Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation123 N.W. 785,141 Wis. 150
Decision Date07 December 1909
PartiesWADHAMS OIL CO. v. TRACY, STATE SUPERVISOR OF INSPECTORS OF ILLUMINATING OILS.

141 Wis. 150
123 N.W. 785

WADHAMS OIL CO.
v.
TRACY, STATE SUPERVISOR OF INSPECTORS OF ILLUMINATING OILS.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Dec. 7, 1909.



Syllabus by the Judge.

It is competent for a court of equity to entertain an action commenced by a person, specially interested, against administrative officers to enjoin them from executing a law, upon the ground of its being unconstitutional, when such person would otherwise be irremediably damaged.

The question of equity jurisdiction relates, technically, to power itself, but in the broader sense, when such power should or should not be used.

Courts of equity should, as a rule, decline to exercise jurisdiction, though having it, to enjoin public officers from executing the legislative will as to mere minor features of an enactment, not essential to efficacy of the general and dominant features.

Reasonable legislative regulations regarding the adaptability of things placed on sale for human consumption, such as the products of mineral oil, and the proper keeping and handling thereof, for the prevention of fraud, are as well within sovereign police authority, as such regulations for conservation of public safety.

A legislative enactment (Laws 1909, p. 409, c. 363) under the police power cannot be condemned as a taxing measure and out of harmony with the constitutional rule of uniformity in that regard, unless the fees exacted are so clearly excessive, that the Legislature could not reasonably have had in contemplation an equivalent for the mere expense of executing the law.

An allegation in a complaint, challenging the legitimacy of an ostensible police regulation on the ground that the fees provided for are so large as to show, clearly, that the object thereof was revenue, does not tender an issue of fact for confession or denial by the adverse party, when it can be clearly seen from the face of the pleading, in the light of common knowledge and established judicial rules, that the fees are within reason as mere expenses of executing the law.

A valid police regulation is not subject to successful attack under the commerce clause of the national Constitution (article 1, § 8).

Disbursements of money from the state treasury, must be preceded by an audit by the Secretary of State.

A legislative enactment (Laws 1909, p. 409, c. 363), so far as it authorizes payment of money out of the state treasury without constitutional audit, violates section 2, art. 6, making the Secretary of State ex officio State Auditor.


Appeal from Circuit Court, Milwaukee County; Warren D. Tarrant, Judge.

Action for an injunction by the Wadhams Oil Company against Edward L. Tracy, as State Supervisor of Inspectors of Illuminating Oils. From an order sustaining a demurrer to the complaint and an order vacating the temporary injunction granted, plaintiff appeals. Affirmed.

Action to enjoin execution of chapter 363, p. 409, Laws 1909, upon the ground that it is unconstitutional. A temporary injunction was granted on a verified complaint. There was a demurrer for insufficiency and a motion to vacate the injunction. The former was sustained and the latter granted. The appeal is from both orders.

The complaint, among other things, stated, that plaintiff is a Wisconsin corporation, engaged in this state, in dealing in products of petroleum, including kerosene oil, gasoline, benzine and naphtha; for illuminating, heating and power purposes, all of which are subjects of interstate commerce, and are brought into this state to supply trade in which plaintiff is engaged; that defendant and his assistants, as state agents, under pretended authority of the legislative enactment mentioned, will, unless judicially prevented, interfere with plaintiff's business, to its great pecuniary and irremediable detriment; that the act violates article 1, § 1, article 1, § 13, article 1, § 22, article 4, § 18, article 6, § 2, and article 8, § 1, of the state Constitution; also article 1, § 8, article 1, § 10, of federal Constitution and articles 5 and 14 of amendments to the federal Constitution; that the inspection fees are exorbitant and the act, generally, is unreasonable and indefinite.

The material interferences authorized by the act are, as follows:

(1) All products, mentioned in the act, sold in this state for illuminating or heating purposes, shall be inspected by the state agents, mentioned, under such rules as the chief agent may make, consistent with the provisions of the act.

(2) All packages or inclosures shall be marked so as to evidence the inspection and under such rules as to prevent such evidence being used a second time.

(3) The inspection fees shall be deposited in the state treasury and devoted wholly to expense of the inspection department.

(4) Every product of which petroleum, or any product thereof, forms a constituent part, shall, before being offered for sale in this state for illuminating or heating purposes, be inspected and marked as provided.

(5) Gasoline and like products of petroleum need only be inspected as to specific gravity, the result in each case to be stamped on the package or inclosure, provided, however, that such products, when sold or delivered in bulk from a tank wagon, need only be safeguarded by the wagon having thereon the character of the product delivered therefrom, as indicated in the act.

