Public Service Commission of Wyoming v. Grimshaw, 1941

Decision Date17 December 1935
Docket Number1941
Citation49 Wyo. 158,53 P.2d 1
PartiesPUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF WYOMING v. GRIMSHAW
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

RESERVED QUESTIONS from the District Court of Sheridan County; JAMES H. BURGESS, Judge.

Action by the Public Service Commission of Wyoming against W. C Grimshaw. On reserved questions certified by the District Court to the Supreme Court for review.

For the plaintiff there was a brief by Ray E. Lee, Attorney General Thos. F. Shea, Deputy Attorney General; Wm. C. Snow Assistant Attorney General, of Cheyenne, and W. W. Tipton, Assistant Attorney General, of Laramie, and oral argument by Mr. Shea.

The situation in the present case with respect to public highways is similar to that in Continental Baking Company v. Woodring, 55 F.2d 350. Counsel for defendant has quoted at length from Weaver v. Public Service Commission, 40 Wyo. 462. The law in relation to the control and supervision of highways had not been well developed when that case was decided. Changed conditions may justify a modification of that decision. Barney v. Comm., 17 P.2d 82; Stephenson v. Binford, 287 U.S. 251. The state has the right to supervise and control its public highways irrespective of whether used by private or public carriers. The principal purpose of Chapter 65, Laws 1935 is for such regulation of use. The fact that the act may include purposes other than the regulation of the use of highways is immaterial. Sections 14 and 18 of the Act are substantially identical with the Kansas statute construed in Continental Baking Company v. Woodring, supra. Defendant is in error in contending that the Act grants arbitrary power to the Commission with respect to permits. See Sections 11 and 20. It is necessary to vest some discretion in the issuance of permits in order to protect the highways and the safety of persons using them. Stephenson v. Binford, supra. The phrase "engaged in transportation" has been construed by the following authorities: Head v. N.Y. L. Ins. Company, (Okla.) 43 F.2d 517; Peters v. Insurance Company of America, 223 N.Y.S. 500; State v. Roberson, 48 S.E. 595; Semple v. Schwartz, (Mo.) 109 S.W. 633; Morning Star v. State, 33 So. 485. A literal application of a statute leading to absurd consequences is to be avoided whenever a reasonable application can be given. Continental Banking Company v. Woodring, supra. The Commission is authorized to designate public highways to be known as state highways. Sec. 52-104, R. S. A mere declaration that private property or business is affected with a public interest is not conclusive, but entitled to careful consideration. Anderson v. Thomas, (Ore.) 26 P.2d 60. The title of the Act is sufficient. Tucker v. State, 35 Wyo. 430. Injunctions have been upheld in cases similar to the case at bar. State Bar v. Credit Association, (Okla.) 37 P.2d 954. It will be noted that the general rule against the issuance of injunctions to restrain criminal acts, stated in 32 C. J. 51, is modified by the further rule found in 32 C. J. 227-228. See also Farrell v. City of Mobile, (Ala.) 156 So. 635; State v. Tri-State Transit Company, (Ala.) 155 So. 233; Robbins v. U.S. 284 F. 39 (10th C. C. A.). The present "Motor Vehicle Act," Chapter 65 of Laws 1935, is upheld not only by all recent decisions of the state courts where substantially identical acts have been construed, but what is of more importance, our "Act" should be upheld because the United States Supreme Court has upheld substantially identical legislation. All of the questions involved in this case should be decided adversely to the contentions of defendant.

There was a brief amicus curiae, and oral argument by Joseph Garst, of Douglas.

