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Cruickshank v. Bidwell

U.S.
Jan 15, 1900
176 U.S. 73 (1900)

Summary

In Cruickshank v. Bidwell, 176 U.S. 73, at page 80, 20 S.Ct. 280, 283, 44 L.Ed. 377, the court said: "It is settled that the mere fact that a law is unconstitutional does not entitle a party to relief by injunction against proceedings in compliance therewith, but it must appear that he has no adequate remedy by the ordinary processes of the law, or that the case falls under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction."

Summary of this case from Paramino Lumber Co. v. Marshall

Opinion

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

No. 232.

Argued November 10, 13, 1899. Decided January 15, 1900.

The mere fact that a law is unconstitutional does not entitle a party to relief by injunction against proceedings in compliance therewith, but it must appear that he has no adequate remedy by the ordinary processes of the law, or that the case falls under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction; and in this case the averments of the complainants' bill did not justify such an interference with executive action. The seizure of importations of teas purchased after the approval of the act of March 2, 1897, c. 358, entitled "An act to prevent the importation of impure and unwholesome tea," and the establishment of regulations and standards thereunder, publicly promulgated and known to complainants, because falling below the standards prescribed, could inflict no other injury than what it must be assumed was anticipated, and the interposition of a court of equity cannot properly be invoked, under such circumstances, to determine in advance whether complainants, if they imported teas of that character, could escape the consequences on the ground of the invalidity of the law.

THIS is an appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York dismissing, on demurrer, a bill in equity brought by Cruickshank and others, copartners doing business in the city of New York, against George R. Bidwell, collector of customs for the port of New York.

The bill averred that complainants were engaged in importing teas from Japan into the United States; that during the month of November, 1897, they imported into the United States and entered at the custom house in the port of New York, several invoices of tea of the aggregate value of something over $4100; that they applied to defendant as collector of customs for permission to take possession of the goods, and the collector refused to permit them to do so, but retained the same in his own possession, claiming that he was thereunto authorized by the provisions of an act of Congress, approved March 2, 1897, c. 328, 29 Stat. 604, entitled "An act to prevent the importation of impure and unwholesome tea." This act is printed in the margin.

That defendant pretends that he is entitled "so to refuse to permit your orators to take possession of said teas and to dispose of the same, on the ground that samples of said teas, of each of said several invoices hereinafter set forth, have been taken by examiners appointed under the alleged authority of the said act of Congress, and compared with certain other samples of other teas selected by the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, and set up as standard samples of teas under the alleged authority of the said act of Congress, and that the samples so taken from the said teas hereinafter set forth, were inferior in some or all of the respects designated in said act of Congress, either as to purity, quality or fitness for consumption, to the standards so prescribed by said Secretary of the Treasury of the United States."

That defendant claims the right to retain the teas for six months, and then cause them to be destroyed, and demands that complainants shall give security satisfactory to him that if said teas shall be released to them, they will forthwith export said teas out of the limits of the United States, and will submit the invoices and various papers relating to said teas to be marked by defendant as teas "condemned under the laws of the United States."

The bill then specifically enumerated the entries of the teas, the warehouses in which they were, and their value respectively, and charged that said act of Congress was in all respects null and void and of no effect, because contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, in that the act "purports to delegate to the Secretary of the Treasury power and authority to legislate as to the quality, purity and fitness for consumption of the teas imported by your orators, and to authorize the defendant to seize, hold and destroy said teas, and deprive your orators of their property in the same without due process of law, and that in this suit the matter in dispute, to wit, the value of the said teas, and the right to import teas, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum or value of two thousand dollars, and the suit arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States."

It was further alleged that by reason of the matters set forth and the insistence of defendant that he is entitled to hold possession and control of the goods under authority of the act of Congress, "for the reason that the said examiners, after examination made pursuant to said statute, have declared the said teas to be inferior in the respects set forth in the said act of Congress, or some of them, to the standards fixed and selected by the Secretary of the Treasury, your orators will suffer irreparable damage; that the insistence of the defendant of his right to stamp the invoices and papers relating to the importation of said teas as condemned under the laws of the United States, renders the said teas worthless for export, and entry or sale in the markets of other countries, and that the said claim of the defendant that the said teas cannot be lawfully taken from the said warehouses, renders the said teas unsalable and worthless in the market, for the reason that dealers will not purchase or handle the said goods under the cloud or threat of illegality regarding the same created by such insistence and claim on the part of the defendant."

The bill continued: "Your orators further show that your orators purpose and intend to import from time to time other invoices of teas into the United States, and that the said defendant threatens and intends to seize and hold such teas, and take possession and control of the same, and refuse your orators possession of the same, in the same manner and under the same claim of authority of said act of Congress, as the said defendant has heretofore made and set up with regard to the teas hereinbefore set forth, and that your orators' right to import and deal in teas is thereby destroyed and taken away."

That complainants "do not set up or allege as ground for denying the right of the defendant so to hold and deal with said teas, as hereinbefore set forth, any defect, omission or irregularity in the proceedings by the examiners and appraisers with regard to said teas, but solely on the ground that the act of Congress hereinbefore referred to . . . is unconstitutional and void, and confers no authority upon the defendant, and creates no right in the defendant to refuse to permit your orators to take possession of the said teas and introduce them into, and sell them in, the United States." And further, that complainants had complied in all respects with the requirements of law as to the entry of the teas in the custom house at the port of New York; that there was no further act required by law of complainants to entitle them to take possession and dispose of the same; and that complainants "are without any adequate remedy at law."

