. 623, and Hutcheson, A Case for Three Judges, 47 Harv.L.Rev. 795), the nar-

Page 251

rowness of its original scope, the piece-meal explicit amendments which were made to it (see Act of March 4, 1913, 37 Stat. 1013, and Act of February 13, 1925, 43 Stat. 936, amending § 238 of the Judicial Code), the close construction given the section in obedience to Congressional policy (see, for instance, Moore v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., supra; Smith v. Wilson, 273 U.S. 388, 47 S.Ct. 385, 71 L.Ed. 699; Ex parte Collins, supra; Oklahoma Gas Co. v. Packing Co., 292 U.S. 386, 54 S.Ct. 732, 78 L.Ed. 1318; Ex parte Williams, 277 U.S. 267, 48 S.Ct. 523, 72 L.Ed. 877; Ex parte Public National Bank, 278 U.S. 101, 49 S.Ct. 43, 73 L.Ed. 202; Rorick v. Board of Com'rs, 307 U.S. 208, 59 S.Ct. 808, 83 L.Ed. 1242; Ex parte Bransford, 310 U.S. 354, 60 S.Ct. 947, 84 L.Ed. 1249), combine to reveal § 266 not as a measure of broad social policy to be construed with great liberality, but as an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term and to be applied as such.

To bring this procedural device into play—to dislocate the normal operations of the system of lower federal courts and thereafter to come directly to this Court—requires a suit which...

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343 practice notes
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...great liberality, but as an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term and to be applied as such.' Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 250—251, 61 S.Ct. 480, 483, 85 L.Ed. 800. The Court had already held that the three-judge requirement is not to be invoked on a contingent con......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 17, 1969
    ...and on the statute as applied by him. The distinction admittedly is elusive since, on the one hand, as said in Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 252, 61 S.Ct. 480, 484, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941), "some constitutional or statutory provision is the ultimate source of all actions by state off......
  • Allen v. State Board of Elections Fairley v. Patterson Bunton v. Patterson Whitley v. Williams 36, Nos. 3
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 3, 1969
    ...that congressional enactments providing for the convening of three-judge courts must be strictly construed. Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 61 S.Ct. 480, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941). Conve ing a three-judge court places a burden on our federal court system, and may often result in a delay ......
  • Women's Liberation Union of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Israel, Civ. A. No. 74-139.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • July 23, 1974
    ...liberality,' but is rather `an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term and to be applied as such.' Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 251 61 S.Ct. 480, 483, 85 L.Ed. 800. Thus this Court's jurisdiction under that legislation is to be literally construed. It would hardly be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
343 cases
  • Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, Financial Responsibility Division, State of Utah, No. 14
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 26, 1962
    ...great liberality, but as an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term and to be applied as such.' Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 250—251, 61 S.Ct. 480, 483, 85 L.Ed. 800. The Court had already held that the three-judge requirement is not to be invoked on a contingent con......
  • Law Students Civil Rights Research Coun., Inc. v. Wadmond, 68 Civ. 2917
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 17, 1969
    ...and on the statute as applied by him. The distinction admittedly is elusive since, on the one hand, as said in Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 252, 61 S.Ct. 480, 484, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941), "some constitutional or statutory provision is the ultimate source of all actions by state off......
  • Allen v. State Board of Elections Fairley v. Patterson Bunton v. Patterson Whitley v. Williams 36, Nos. 3
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 3, 1969
    ...that congressional enactments providing for the convening of three-judge courts must be strictly construed. Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 61 S.Ct. 480, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941). Conve ing a three-judge court places a burden on our federal court system, and may often result in a delay ......
  • Women's Liberation Union of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Israel, Civ. A. No. 74-139.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Rhode Island
    • July 23, 1974
    ...liberality,' but is rather `an enactment technical in the strict sense of the term and to be applied as such.' Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 251 61 S.Ct. 480, 483, 85 L.Ed. 800. Thus this Court's jurisdiction under that legislation is to be literally construed. It would hardly be......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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