Ralston Purina Co. v. Hagemeister

Decision Date26 February 1971
Docket NumberNo. 8674,8674
Citation188 N.W.2d 405
PartiesRALSTON PURINA COMPANY, a Corporation, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Gerald HAGEMEISTER, Arthur J. Lanz, Jerry David, Frank Osteryk, Arne Dahl, Dean E. Flagg, and M. L. Buchanan, the Duly Appointed, Qualified, and Acting Members of the North Dakota Poultry Improvement Board, Defendants and Appellants. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Although proceedings for a declaratory judgment to determine the rights, status, and legal relation under a State statute raise the issue of the validity of such State law, where the statute specifically provides that the Attorney General of the State be served with a copy of such proceedings and that the Attorney General be entitled to appear and be heard in such proceedings, the State of North Dakota need not be made a party to such declaratory-judgment action.

2. While purely legislative powers cannot be delegated, the Legislature may authorize others to do certain things and to exercise certain powers which are not exclusively legislative and which the Legislature itself might do but cannot because of the detailed nature of the things to be done.

3. If the law sets forth reasonably clear guidelines which will enable the administrative board or commission to ascertain facts, so that the law takes effect on such facts under its own provisions and not according to the discretion of the administrative board, the power delegated is not legislative.

4. In our complex society, the trend of decisions is to hold that the vesting in other bodies of some powers ordinarily exercised by the Legislature is not unconstitutional so long as the Legislature itself fixes the guidelines within which such powers will be exercised. Where such guidelines are established, the commission or board is not given uncontrolled discretion in determining these matters.

5. For reasons stated in the opinion, it is held that the provisions of the Poultry Improvement Law do not constitute an improper delegation of legislative power.

Stokes, Vaaler, Gillig, Warcup & Woutat, Grand Forks, for plaintiff and respondent.

Helgi Johanneson, Atty. Gen., and John E. Adams, Asst. Atty. Gen., Bismarck, for defendants and appellants.

STRUTZ, Chief Justice.

The plaintiff brings this action against the defendants as the duly appointed, qualified, and acting members of the North Dakota Poultry Improvement Board, organized under the provisions of Chapter 4--13, North Dakota Century Code. The relief which the plaintiff seeks is a declaration of its rights, status, and legal liabilities and as to the constitutionality of Chapter 4--13, North Dakota Century Code, and certain sections thereof, and for such other and further relief as may be just and proper.

The Poultry Improvement Act was adopted by the Legislative Assembly as Chapter 7 of the Laws of 1939. Except for a few minor changes, the law remains the same as originally enacted.

Section 4--13--10, North Dakota Century Code, reads:

'No person shall engage in the business of * * * poultry or turkey feed manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer, without first securing from the North Dakota poultry improvement board a license to engage therein. All such licenses shall expire on the first day of July of each year, and shall be issued or renewed only upon payment to the board of such fees as it may fix for each of said occupations, not exceeding, however, the amounts hereinafter set forth: * * *.'

The Act then goes on to provide:

'The foregoing schedule of license charges and fees shall constitute the maximum to be charged and collected, but the North Dakota poultry improvement board, if it determines that any or all of such fees or charges are excessive or unduly burdensome, or that a lesser schedule of fees will produce all income necessary for carrying on the work of the board, may reduce the license charges and fees of any or all of such occupations. * * *' The record discloses that, from the time this law went into effect, the license fees fixed by the Poultry Improvement Board have been the maximum fees as established by the Legislative Assembly in the original law. The legality of the assessment of such fees, however, was questioned by the plaintiff company, and, at a meeting of the Board held in Fargo, North Dakota, on December 3, 1969, a motion was unanimously adopted which ordered a reduction, effective January 1, 1970, of the license fees for poultry-feed manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers from fifty cents per ton, the maximum fixed by the Legislature, to twenty-five cents per ton. This motion was adopted under the authority given to the Board under the law to reduce the license charges and fees from the maximum fixed by the Legislature if the Board found certain conditions and circumstances to exist.

The plaintiff, in its declaratory-judgment action, contends that the provision of the law authorizing the Board to fix the annual license fees to be paid by the various occupations and businesses covered by the law constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative authority, contrary to Section 175 of the North Dakota Constitution.

The trial court found for the plaintiff and held the Poultry Improvement Act unconstitutional as an unlawful delegation of the taxing power by the Legislature to the Poultry Improvement Board, an appointive body, contrary to Section 175 of the North Dakota Constitution. From judgment declaring the Act unconstitutional, the defendants have taken this appeal, demanding a trial de novo.

