National Cotton Oil Company v. Texas
United States Supreme Court
NATIONAL COTTON OIL COMPANY v. TEXAS
Argued: November 1, 2, 1904. --- Decided: February 27, 1905
This suit was brought under the antitrust acts of the state of Texas, to forfeit the license of the National Cotton Oil Company to do business in the state of Texas, for violating those acts. The defense is that they are repugnant to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
The suit was instituted by the attorney general of the state and the district attorney of the twenty-sixth judicial district, and the petition alleged the following facts: The National Cotton Oil Company and the Southern Cotton Oil Company are New Jersey corporations, doing and transacting business in the state of Texas by reason of a permit issued to them respectively on the 2d day of May, 1900, and the 3d day of June, 1897.
The Taylor Cotton Oil Works is a Texas corporation doing business in the state under a charter granted August 25, 1898. The said foreign corporations, from the date of their respective permits and the Taylor Cotton Oil Works from the date of its charter have been and are 'engaged in the business of the manufacture and sale of cotton-seed oil, cotton-seed meal, and the other by-products of cotton seed; that the business in which each and all of such corporations were engaged necessitated the purchased of cotton seed from which the products which they manufactured and sold were made, and that said cotton seed was an article and commodity of merchandise.'
Each of them on or about the 1st of November, 1901, and on every day prior and subsequently thereto, has been engaged in the business of buying cotton seed in the various counties of the state, and on the 1st of November, 1901, the National Cotton Oil Company made and entered into a combination with each of the other companies, and they with it, and each of them with various other persons, firms, and corporations, whose names are to the defendant in error unknown, and the said corporations 'became members of and parties to a pool, trust, agreement, confederation, and understanding with each of the other of said corporations, firms, and persons, whereby they did each for itself and with each other and all together agree to regulate and fix, and did regulate and fix, the price at which they would buy cotton seed; that they especially regulated and fixed the price of cotton seed throughout the state of Texas at $14.00 per ton, and agreed amongst and with each other that they would not give more than said $14.00 per ton for cotton seed in any of the towns and communities of the state of Texas.' Whereby, 'and by maintaining the agreement to regulate and fix the price of cotton seed aforesaid, the defendant (the National Cotton Oil Company) was guilty of a violation of the laws of the state of Texas,' and in consequence has forfeited its permit to transact business in the state.
The cancelation and forfeiture of the permit was prayed, and that the oil company be enjoined from transacting business in the state. A demurrer was filed to the petition for insufficiency in law to entitle the state to any relief, and alleged against each of the anti-trust acts of the state and the provisions of the Penal Code based thereon, that they violated § 1, article 14 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, in that the act of March 30, 1889, and the Code provisions based thereon, deprived the company of the equal protection of the laws, because it was provided by § 13 of said act and article 988 of the Penal Code that the said statutes 'shall not apply to agricultural products or live stock while in the hands of the producer or raiser.' And that the act of April 30, 1895, and certain sections of the Revised Statutes of Texas and of the Penal Code were likewise discriminatory because of the same exceptions, and the further exception that said statutes should not be held to 'be understood or considered to prevent the organization of laborers for the purpose of maintaining any standard of wages;' and the act of May 25, 1899, because it was cumulative and a mere supplement to the others, and carried, therefore, the same unconstitutional discriminations.
All of the acts and Code provisions are charged with depriving the oil company of its property without due process of law and in violation of the 14th Amendment, in that the penalties are excessive and their provisions so vague and uncertain that the company is denied a resort to the tribunals of the country to defend its rights, except on the condition that, if not successful, it shall subject its property to confiscation and forfeit its right to do business in the state.
It is also urged as a ground of demurrer that the act of 1895 violated a provision of the Constitution of the state which prohibited a bill to contain more than one subject.
The demurrer was overruled. The company declined to answer further, and judgment was entered forfeiting the license or permit of the company, and enjoining the company from transacting any business in the state, 'except such business as may be and constitute interstate commerce.' The judgment was affirmed by the court of civil appeals. A rehearing was denied and a writ of error from the supreme court refused. This writ of error was then granted.
Messrs. William V. Rowe, R. S. Lovett, Ralph Oakley, and James A. Baker for plaintiffs in error.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 118-126 intentionally omitted]
Mr. C. K. Bell for defendant in error.
Statement by Mr. Justice McKenna: Mr. Justice McKenna, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court:
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