(6) The standard of test shall be as indicated, and shall be made, promptly, when demanded, and the fee therefor shall be paid by the demandant at 10 cents per cask, barrel, package, or sample. In case of the products being in large inclosures there shall be a fee as for barrel lots of 50 gallons.

(7) Illuminating oil shall be tested for temperature at which it will emit a combustible vapor and burn freely, and gasoline and like products of petroleum for their gravity, and if found to satisfy statutory requirements, shall be marked over the signature of the tester, if oil, “approved for illuminating, heating or power purposes;” and if such other products, the specific gravity, specifying the district and date of the test; and a certificate shall be issued by the tester, containing stated specifications. All products, not meeting the required test, shall receive a specified mark of condemnation.

(8) The inspector shall have authority to enter any private premises of any manufacturer, refiner or vendor of products requiring inspection, and make the proper test and marking of any such product found not to have been so tested and marked, and examine the books and records of the parties for purposes of discovery.

(9) Any shipment in a tank shall be inspected before unloading, provided the delay shall not be over twenty-four hours, in which case the testing may be done after unloading. In case of inspected oils being placed in stationary tanks, no other inspection shall be necessary, but the tank shall be duly marked by the inspector as provided.

(10) In case of...

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35 practice notes
  • Malone v. Meres
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 30, 1926
    ...People v. Kizer, 151 Ill.App. 6; International Paper Co. v. Bellows Falls Canal Co., 91 Vt. 350, 100 A. 684; Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N.W. 785, 18 Ann. Cas. 779. 'If the defect of jurisdiction springs from want of power, the result is void; if from inexcusable departure f......
  • State ex rel. Bolens v. Frear
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 9, 1912
    ...Am. St. Rep. 27;Bonnett v. Vallier, 136 Wis. 193, 116 N. W. 885, 17 L. R. A. (N. S.) 486, 128 Am. St. Rep. 1061;Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N. W. 785. But this court has clearly recognized that this power is a delicate one, and to be used only with a wise discretion. It was ......
  • State ex rel. Wausau St. Ry. Co. v. Bancroft
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 30, 1912
    ...Oconto Land Co., 136 Wis. 516, 117 N. W. 1023;Benz v. Kremer, 142 Wis. 1, 125 N. W. 99, 26 L. R. A. (N. S.) 842;Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N. W. 785;State ex rel. Buell v. Frear, 146 Wis. 291, 131 N. W. 832, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 480;Allaby v. Mauston, etc., Co., 135 Wis. 345......
  • Utah Construction Company v. State Highway Commission, 1773
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 13, 1933
    ...57 P. 449; and also the term "audit." Territory v. Grant, (Wyo.) 21 P. 613; State v. Burdick, 3 Wyo. 587; Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, (Wis.) 123 N.W. 785; State v. Hackman, (Mo.) 207 S.W. 494; State v. Wilder, (Mo. ) 95 S.W. 396; Clark v. Carter, (Okla.) 209 P. 932; State v. Steen, (N. D.) 23......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
35 cases
  • Malone v. Meres
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • April 30, 1926
    ...People v. Kizer, 151 Ill.App. 6; International Paper Co. v. Bellows Falls Canal Co., 91 Vt. 350, 100 A. 684; Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N.W. 785, 18 Ann. Cas. 779. 'If the defect of jurisdiction springs from want of power, the result is void; if from inexcusable departure f......
  • State ex rel. Bolens v. Frear
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 9, 1912
    ...Am. St. Rep. 27;Bonnett v. Vallier, 136 Wis. 193, 116 N. W. 885, 17 L. R. A. (N. S.) 486, 128 Am. St. Rep. 1061;Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N. W. 785. But this court has clearly recognized that this power is a delicate one, and to be used only with a wise discretion. It was ......
  • State ex rel. Wausau St. Ry. Co. v. Bancroft
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 30, 1912
    ...Oconto Land Co., 136 Wis. 516, 117 N. W. 1023;Benz v. Kremer, 142 Wis. 1, 125 N. W. 99, 26 L. R. A. (N. S.) 842;Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, 141 Wis. 150, 123 N. W. 785;State ex rel. Buell v. Frear, 146 Wis. 291, 131 N. W. 832, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 480;Allaby v. Mauston, etc., Co., 135 Wis. 345......
  • Utah Construction Company v. State Highway Commission, 1773
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 13, 1933
    ...57 P. 449; and also the term "audit." Territory v. Grant, (Wyo.) 21 P. 613; State v. Burdick, 3 Wyo. 587; Wadhams Oil Co. v. Tracy, (Wis.) 123 N.W. 785; State v. Hackman, (Mo.) 207 S.W. 494; State v. Wilder, (Mo. ) 95 S.W. 396; Clark v. Carter, (Okla.) 209 P. 932; State v. Steen, (N. D.) 23......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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