Reid v. Independent Union of All Workers, 31192.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation275 N.W. 300,200 Minn. 599
Decision Date24 September 1937
Docket NumberNo. 31192.,31192.

Smith, Carlson & Whitacre, of St. Paul, and Josiah A. Baker, of Mankato, for relator.

Sasse, French & Dunette, of Austin, for respondent.

STONE, Justice.

Certiorari to review relator's conviction for contempt.

September 29, 1936, upon notice and after hearing, Hon. Norman E. Peterson, judge of the tenth judicial district, issued a temporary injunction restraining defendants from certain picketing activities aimed at a "beauty shop" maintained by plaintiff in the city of Austin. Defendant Voorhees, the present relator, chose to ignore the injunction, violated it, and thereafter at a hearing before Hon. A. B. Gislason, one of the judges of the ninth judicial district, was adjudged guilty of contempt and sentenced to four months' imprisonment in the county jail.

The answer had not been served and was not before Judge Peterson when he ordered the temporary injunction. But the issues arising from complaint and answer were before the court on the hearing. They were two in number: (1) Whether the controversy involved a labor dispute within the definition of Laws 1933, c. 416, §§ 12 (a) and (c), entitled "An Act Relating to Labor Disputes and to Define and Limit the Jurisdiction of the Courts to Issue any Restraining Order or Temporary or Permanent Injunction in Such Cases." (2) Whether defendants by their picketing and other activities were attempting to compel plaintiff to join them in a conspiracy in unlawful restraint of trade. The second issue was ignored by Judge Peterson in granting the temporary injunction which was based exclusively on his conclusion that no labor dispute within the meaning of the act was involved.

1. While this writ is a direct attack on the judgment of conviction, it cannot succeed unless the temporary injunction, issued without findings of fact, was a nullity. That is because this proceeding is a collateral and not a direct attack upon that injunction, under the rule of such cases as State ex rel. Tuthill v. Giddings, 98 Minn. 102, 107 N.W. 1048. There the relator had violated the affirmative form of injunction which we call the writ of mandamus. It was held that it could not be collaterally impeached or avoided in a proceeding, such as the instant one, to punish the relator for his disobedience of the writ.

2. In other words, in order to succeed here, relator must show that the action of Judge Peterson was a nullity. Laws 1933, c. 416, does attempt without equivocation to curtail, to the extent indicated, the "jurisdiction" of the district court to issue injunctions. Whether the jurisdiction of the district court, which was created and defined by the Constitution rather than the Legislature, can be so limited by the Legislature, is not before us. No question has been raised as to the constitutionality of the act. Jurisdiction aside, our Constitution provides that the Legislature may regulate the practice and proceedings of the courts. Const. art. 6, § 14. Doubtless, therefore, and strictly speaking, without impinging upon the jurisdiction of the court, the Legislature by the 1933 law may, we assume, be deemed to have properly imposed a duty upon it. See the distinction between judicial jurisdiction or power on the one hand and mere duty on the other, made in Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230, 28 S.Ct. 641, 52 L.Ed. 1039, and repeated in Marin v. Augedahl, 247 U.S. 142, 38 S.Ct. 452, 62 L.Ed. 1038. Also, any study of the statute, on constitutional grounds, would be futile in proportion as it ignored the obvious truth that "the constitutional problems raised by our state statute are entirely different from those raised" by any federal statute. McClintock, the Minn. Labor Disputes Injunction Act, 21 Minn. L.R. 619.

With the foregoing by way of mere caution, we treat the matter as one of jurisdiction, and on the postulate that whether Judge Peterson had power, except after "findings of fact" (Laws 1933, c. 416, § 7), to issue the temporary injunction, depended upon whether the action involved a labor dispute. Certainly, with nothing before him he could not determine that question on the mere asseveration of one or the other of the litigants or their respective counsel. The question was one of mixed law and fact, requiring first ascertainment of the facts from the showing in respect thereto. If the facts showed no "labor dispute," as Judge Peterson decided, the statute did not apply. It is that negative decision of an issue of intermingled law and fact that is now under collateral attack. And no case has been cited wherein, in a labor case (or in any other for that matter), such a decision has been nullified by a collateral, as distinguished from a direct, attack.