In prosecuting their appeal, the defendants specify numerous errors and raise three issues to be determined by this court. The issues are:

1. That the State of North Dakota, being a real party in interest, should have been made a party to the suit;

2. Assuming that the State of North Dakota is, in fact, a necessary party to the suit, the State has not consented to be sued; and

3. The constitutionality of Chapter 4--13 and various sections thereof.

The first issue to be considered is whether the State of North Dakota should have been made a party to the action or proceeding. Section 32--23--11, North Dakota Century Code, provides that where declaratory relief is sought, all persons who have or claim to have any interest which could be affected by the declaration shall be made parties, and no declaration shall prejudice the rights of persons not made parties to the proceeding. The Act then goes on to provide that in any proceeding involving the validity of a statute, ordinance, or franchise, the Attorney General of the State shall be served with a copy of the proceeding and shall be entitled to be heard.

Although the proceeding for declaratory judgment to determine the rights, status, and legal relations of the plaintiff under a statute does question the validity of a State law, we do not believe that the State must be made a party to such proceeding. We base this holding on the provision in the law which states that if the validity of a municipal ordinance or franchise is being questioned, the municipality shall be made a party, but which does not provide that the State shall be made a party if a State law is challenged. In a proceeding for declaratory relief which questions the validity of a State statute, the rights of the State are safeguarded by the requirement that the Attorney General of the State be served with a copy of the proceeding and that he shall be entitled to be heard. In this case, the Attorney General was served with a copy of the proceeding. He did appear and file his answer and participate in the trial of the action. Thus the interests of the State have been fully safeguarded.

This court has held that when a declaratory-judgment proceeding is brought which involves the validity or construction of a statute, and the declaration of rights, status and legal liabilities would affect the power and duties of public officers, such public officers should be made parties to the action or proceeding in which the relief is sought. Langer v. State, 69 N.D. 129, 284 N.W. 238 (1939). The members of the Poultry Improvement Board, whose power and duties are affected by this action, have been made parties.

This is not the first time that the constitutionality of a statute of the State has been questioned in a declaratory-judgment action in which the State of North Dakota was not named a party. In Scott v. Donnelly, 133 N.W.2d 418 (N.D.1965), a proceeding brought against the duly appointed, qualified, and acting members of the North Dakota Potato Development Commission, the action was brought against the members of that commission for a declaration of rights, status, and other legal relations of the plaintiffs, who were potato growers. The action questioned the validity of the Potato Improvement, Marketing, and Advertising Act of the State, Chapter 4--10A of the North Dakota Century Code. This court declared the rights, status, and legal relations of the plaintiffs under the Act and passed upon the validity of the law. In that proceeding, the State of North Dakota was not made a party.

We therefore hold that in any proceeding for declaratory judgment brought against the members of the Poultry Improvement Board for a declaration of rights, status, and other legal relations of the plaintiff under the Act, it is not necessary to join the State of North Dakota as a party defendant, so long as the Attorney General of the State is served with a copy of the proceeding and is permitted to be heard in the trial of the action.

The next issue raised by the defendants on appeal is that--assuming that the State of North Dakota is the real party in interest--the action must be dismissed because the State has not consented to the suit.

Section 22 of the North Dakota Constitution provides that suits may be brought against the State in such manner, in such courts, and in such cases as the Legislative Assembly may, by...

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    ...constitution. Southern Valley Grain Dealers Ass'n v. Board of County Comm'rs, 257 N.W.2d 425, 434 (N.D.1977); Ralston Purina Co. v. Hagemeister, 188 N.W.2d 405, 410 (N.D. 1971). The constitution empowers the legislature to provide for the establishment and government of political subdivisio......
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    ...257 N.W.2d 425, 434 (N.D.1977). See also, Caldis v. Board of County Commissioners, 279 N.W.2d 665 (N.D.1979); Ralston Purina Company v. Hagemeister, 188 N.W.2d 405 (N.D.1971); Souris River Telephone Mutual Aid Corp. v. State, 162 N.W.2d 685 (N.D.1968); Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Johann......
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    ...to another body the power to make law—to legislate—but it may bestow authority to execute the laws it enacts. Ralston Purina Co. v. Hagemeister , 188 N.W.2d 405, 411 (N.D. 1971). The modern view of the non-delegation doctrine "recognizes that, in a complex area, it may be necessary and appr......
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