Rodgers v. United States, No. 58

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation332 U.S. 371,68 S.Ct. 5,92 L.Ed. 3
Docket NumberNo. 58
Decision Date10 November 1947
PartiesRODGERS v. UNITED STATES

332 U.S. 371
68 S.Ct. 5
92 L.Ed. 3
RODGERS

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 58.
Argued and Submitted Oct. 16, 1947.
Decided Nov. 10, 1947.

Mr. Stanley M. Silverberg, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. W. Clay Rodgers, pro se.

Page 372

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

In the years 1940, 1941, and 1942 the petitioner produced on his farms and sold more cotton than the quota allotted him under authority of Part IV of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 as amended. 52 Stat. 31, 55—60, 55 Stat. 203, 7 U.S.C. § 1281 et seq., 7 U.S.C.A. § 1281 et seq. The United States filed this suit against petitioner to recover money 'penalties' to which § 3481 of the Act makes non-cooperating farms 'subject' who market cotton from their farms in excess of their quota. The District Court rendered judgment for $7,039.52 in penalties plus interest at 6% from the various dates the penalties became due to the date of judgment. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 158 F.2d 835. The Fifth Circuit had previously decided that no interest is allowable on such penalties prior to judgment. United States v. West Texas

Page 373

Cottonoil Co., 155 F.2d 463. We therefore granted certiorari limited to this single question. 331 U.S. 799, 67 S.Ct. 1309.

Since penalties under the Agricultural Adjustment Act are imposed under an Act of Congress, they bear interest only if and to the extent such interest is required by federal law. Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 714—716, 65 S.Ct. 895, 905 907, 89 L.Ed. 1296; Royal Indemnity Co. v. United States, 313 U.S. 289, 295—297, 61 S.Ct. 995, 997, 998, 85 L.Ed. 1361. There is no language in the Agricultural Adjustment Act or in any other act of Congress which specifically allows or forbids interest on penalties such as these prior to judgment.2 But the failure to mention interest in statutes which create obligations has not been interpreted by this Court as manifesting an unequivocal congressional purpose that the obligation shall not bear interest. Billings v. United States, 232 U.S. 261, 284—288, 34 S.Ct. 421, 425—427, 58 L.Ed. 596. For in the absence of an unequivocal prohibition of interest on such obligations, this Court has fashioned rules which granted or denied interest on particular statutory obligations by an appraisal of the congressional purpose in imposing them and in the light of general principles deemed relevant by the Court. See, e.g., Royal Indemnity Co. v. United States, supra; Board of Com'rs of Jackson County in State of Kansas v. United States, 308 U.S. 343, 60 S.Ct. 285, 84 L.Ed. 313.

As our prior cases show, a persuasive consideration in determining whether such obligations shall bear interest is the relative equities between the beneficiaries of the obligation and those upon whom it has been imposed. And this Court has generally weighed these relative equities in accordance with the historic judicial principle that one for whose financial advantage an obligation was assumed or imposed, and who has suffered actual money damages by another's breach of that obligation, should be fairly compensated for the loss thereby sustained. See,

Page 374

e.g., Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O'Neil, supra; United States v. State of North Carolina, 136 U.S. 211, 216, 10 S.Ct. 920, 922, 34 L.Ed. 336; Funkhouser v. J. B. Preston Co., 290 U.S. 163, 168, 54 S.Ct. 134, 136, 78 L.Ed. 243.

The contention is hardly supportable that the Federal Government suffers money damages or loss, in the common law sense, to be compensated for by interest, when one convicted of a crime fails promptly to pay a money fine assessed against him. The underlying theory of that penalty is that it is a punishment or deterrent and not a revenue-raising device; unlike a tax, it does not rest on the basic necessity of the Government to collect a carefully estimated sum of money by a particular date in order to meet its anticipated expenditures. For the foregoing reasons this Court's holding that a criminal penalty does not bear interest, Pierce v. United States, 255 U.S. 398, 405, 406, 41 S.Ct. 365, 367, 368, 65 L.Ed. 697, is consistent with its holding that the Government does suffer recoverable damages if a taxpayer fails to pay taxes when due and is therefore equitably entitled to interest. Billings v. United States, supra. Furthermore, denial of interest on criminal penalties might well be rested on judicial unwillingness to expand punishment fixed for a criminal act beyond that which the plain language of the statute authorizes.