The bill prayed for injunction restraining defendant "from continuing to hold possession of the said teas, as hereinbefore set forth, and from refusing to permit your orators to take possession of the same and withdraw the same from the said warehouses, and from marking or stamping the invoices and papers relating to the importation thereof with the words, `condemned under the laws of the United States,' or any words to that effect, and from destroying the said teas, and from exercising any alleged right, possession or authority relating to or concerning the said teas, purporting to be conferred or created or authorized by the said act of Congress;" and for general relief.

Mr. John S. Davenport for appellants.

Mr. Edward B. Whitney for appellee. Mr. Solicitor General was on his brief.

Mr. James L. Bishop by leave of court filed a brief on behalf of William J. Butterfield and others.


Complainants sought by this bill to enjoin an officer of the United States from the discharge of duties expressly imposed upon him by an act of Congress on the ground of its unconstitutionality. We are clear that its averments did not justify such an interference with executive action.

In Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company, 147 U.S. 165, the jurisdiction was sustained, but the Government raised no point as to the form of the remedy, and deprivation of a vested legal right of property, acquired before any suggestion that it could be taken away, was there threatened. And it appeared that the only remedy was through equity interposition. New Orleans v. Paine, 147 U.S. 261, 264. But we are unwilling to extend that precedent.

It is settled that the mere fact that a law is unconstitutional does not entitle a party to relief by injunction against proceedings in compliance therewith, but it must appear that he has no adequate remedy by the ordinary processes of the law or that the case falls under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction. Shelton v. Platt, 139 U.S. 591; Allen v. Pullman's Palace Car Company, 139 U.S. 658; Pacific Express Company v. Seibert, 142 U.S. 339; Pittsburg c. Railway Company v. Board of Public Works, 172 U.S. 32; Arkansas Building Loan Association v. Madden, 175 U.S. 269. As remarked by Mr. Justice Bradley in New York Guaranty Co. v. Memphis Water Co., 107 U.S. 205, 214, the sixteenth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, now section 723 of the Revised Statutes, declaring "that suits in equity shall not be sustained in either of the courts of the United States in any case where plain, adequate and complete remedy may be had at law" "certainly means something; and if only declaratory of what was always the law, it must at least have been intended to emphasize the rule, and to impress it upon the attention of the courts."

Inadequacy of remedy at law exists where the case made demands preventive relief, as, for instance, the prevention of multiplicity of suits, or the prevention of irreparable injury. The one head is well illustrated by Union Pacific Railway Company v. Cheyenne, 113 U.S. 516, and Smyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466, 517; and the other by Watson v. Sutherland, 5 Wall. 74; cited by counsel.

But this bill does not aver, nor does it appear, that there would be any multiplicity of suits if complainants were left to their remedy at law.

The sole ground of equity jurisdiction put forward is the inadequacy of remedy at law in that the injury threatened is not susceptible of complete compensation in damages. The mere assertion that the apprehended acts will inflict irreparable injury is not enough. Facts must be alleged from which the court can reasonably infer that such would be the result, and in this particular we think the bill fatally defective.

The matter in dispute was averred to be "the value of the said teas and the right to import teas."

Confessedly the value of these teas was known, and their destruction capable of being compensated by recovery at law. The official character of the collector, the provisions of the act, and the regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury in execution thereof would not constitute a defence, if the act were unconstitutional. There was no intimation that the collector would be unable to respond in judgment, and, moreover, section 989 of the Revised Statutes provides that when a recovery is had in any suit or proceeding against a collector for any act done by him, probable cause being certified, "the amount recovered shall, upon final judgment, be provided for and paid out of the proper appropriation from the Treasury." The Conqueror, 166 U.S. 110, 124.

Nor was there any averment of injury by reason of the condemnation of these teas other than the loss of the teas themselves.

The allegations in respect of apprehended deprivation of the right to import and deal in teas were that complainants intended to import from time to time other invoices of teas and that the collector threatened to take possession of and hold them in the exercise of authority under the act of Congress in the same manner as the particular teas in question. This was in effect to assert a vested right to import and deal in teas which might be impure and unwholesome, and which were at all events, inferior to the uniform standards "of purity, quality and fitness for consumption" fixed by the Secretary. The law does not prohibit the importation of teas coming up to the standards, and it is difficult to perceive the elements of irreparable injury in the denial of permission to import inferior teas.

Manifestly the seizure of importations of teas purchased after the approval of the act and the establishment of regulations and standards thereunder, publicly promulgated and known to complainants, because falling below the standards prescribed, could inflict no other injury than what it must be assumed was anticipated, and the interposition of a court of equity cannot properly be invoked, under such circumstances, to determine in advance whether complainants, if they imported teas of that character, could escape the consequences on the ground of the invalidity of the law.

As no tenable basis for equity interposition was shown, the decree of the Circuit Court dismissing the bill was rightly entered.

Decree affirmed.


Summaries of

Cruickshank v. Bidwell

U.S.
Jan 15, 1900
176 U.S. 73 (1900)

In Cruickshank v. Bidwell, 176 U.S. 73, at page 80, 20 S.Ct. 280, 283, 44 L.Ed. 377, the court said: "It is settled that the mere fact that a law is unconstitutional does not entitle a party to relief by injunction against proceedings in compliance therewith, but it must appear that he has no adequate remedy by the ordinary processes of the law, or that the case falls under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction."

Summary of this case from Paramino Lumber Co. v. Marshall
Case details for

Cruickshank v. Bidwell

Case Details

Full title:CRUICKSHANK v . BIDWELL

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jan 15, 1900

Citations

176 U.S. 73 (1900)
20 S. Ct. 280

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