United States v. Darby

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation312 U.S. 100,85 L.Ed. 609,312 U.S. 657,61 S.Ct. 451
Docket NumberNo. 82,82
Decision Date03 February 1941

[Syllabus from pages 100-102 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Robert H. Jackson, Atty. Gen., and Francis Biddle, Sol. Gen., for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 102-104 intentionally omitted] Mr. Archibald B. Lovett, of Savannah, Ga., for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from Pages 105-107 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The two principal questions raised by the record in this case are, first, whether Congress has constitutional power to prohibit the shipment in interstate commerce of lumber manufactured by employees whose wages are less than a prescribed minimum or whose weekly hours of labor at that wage are greater than a prescribed maximum, and, second, whether it has power to prohibit the employment of workmen in the production of goods 'for interstate commerce' at other than prescribed wages and hours. A subsidiary question is whether in connection with such prohibitions Congress can require the employer subject to them to keep records showing the hours worked each day and week by each of his employees including those engaged 'in the production and manufacture of goods to wit, lumber, for 'interstate commerce."

Appellee demurred to an indictment found in the district court for southern Georgia charging him with violation of § 15(a)(1)(2) and (5) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 52 Stat. 1060, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq. The district court sustained the demurrer and quashed the indictment and the case comes here on direct appeal under § 238 of the Judicial Code as amended, 28 U.S.C. § 345, 28 U.S.C.A. § 345, and § 682, Title 18 U.S.C., 34 Stat. 1246, 18 U.S.C.A. § 682, which authorizes an appeal to this Court when the judgment sustaining the demurrer 'is based upon the invalidity, or construction of the statute upon which the indictment is founded'.

The Fair Labor Standards Act set up a comprehensive legislative scheme for preventing the shipment in interstate commerce of certain products and commodities produced in the United States under labor conditions as respects wages and hours which fail to conform to standards set up by the Act. Its purpose, as we judicially know from the declaration of policy in § 2(a) of the Act,1 and the reports of Congressional committees proposing the legislation, S.Rept. No. 884, 75th Cong. 1st Sess.; H.Rept. No. 1452, 75th Cong. 1st Sess.; H.Rept. No. 2182, 75th Cong. 3d Sess., Conference Report, H.Rept. No. 2738, 75th Cong. 3d Sess., is to exclude from interstate commerce goods produced for the commerce and to prevent their production for interstate commerce, under conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health and general well-being; and to prevent the use of interstate commerce as the means of competition in the distribution of goods so produced, and as the means of spreading and perpetuating such substandard labor conditions among the workers of the several states. The Act also sets up an administrative procedure whereby those standards may from time to time be modified generally as to industries subject to the Act or within an industry in accordance with specified standards, by an administrator acting in collaboration with 'Industry Committees' appointed by him.

Section 15 of the statute prohibits certain specified acts and § 16(a) punishes willful violation of it by a fine of not more than $10,000 and punishes each conviction after the first by imprisonment of not more than six months or by the specified fine or both. Section 15(a)(1) makes unlawful the shipment in interstate commerce of any goods 'in the production of which any employee was employed in violation of section 6(206) or section 7(207)', which provide, among other things, that during the first year of operation of the Act a minimum wage of 25 cents per hour shall be paid to employees 'engaged in (interstate) commerce or in the production of goods for (interstate) commerce,' § 6, and that the maximum hours of employment for employees 'engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce' without increased compensation for overtime, shall be forty-four hours a week. § 7.

Section 15(a)(2) makes it unlawful to violate the provisions of §§ 6 and 7 including the minimum wage and maximum hour requirements just mentioned for employees engaged in production of goods for commerce. Section 15(a)(5) makes it unlawful for an employer subject to the Act to violate § 11(c) which requires him to keep such records of the persons employed by him and of their wages and hours of employment as the administrator shall prescribe by regulation or order.

