State of Minnesota v. Barber

Decision Date19 May 1890
Citation34 L.Ed. 455,10 S.Ct. 862,136 U.S. 313
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Gordon E. Cole, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from page 314 intentionally omitted] L. T. Michener, J. E. McDonald, and John M. Butler, for State of Indiana, (by leave of court.)

Jas. O. Broadhead, for State of Missouri, (by leave of court.)

W. C. Goudy, Albert H. Veeder, Walter H. Sanborn, Wallace Pratt, and Geo. W. McCrary, for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 315-317 intentionally omitted]


Henry E. Barber, the appellee, was convicted, before a justice of the peace in Ramsey county, Minn., of the offense of having wrongfully and unlawfully offered and exposed for sale, and of having sold, for human food, 100 pounds of fresh, uncured beef, part of an animal slaughtered in the state of Illinois, but which had not been inspected in Minnesota, and 'certified' before slaughter by an inspector appointed under the laws of the latter state. Having been committed to the common jail of the county pursuant to a judgment of imprisonment for the term of 30 days, he sued out a writ of habeas corpus from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Minnesota, and prayed to be discharged from such imprisonment, upon the ground that the statute of that state, approved April 16, 1889, and under which he was prosecuted, was repugnant to the provision of the constitution giving congress power to regulate commerce among the several states, as well as to the provision declaring that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states. Article 1,§ 8; article 4, § 2. The court below, speaking by Judge NELSON, held the statute to be in violation of both of these provisions, and discharged the prisoner from custody. In re Barber, 39 Fed. Rep. 641. A similar conclusion in reference to the same statute had been previously reached by Judge BLODGETT, holding the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Illinois. Swift v. Sutphin, Id. 630.

From the judgment discharging Barber the state has prosecuted the present appeal. Rev. St. § 764; 23 St. p. 437, c. 353.

Attorneys representing persons interested in maintaining the validity of a statute of Indiana alleged to be similar to that of Minnesota were allowed to participate in the argument in this court, and to file briefs.

The statute of Minnesota upon the validity of which the decision of the case depends is as follows:

'An act for the protection of the public health by providing for inspection before slaughter of cattle, sheep, and swine designed for slaughter for human food.

'Section 1. The sale of any fresh beef, veal, mutton, lamb, or pork for human food in this state, except as hereinafter provided, is hereby prohibited.

'Sec. 2. It shall be the duty of the several local boards of health of the several cities, villages, boroughs, and townships within this state to appoint one or more inspectors of cattle, sheep, and swine, for said city, village, borough, or township, who shall hold their offices for one year, and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and whose authority and jurisdiction shall be territorially co-extensive with the board so appointing them; and said several boards shall regulate the form of certificate to be issued by such inspectors, and the fees to be paid them by the person applying for such inspection, which fees shall be no greater than are actually necessary to defray the costs of the inspection provided for in section three of this act.

'Sec. 3. It shall be the duty of the inspectors appointed hereunder to inspect all cattle, sheep, and swine slaughtered for human food within their respective jurisdictions within twenty-four hours before the slaughter of the same, and, if found healthy, and in suitable condition to be slaughtered for human food, to give to the applicant a certificate in writing to that effect. If found unfit for food by reason of infectious disease, such inspectors shall order the immediate removal and destruction of such diseased animals, and no liability for damages shall accrue by reason of such action.

'Sec. 4. Any person who shall sell, expose or offer for sale, for human food in this state, any fresh beef, veal, mutton, lamb, or pork whatsoever, which has not been taken from an animal inspected and certified before slaughter, by the proper local inspector appointed hereunder, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding three months, for each offense.

'Sec. 5. Each and every certificate made by inspectors under the provisions of this act shall contain a statement to the effect that the animal or animals inspected, describing them as to kind and sex, were at the date of such inspection free from all indication of disease, apparently in good health, and in fit condition, when inspected, to be slaughtered for human food; a duplicate of which certificate shall be preserved in the office of the inspector.

'Sec. 6. Any inspector making a false certificate shall be liable to a fine of not less than ten dollars, nor more than fifty dollars, for each animal falsely certified to be fit for human food under the provisions of this act.

'Sec. 7. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.' Gen. Laws Minn. 1889, p. 51, c. 8.

The presumption that this statute was enacted, in good faith, for the purpose expressed in the title, namely, to protect the health of the people of Minnesota, cannot control the final determinatio of the question whether it is not repugnant to the constitution of the United States. There may be no purpose upon the part of a legislature to violate the provisions of that instrument, and yet a statute enacted by it, under the forms of law, may, by its necessary operation, be destructive of rights granted or secured by the constitution. In such cases the courts must sustain the supreme law of the land by declaring the statute unconstitutional and void. This principle of constitutional interpretation has been often announced by this court. In Henderson v. Mayor, etc., 92 U. S. 259, 268, where a statute of New York, imposing burdensome and almost impossible conditions on the landing of passengers from vessels employed in foreign commerce, was held to be unconstitutional and void as a regulation of such commerce, the court said that, 'in whatever language a statute may be framed, its purpose must be determined by its natural and reasonable effect.' In People v. Compagnie Gen. Transatlantique, 107 U. S. 59, 63, 2 Sup. Ct. Rep. 87, where the question was as to the validity of a statute of the same state, which was attempted to be supported as an inspection law authorized by section 10, art. 1 of the constitution, and was so designated in its title, it was said: 'A state cannot make a law designed to raise money to support paupers, to detect or prevent crime, to guard against disease, and to cure the sick, an inspection law, within the constitutional meaning of that word, by calling it so in the title.' So, in Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U. S. 703, 710, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 730: 'The rule is general, with reference to the enactments of all legislative bodies, that the courts cannot inquire into the motives of the legislators in passing them, except as they may be disclosed on the face of the acts, or inferable from their operation, considered with reference to the condition of the country and existing legislation. The motives of the legislators, considered as to the purposes they had in view, will always be presumed to be to accomplish that which follows as the natural and reasonable effect of their enactments.' In Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U. S. 623, 661, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 273, the court, after observing that every possible presumption is to be indulged in favor of the validity of a statute, said that the judiciary must obey the constitution, rather than the law-making department of the government, and must, upon its own responsibility, determine whether, in any particular case, the limits of the constitution have been passed. It was added: 'If, therefore, a statute purporting to have been enacted to protect the public health, the public morals, or the public safety, has no real or substantial relation to those objects, or is a palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law, it is the duty of the courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to the constitution.' Upon the authority of those cases, and others that could be cited, it is our duty to inquire, in respect to the statute before us, not only whether there is a real or substantial relation between its avowed objects and the means devised for attaining those objects, but whether, by its necessary or natural operation, it impairs or destroys rights secured by the constitution of the United States.

Underlying the entire argument in behalf of the state is the proposition that it is impossible to tell, by an inspection of fresh beef, mutton, lamb, or pork, designed for human food, whether or not it came from animals that were diseased when slaughtered; that inspection on the hoof, within a very short time before animals are slaughtered, is the only mode by which their condition can be ascertained with certainty. And it is insisted with great confidence that of this fact the court must take judicial notice. If a fact alleged to exist, and upon which the rights of parties depend, is within common experience and knowledge, it is one of which the courts will take judicial notice. Brown v. Piper, 91 U.S . 37, 42; Phillips v. Detroit, 111 U. S. 604, 606, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 580. But we cannot assent to the suggestion that the fact alleged in this case to exist is of that class. It may be the opinion of some that the presence of disease in animals at the time of their being slaughtered cannot be determined by...

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