Viewed in light of these principles, we think that the question of interest on the penalties provided in the Agricultural Adjustment Act on non-cooperators should be governed by the rule previously applied by this Court to criminal fines. Although Congress neither wholly prohibited nor made it a crime for a farmer to market cotton in excess of his quota, still it imposed sanctions upon non-cooperators analogous to those of the criminal law. The purpose of Congress in requiring payment of penalties into the Federal Treasury for marketing above the allotted amount was not to raise revenue for the Government's financial advantage but to deter farmers from planting and marketing more than their quotas. In fact, the whole

Page 375

philosophy of the Agricultural Adjustment Act is based on the theory that the public will be benefited, not damaged, if farmers produce and market within these quotas, thereby avoiding the payment of penalties. The framework of the Act itself, both as originally passed and as amended, and the reports of the congressional committees that drafted it, show a prime purpose to limit national and individual farm production and marketing to the quotas allotted, and show that the penalties were solely intended to deter farmers from exceeding those quotas.3 After careful consideration the original 1938 Act was amended in 1941 for the express purpose of making the farmers' penalties higher, because the prior penalties had not in practice proved a severe enough sanction to reduce production the desired amount. The House committee said in its report on the 1941 amendment:

'As in the case of corn and wheat, it appears that the present rate of penalty (for cotton) is too low to result in the desired adjustment of the amount to be marketed during the marketing year.'4 And with reference to wheat and corn, the committee had reported:

'With the higher penalties, it is expected that growers generally will store the farm marketing excesses rather than pay the penalty and place the commodity on the market at the time when it is not needed.'5 In addition to these high penalties, the Act, as originally passed and as amended, wholly deprived non-cooperators like petitioner of substantial benefits authorized by the

Page 376

Soil Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C.A. § 590a et seq., and of a large part of the loan value provided by the Government for cotton farmers who did not...

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224 practice notes
  • Brown & Williamson, Ltd. v. United States, No. 39-81T.
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • August 25, 1982
    ...was actually assessed, the taxpayer had a positive obligation to the United States: a duty to pay its tax. See Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 374 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1947); United States v. Childs, 266 U.S. 304, 309-310 45 S.Ct. 110, 111, 69 L.Ed. 299 (1924); Billings v. Uni......
  • Mother Goose Nursery Schools, Inc. v. Sendak, Civ. No. H 78-449.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • June 29, 1984
    ...Bricklayers' Pension Trust Fund v. Taiariol, 671 F.2d 988 (6th Cir.1982) and cases cited therein; see also Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 68 S.Ct. 5, 92 L.Ed. 3 13 Section 1988 provides, in pertinent part: In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of sections 1981, 1982, 1......
  • Poleto v. Consolidated Rail Corp., Nos. 86-5249
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 19, 1987
    ...the congressional purpose in imposing them and in the light of general principles deemed relevant by the Court. Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 373, 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1947) (citations In general, Congressional intent must guide our determination of whether we should imply a......
  • Payne v. Panama Canal Co., No. 78-2197
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 26, 1979
    ...Congress. Therefore, they bear interest only if and to the extent such interest is required by federal law. See Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 373, 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1953). There is no language in the Back Pay Act or in the statutory provisions relating to preference eligi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
224 cases
  • Brown & Williamson, Ltd. v. United States, No. 39-81T.
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • August 25, 1982
    ...was actually assessed, the taxpayer had a positive obligation to the United States: a duty to pay its tax. See Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 374 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1947); United States v. Childs, 266 U.S. 304, 309-310 45 S.Ct. 110, 111, 69 L.Ed. 299 (1924); Billings v. Uni......
  • Mother Goose Nursery Schools, Inc. v. Sendak, Civ. No. H 78-449.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • June 29, 1984
    ...Bricklayers' Pension Trust Fund v. Taiariol, 671 F.2d 988 (6th Cir.1982) and cases cited therein; see also Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 68 S.Ct. 5, 92 L.Ed. 3 13 Section 1988 provides, in pertinent part: In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of sections 1981, 1982, 1......
  • Poleto v. Consolidated Rail Corp., Nos. 86-5249
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • August 19, 1987
    ...the congressional purpose in imposing them and in the light of general principles deemed relevant by the Court. Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 373, 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1947) (citations In general, Congressional intent must guide our determination of whether we should imply a......
  • Payne v. Panama Canal Co., No. 78-2197
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 26, 1979
    ...Congress. Therefore, they bear interest only if and to the extent such interest is required by federal law. See Rodgers v. United States, 332 U.S. 371, 373, 68 S.Ct. 5, 7, 92 L.Ed. 3 (1953). There is no language in the Back Pay Act or in the statutory provisions relating to preference eligi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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