The indictment charges that appellee is engaged, in the state of Georgia, in the business of acquiring raw materials, which he manufactures into finished lumber with the intent, when manufactured, to ship it in interstate commerce to customers outside the state, and that he does in fact so ship a large part of the lumber so produced. There are numerous counts charging appellee with the shipment in interstate commerce from Georgia to points outside the state of lumber in the production of which, for interstate commerce, appellee has employed workmen at less than the prescribed minimum wage or more than the prescribed maximum hours without payment to them of any wage for overtime. Other counts charge the employment by appellee of workmen in the production of lumber for interstate commerce at wages of less than 25 cents an hour or for more than the maximum hours per week without payment to them of the prescribed overtime wage. Still another count charges appellee with failure to keep records showing the hours worked each day a week by each of his employees as required by § 11(c) and the regulation of the administrator, Title 29, Ch. 5, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 516, and also that appellee unlawfully failed to keep such records of employees engaged 'in the production and manufacture of goods, to-wit lumber, for interstate commerce'.

The demurrer, so far as now relevant to the appeal, challenged the validity of the Fair Labor Standards Act under the Commerce Clause, Art. 1, § 8, cl. 3, and the Fifth and Tenth Amendments. The district court quashed the indictment in its entirety upon the broad grounds that the Act, which it interpreted as a regulation of manufacture within the states, is unconstitutional. It declared that manufacture is not interstate commerce and that the regulation by the Fair Labor Standards Act of wages and hours of employment of those engaged in the manufac- ture of goods which it is intended at the time of production 'may or will be' after production 'sold in interstate commerce in part or in whole' is not within the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce.

The effect of the court's decision and judgment are thus to deny the power of Congress to prohibit shipment in interstate commerce of lumber produced for interstate commerce under the proscribed substandard labor conditions of wages and hours, its power to penalize the employer for his failure to conform to the wage and hour provisions in the case of employees engaged in the production of lumber which he intends thereafter to ship in interstate commerce in part or in whole according to the normal course of his business and its power to compel him to keep records of hours of employment as required by the statute and the regulations of the administrator.

The case comes here on assignments by the Government that the district court erred insofar as it held that Congress was without constitutional power to penalize the acts set forth in the indictment, and appellees seek to sustain the decision below on the grounds that the prohibition by Congress of those Acts is unauthorized by the commerce clause and is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. The appeals statute limits our jurisdiction on this appeal to a review of the determination of the district court so far only as it is based on the validity or construction of the statute. United States v. Borden Co., 308 U.S. 188, 193, 195, 60 S.Ct. 182, 185, 186, 84 L.Ed. 181, and cases cited. Hence we accept the district court's interpretation of the indictment and confine our decision to the validity and construction of the statute.

The prohibition of shipment of the proscribed goods in interstate commerce. Section 15(a)(1) prohibits, and the indictment charges, the shipment in interstate commerce, of goods produced for interstate commerce by employees whose wages and hours of employment do not conform to the requirements of the Act. Since this section is not violated unless the commodity shipped has been produced under labor conditions prohibited by § 6 and § 7, the only question arising under the commerce clause with respect to such shipments is whether Congress has the constitutional power to prohibit them.

While manufacture is not of itself interstate commerce the shipment of manufactured goods interstate is such commerce and the prohibition of such shipment by Congress is indubitably a regulation of the commerce. The power to regulate commerce is the power 'to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed'. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196, 6 L.Ed. 23. It extends not only to those regulations which aid, foster and protect the commerce, but embraces those which prohibit it. Reid v. Colorado, 187 U.S. 137, 23 S.Ct. 92, 47 L.Ed. 108; Lottery Case (Champion v. Ames), 188 U.S. 321, 23 S.Ct. 321, 47 L.Ed. 492; United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366, 29 S.Ct. 527, 53 L.Ed. 836; Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 33 S.Ct. 281, 57 L.Ed. 523, 43 L.R.A.,N.S., 906, Ann.Cas.1913E, 905; Clark Distilling Co. v. Western Maryland R. Co., 242 U.S. 311, 37 S.Ct. 180, 61 L.Ed. 326, L.R.A.1917B, 1218, Ann.Cas.1917B, 845; ...

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