Spielman Motor Sales Co v. Dodge, 567

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation55 S.Ct. 678,79 L.Ed. 1322,295 U.S. 89
Docket NumberNo. 567,567
PartiesSPIELMAN MOTOR SALES CO., Inc., v. DODGE, Dist. Atty. of New York County
Decision Date29 April 1935

295 U.S. 89
55 S.Ct. 678
79 L.Ed. 1322


DODGE, Dist. Atty. of New York County.

No. 567.
Argued March 11, 1935.
Decided April 29, 1935.

Page 90

Messrs. Isadore Paul and S. Frederick Placer, both of New York City, for appellant.

Mr. Karl D. Loos, of Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Mr. Henry Epstein, of New York City, for State of New York.

[Argument of Counsel from page 90 intentionally omitted]

Page 91

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant, a retail dealer in automobiles in the city of New York, brought this suit to restrain the district attorney of New York county from instituting a criminal prosecution for alleged violation of the 'Code of Fair Competition for the Motor Vehicle Retailing Trade.' Appellant alleged that he was threatened with prosecution under chapter 781 of the Laws of 1933, Ex. Sess., of the state of New York, which made it a misdemeanor to violate any provision of a code of fair competition as approved by the President of the United States under Title 1, § 1 et seq. of the National Industrial Recovery Act. 48 Stat. 195 (15 USCA § 701 et seq.) It appears that the charge of violation of the code related to the provisions which limited the amount to be allowed for an old car 'traded in' as part payment for a new car and required the maintenance of factory list prices, plus certain charges, with a prohibition against discounts, gratuities, etc., for the purpose of inducing purchases. The state statute was challenged as repugnant to the Constitution of the state, by reason of an improper delegation of legislative power, and also as effecting a deprivation of liberty and property without due process of law in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Appellant's application for an interlocutory injunction was heard in the District Court by three judges. Jud. Code, § 266, 28 U.S.C. § 380 (28 USCA § 380). There was also a motion by the defendant to dismiss the bill of complaint upon the grounds, among others, that it failed to allege facts constituting an equitable cause of action, and that the District Court was without jurisdiction. Pursuant to notice, the Attorney General of the state appeared in support of the state act. Affidavits were submitted on both sides and, on hearing, the District Court sustained the

Page 92

validity of the statute and, on that ground, denied the motion for injunction, and granted the motion to dismiss the bill. An order to that effect was entered and the case comes here on appeal.

Upon the argument at this bar, the questions were raised (1) whether the district attorney was an officer of the state within the meaning of section 266 of the Judicial Code (28 USCA § 380), and (2) whether the complaint stated a cause of action within the equitable jurisdiction of the District Court. The case was continued to permit the parties to file briefs upon these questions, and the briefs are now in.

First. If the district attorney of the county of New York is to be deemed a local officer, performing a local function in a matter of interest only to the particular county, section 266 of the Judicial Code has no application and we are without jurisdiction of this direct appeal from the District Court. Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. 565, 568, 48 S.Ct. 585, 586, 72 L.Ed. 990; Ex parte Public National Bank, 278 U.S. 101, 104, 49 S.Ct. 43, 73 L.Ed. 202; School District No. 7 v. Hunnicut, County Superintendent, 283 U.S. 810, 51 S.Ct. 653, 75 L.Ed. 1428. See, also, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. v. Packing Co., 292 U.S. 386, 390, 54 S.Ct. 732, 78 L.Ed. 1318.

The office of district attorney in the state of New York was created in 1801. In each of the districts as then established, which included several counties, he was charged with duties which previously had devolved upon an Assistant Attorney General. In 1815 the county of New York was made a separate district, and in 1818 provision was made for the appointment of a district attorney in each county. The power of appointment was vested in the governor and the council of appointment until the Constitution of 1821, when that power was given to the county courts. The Constitution of 1846 provided that district attorneys should be chosen by the electors of the respective counties.

Despite this provision for local elections, the district attorney in each county has been regarded as a state officer performing a state function and taking the place, in

Page 93

respect to his duties within the district or county, of the Attorney General, upon whom at the outset these duties had been laid. Lincoln's Constitutional History of New York, vol. 2, pp. 529, 530; vol. 4, pp. 722, 723. Under the state statutes prior to 1892, it appears that district attorneys were classified as judicial officers. N.Y. 1 Rev. Stat., pt. 1, c. 5, tit. 1. In Fellows v. Mayor, etc., of City of New York (1876) 8 Hun (N.Y.) 484, 485, dealing with the status of an assistant district attorney, the court said: 'It is conceded that the district attorney is a...

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297 cases
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • 21 Enero 1958
    ...exceptional circumstances where there is a clear showing of danger of immediate irreparable injury. Spielman Motor Sales Co. v. Dodge, 295 U.S. 89, 95, 55 S.Ct. 678, 79 L.Ed. 1322; Beal v. Missouri Pacific R. Corp., 312 U.S. 45, 49, 61 S.Ct. 418, 85 L.Ed. 577. It is obvious that the present......
  • Klim v. Jones, Civ. A. No. 52332.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • 17 Julio 1970
    ..."Three-Judge District Courts: Some Problems and a Proposal," 54 Corn.L.Q. 928, 940 (1969). 5 E. g., Spielman Motor Sales Co. v. Dodge, 295 U.S. 89, 55 S.Ct. 678, 79 L.Ed. 1322 (1935); Bell v. Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, 279 F.2d 853 (2d Cir. 1960); Valtierra v. Housing Authori......
  • Summit Medical Associates, P.C. v. James
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    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • 26 Enero 1998
    ...The court does note, however, that Wooley derived the `exceptional circumstances' formula from Spielman Motor Sales Co. v. Dodge, 295 U.S. 89, 95, 55 S.Ct. 678, 680, 79 L.Ed. 1322 (1935), one of the decisions that the Court cited in Younger to justify its adoption of the `extraordinary circ......
  • Hynes v. Grimes Packing Co
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 31 Mayo 1949
    ...reservation make clear the serious effect on them of exclusion from the reservation. It is not a threat of a single prosecution, as in the Spielman case, but an ousting of respondents and their employees from the fishing grounds unless each individual person takes a fishing license. Under t......
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1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 72 No. 4, June 2022
    • 22 Junio 2022
    ...v. Boykin, 271 U.S. 240 (1926), aff'g 3 F.2d 674 (N.D. Ga. 1925) (three-judge court); then citing Spielman Motor Sales Co. v. Dodge, 295 U.S. 89 (1935) (affirming three-judge district court from S.D.N.Y.); and then citing Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387 (1941), aff'g 34 F. Supp. 510 (N.D. Fla.......

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