In any such case, the first thing for a district judge to determine, and he cannot avoid its decision if the question is presented, is whether the statute applies. Of the general subject-matter of injunctions he has unquestioned jurisdiction. So long as nothing more infallible than human beings can be found wherewith to implement our courts, such jurisdiction implies, as matter of regrettable but inescapable necessity, that jurisdiction to decide is the power to decide erroneously as well as correctly. As it was put in Foltz v. St. Louis & S. F. Ry. Co. (C.C.A.) 60 F. 316, 318: "Nor is this jurisdiction limited to making correct decisions. It empowers the court to determine every issue within the scope of its authority according to its own view of the law and the evidence, whether its decision is right or wrong, and every judgment or decision so rendered is final and conclusive upon the parties to it, unless reversed by writ of error or appeal, or impeached for fraud."

The jurisdiction of our federal courts is limited and its boundaries diligently observed. Occasionally, however, federal judges have made the mistake of deciding cases of which later it was discovered they should not have taken jurisdiction. Notwithstanding, it has been held that the resulting judgments were not open to collateral attack. An illustrative case is Des Moines Nav. & R. Co. v. Iowa Homestead Co., 123 U.S. 552, 8 S.Ct. 217, 220, 31 L.Ed. 202, wherein it was said: "Whether in such a case the suit could be removed was a question for the circuit court to decide when it was called on to take jurisdiction. If it kept the case when it ought to have been remanded, or if it proceeded to adjudicate upon matters in dispute between two citizens of Iowa, when it ought to have confined itself to those between the citizens of Iowa and citizens of New York, its final decree in the suit could have been reversed, on appeal, as erroneous, but the decree would not have been a nullity. To determine whether the suit was removable in whole or in part or not, was certainly within the power of the circuit court. The decision of that question was the exercise, and the rightful exercise, of jurisdiction, no matter whether in favor of or against taking the cause."

In an early case, Colton v. Beardsley, 38 Barb.(N.Y.) 29, 30, the whole proposition was concisely put thus: "When the jurisdiction of an inferior tribunal depends upon a fact which such tribunal is required to ascertain and determine by its decision, such decision is final until reversed in a direct proceeding for that purpose. The test of jurisdiction, in such cases, is whether the tribunal has power to enter upon the inquiry, and not whether its conclusions in the course of it were right or wrong."

Without attempting a digest of the cases on the subject, our study of them suggests certain cautions to be observed in their approach. First, a court of general jurisdiction may, in a particular matter, be proceeding "under special statutory authority." The distinction on the question of jurisdiction, between such a proceeding and an ordinary action within the general jurisdiction of the court, is stressed in Galpin v. Page, 18 Wall. 350, 21 L.Ed. 959. There a collateral attack upon the judgment under a special statute was successful because the record showed absence of jurisdiction of an essential party. A familiar illustration of such a special statutory proceeding is found in those for the enforcement of delinquent real estate taxes where any substantial failure to comply with statutory prerequisites to jurisdiction is held fatal. If it appears on the face of the record, it insures success for a collateral attack. That rule had typical application in Senichka v. Lowe, 74 Ill. 274.

To such a lack of jurisdiction to do anything or to proceed at all is the statement applicable that it is "absurd to say" that a finding in favor of jurisdiction is conclusive "where the very record would show that this finding is void for want of jurisdiction to find anything whatever in the case." Such dicta never apply where, upon opposing pleadings and conflicting evidence, the court must proceed to decide an issue thereby presented. Error in such a decision does not vitiate the jurisdiction to make it.

Second, it is highly important to examine, and with care, both the factual and the legal targets of such statements as this: "Erroneous decision as to its own jurisdiction of the subject of an action rendered by a court without jurisdiction, is, as we have said entirely void and has no conclusive effect upon the parties to the action, though the court might have jurisdiction of their persons." Matter of Baltimore Mail S. S. Co. v. Fawcett, 269 N.Y. 379, 390, 199 N.E. 628, 633, 104 A.L.R. 1068. That language was used by the Court of Appeals of New York in granting a...

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  • Reid v. Indep. Union of All Workers, 31192.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • September 24, 1937
    ...200 Minn. 599275 N.W. 300REIDv.INDEPENDENT UNION OF ALL WORKERS et al.No. 31192.Supreme Court of Minnesota.Sept. 24, Certiorari from District Court, Mower County; A. B. Gislason and Norman E. Peterson, Judges. Certiorari proceeding by Joseph V. Voorhees to review relator's conviction for co......

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