Argued January 16, 1906. Decided February 19, 1906.
Where, in a suit to cancel the revocation of an annual permit to do business in a State, the permit has ceased, since the writ of error was filed, to have any effect, and the plaintiff in error could not do business even if successful without obtaining a new permit, an event has occurred which renders it impossible for this court to grant any relief, and, as only an abstract question remains to be decided, the writ of error will be dismissed.
The company then commenced these proceedings in the proper state court of Kentucky, asking that the Insurance Commissioner be required to cancel the revocation of the authority of the plaintiff and its agents to do business in the State, and that he should grant, or continue, the authority to the plaintiff, and its agents, to transact the business of life insurance in the State; and that the Commissioner should be required to publish in a newspaper the fact of such cancelation, and that he should be restrained and enjoined from notifying the general agents of the plaintiff of the suspension of its license. The company specially set up the claim that, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, it was entitled to remove the suit mentioned from the state court into the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and that any statute of the State of Kentucky in anywise restricting or affecting that right was void as a violation of the Federal Constitution.The defendant demurred to the petition on the ground that it did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. The trial court overruled the demurrer, and the defendant Commissioner declining to plead further, the prayer of the insurance company was granted, and judgment was entered (1) directing the defendant to cancel the revocation of the permit; (2) granting authority to the company to transact business in the State; (3) restraining the Commissioner from notifying the general agents of the company of the suspension of its license and its right to do business in the State; (4) enjoining the Commissioner from applying to any judge for an injunction restraining the company from further proceeding with its business. The defendant prayed an appeal to the Court of Appeals of the State, which was granted, and that court reversed the judgment of the trial court, and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the petition, and judgment to that effect was thereupon entered. 83 S.W. 611.
Mr. Wm. Marshall Bullitt, with whom Mr. F.W. Jenkins, Mr. Julien T. Davies and Mr. Charles S. Grubbs were on the brief, for plaintiff in error.
Mr. J.H. Hazelrigg, with whom Mr. N.B. Hays, Attorney General of the State of Kentucky, and Mr. H.R. Prewitt were on the brief, for defendant in error.
It appears that the laws of Kentucky require the annual renewal of the permit to any foreign insurance company, in order that the company may continue to do business in the State, and without such license the company is prohibited from doing any business therein.
The writ of error in this case was filed January 27, 1905. and the license was granted July 1, 1904, and expired by its terms, if not sooner revoked, on the first day of July, 1905. The permit, even if illegally revoked prior to that time, became a dead letter on July 1, 1905, so far as constituting any authority to the company to remain in the State and do business therein. If the court should now assume to cancel the revocation it could not thereby reinstate the permit, which has already expired, and the company would still be without power to do business in the State until another permit should be granted. To adjudge that the old permit remained good until the expiration of the year is to adjudge an abstract question, as no relief can be now awarded concerning it. The refusal on the part of the Insurance Commissioner to grant authority to plaintiff to transact business after the old permit had expired does not raise a Federal question. Since the writ of error was filed the permit has ceased to have any effect, and, therefore, an event has occurred which renders it impossible for this court to grant any effectual relief in favor of plaintiff in error. In such case the court will dismiss the writ of error. Mills v. Green, 159 U.S. 651; Tennessee v. Condon, 189 U.S. 64; Jones v. Montague, 194 U.S. 147.
It would seem to be plain that the cancelation of a revocation of a permit, when the permit itself has become of no effect by virtue of the lapse of time, would be useless business, and would give no practical relief to the company.