Regulation of the use of public highways is a part of the police power of the state; the use of highways for transporting property for hire is a special use which the state may prohibit or condition as it sees fit. Collins v. Comm., 7 P.2d 123; Kelly v. Finney, 194 N.E. 157; Portland Company v. Hess, 9 P.2d 122; Anderson v Thomas, 26 P.2d 60; Stephenson v. Binford, 77 L.Ed. 288. It is necessary to vest the commissioners with authority to grant and cancel permits. Anderson v. Thomas, supra. A state may require private motor carriers of property on its highways to obtain a license, pay a tax and file liability insurance policy. Continental Company v. Woodring, 76 L.Ed. 1155; Hicklin v. Coney, 78 L.Ed. 247; Taxicab Company v. City, 34 P.2d 545; N. P. Ry. Co. v. Bennett, 272 P. 987. Doubts of the legality of a statute should be resolved in favor of the right of the legislature to enact it. Ashland v. Commission, 87 A. L. R. 534; Gant v. Oklahoma City, 77 L.Ed. 1058. The exemptions contained in the Act do not affect the validity of it. Continental Banking Company v. Woodring, supra. There is no discrimination between carriers of the same class. The following cases sustain similar exemptions: Prouty v. Coyne, 55 F.2d 289; American Sugar Company v. La., 45 L.Ed. 102; Clark v. Kansas City, 44 L.Ed. 492; State v. Kozer, 242 P. 621; Bushnell v. People, 19 P.2d 197; Stephenson v. Binford, supra. The jurisdiction of state district courts to restrain violations of the Act is questioned on the ground that violations of the Act are punishable as misdemeanors, thus depriving the accused of a jury trial. As equity has no criminal jurisdiction, and acts or omissions will not be joined on the ground that they constitute a violation of law, the criminal statutes of a state ordinarily afford a legal remedy. 32 C. J. 275. Equity will intervene when necessary for the protection of civil rights or property interests, notwithstanding the above rule. 32 C. J. 277-8; Kline v. Club, 34 L. R. A. 94. The regulation of the use of public highways for gain is in the nature of a property right in the state. A lawfully operating carrier under a license holds a property right that is injured by a competitor operating on the same route. The protection of both of these rights will warrant the interference of a court of equity by injunction. Frost v. Comm., 73 L.Ed. 483; California v. Ry. Company, 32 L.Ed. 157; Willis v. Buck, 263 P. 983; U. P. Ry. Company v. Bennett, 272 P. 987 and cases cited. Trans. Company v. People, 261 P. 1; State v. Company, 2 P.2d 888; P. V. Com. v. Sebring Bus Lines, 172 N.E. 290. The validity of the title of the Act was questioned in that the jurisdiction of courts is not clearly stated. We think the title is sufficient. State v. Wyckoff, 31 Wyo. 500; Tucker v. State, 35 Wyo. 430.

For the defendant, there was a brief and oral argument by H. Glenn Kinsley, of Sheridan.

Section 66 of the Act is a purported enlargement of the equity jurisdiction of the district courts to enjoin violations of the Act or of any rule, regulation or order of the Commission, or of the Highway Department. Such violations are also made criminal offenses under Section 65 of the Act. The ten questions reserved for the decision of this court challenge the validity of the above sections as well as others. The injunction cannot be maintained for the reason that the provisions of the Act purporting to require defendant as a private carrier and as a contract carrier to procure a permit, and submit his business to the regulations prescribed, are void. Weaver v. Comm., 40 Wyo. 462; Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Act described as Chapter 65 of the Laws of 1935 attempts to do in a slightly different way what was attempted by the 1927 Act, which was condemned in the Weaver case. It declares for example, that all carriers affect and are vested with a public interest. A mere declaration of this sort is conclusive. Wolff Packing Company v. Court of Industrial Relations, 262 U.S. 522; Tyson v. Banton, 273 U.S. 418; Michigan Commission v. Duke, 266 U.S. 570; Frost v. Commission, 271 U.S. 583; Truck v Campbell, (Ore.) 250 P. 213. The authorities make a distinction between private and common carriers. 10 C. J. 37. The requirement of a bond is unreasonable. Smallwood v. Jeter, (Idaho) 244 P. 149; State v. Smith, (Ariz.) 252 P. 1011. It is in violation of the Wyoming Constitution. Article I, Sections 2, 6, 7 and 33 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. The authorities in support of this proposition are numerous. 80 A. L. R. 574. The exemptions found at Section 3 of the Act relating to farmers, ranchers, school busses and carriers operating in municipalities, or to airports adjacent thereto are sufficient in themselves to condemn the Act. Smith v. Cahoon, 233 U.S. 533; Article I, Section 34, Wyoming Constitution; State v. LeBarron, 24 Wyo. 519. Section 56 of the Act provides that the Commission or Highway Department may initiate appropriate civil proceedings in the courts to enforce obedience to their rules and regulations. Section 66 of the Act enlarges the jurisdiction of district courts to prevent and restrain violation of the Act, or any rules or regulations promulgated thereto. The State Constitution does not confer jurisdiction to issue injunctions to restrain criminal acts. State v. Levy, (Ore.) 147 P. 919. The Title of the Act does not mention this power. This feature of the Act is clearly unconstitutional. 25 R. C. L. 848; Article III, Section 24, Wyoming Constitution. The Constitution requires that the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. A suit for an injunction to restrain and enjoin violation of the Act deprives defendant of a jury trial. Heber v. Mining Company, (Colo.) 172 P. 12; La Mesa Commission v. Appelzoeller, (N. M.) 140 P. 1051; Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, Vol. 5 (2d Ed.), Sec. 1894; 32 C. J. 51. This provision is in violation of Article I, Section 7 of the State Constitution relating to arbitrary power and of Section 6 of the same article, relating to due process of law, and of the ...

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