Gompers v. Buck's Stove & Range Company

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Gompers v. Buck's Stove & Range Company
Syllabus
Gompers v. Buck's Stove and Range Co., 221 U.S. 418 (1911), was a ruling by the United States Supreme Court involving a case of contempt for violating the terms of an injunction restraining labor union leaders from a boycott or from publishing any statement that there was or had been a boycott.— Excerpted from Gompers v. Buck's Stove and Range Co. on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Court Documents
Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

221 U.S. 418

GOMPERS  v.  BUCK'S STOVE & RANGE COMPANY

 Argued: January 27 and 30, 1911. --- Decided: May 15, 1911

This is a proceeding to reverse a judgment finding that Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison were guilty of contempt in violating the terms of an injunction restraining them from continuing a boycott, or from publishing any statement that there was or had been a boycott against the Buck's Stove & Range Company. The contempt case grew out of litigation reported in 33 App. D. C. 80,-L.R.A. (N.S.)-, 516. It will only be necessary to briefly refer to the facts set out in that record.

The American Federation of Labor is composed of voluntary associations of labor unions with a large membership. It publishes the American Federationist, which has a wide circulation among the public and the Federation. Samuel Gompers is president and editor of the paper. John Mitchell is vice president of the Federation and president of the United Mine Workers, one of the affiliated unions. Frank Morrison has charge of the circulation of the paper. The Federation had a difference as to the hours of labor with the Buck's Stove & Range Company, of which J. W. Van Cleave was president, who was also president of the American Manufacturers' Association. This controversy over the hours of work resulted in a boycott being declared against the Buck's Stove & Range Company, and it was thereupon declared 'unfair' and was published in the American Federationist on the 'Unfair' and 'We Don't Patronize' lists. The company filed in the supreme court of the District of Columbia its bill against the Federation, the defendants above named and other officers, alleging that the defendants had entered into a conspiracy to restrain the company's state and interstate business, in pursuance of which they had boycotted it, published it on the unfair lists, and had by threats also coerced merchants and others to refrain from buying Buck's products for fear that they themselves would be boycotted if they continued to deal with that company. The result of the boycott had been to prevent persons from dealing with it, and had greatly lessened its business and caused irreparable damage.

After a lengthy hearing, the court, on December 18, 1907, signed a temporary injunction, which became effective when the bond required was given on December the 23d. The order is published in the margin. [1]


[1]

Ordered that the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, . . . John Mitchell, . . . their and each of their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, and any and all persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them or any of them, be, and they are hereby, restrained and enjoined until the final decree in said cause from conspiring, agreeing, or combining in any manner to restrain, obstruct, or destroy the business of the complainant, or to prevent the complainant from carrying on the same without interference from them or any of them, and from interfering in any manner with the sale of the product of the complainant's factory or business by defendants, or by any other person, firm, or corporation, and from declaring or threatening any boycott against the complainant or its business, or the product of its factory, or against any person, firm, or corporation engaged in handling or selling the said product, and from abetting, aiding, or assisting in any such boycott, and from printing, issuing, publishing, or distributing through the mails, or in any other manner, any copy or copies of the American Federationist, or any other printed or written newspapers, magazine, circular, letter, or other document or instrument whatsoever, which shall contain or in any manner refer to the name of the complainant, its business or its product in the 'We Don't Patronize,' or the 'Unfair' list of the defendants, or any of them, their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, or other person or persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them, or which contains any reference to the complainant, its business or product, in connection with the term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize list, or with any other phrase, word, or words of similar import, and from publishing or otherwise circulating, whether in writing or orally, any statement or notice term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize' attention of the complainant's customers, or of dealers or tradesmen, or the public, to any boycott against the complainant, its business or its product, or that the same are, or were, or have been declared to be 'unfair,' or that it should not be purchased or dealt in or handled by any dealer tradesman, or other person whomsoever, or by the public, or any representation or statement of like effect or import, for


Thereafter testimony was regularly taken, and on March

23d, 1908, the injunction was made permanent, with provisions almost identical with the temporary order of December 17, 1907.

From this final decree the defendants appealed, but before a decision was had, the Buck's Stove & Range Company began contempt proceedings by filing in the supreme court of the District a petition entitled 'Buck's Stove & Range Company, plaintiff, v. The American Federation of Labor et al., defendants, No. 27,305, Equity,' alleging that petitioner had 'filed in this cause its original bill of complaint, naming as defendants, among others, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell.' All of the record and testimony in the original cause was made a part of the petition, as follows:

'Reference is hereby made to the original bill and exhibits filed, the answer and amended answer of the defendants, the testimony taken on both sides, the original order restraining and enjoining the defendants pendente lite, and the final decree in the cause, and each and every other paper and proceeding in this cause from the institution of the suit to the filing of this petition, and it is prayed that the same may be taken and read as a part thereof at any and all hearings on this petition, whether in this court or on appeal from its decision herein rendered.'

Some of the publications were charged to be in violation of the terms of the temporary injunction, dated December 23, 1907, and others were alleged to be in violation of the final decree dated March 23, 1908.

The petition set out in nine distinct paragraphs the speeches, editorials, and publications made at different times by the several defendants, charging that in each instance they continued and were intended to continue the boycott, and to republish the fact that the complainant was or had been on the 'unfair list.' It concluded by alleging that by the devices, means, speeches, and publications set forth, and in contempt of court, the defendants had disobeyed its orders and violated the injunction. The prayer was (1) that the defendants be required to show cause why they should not be attached for contempt, and adjudged by the court to be in contempt of its order and its decree in this cause, and be punished for the same. (2) And that petitioner may have such other and further relief as the nature of its case may require. Signed: Buck's Stove & Range Company, by J. W. Van Cleve, president. It was also sworn to by the president of the company and signed by its solicitors.

A rule to show cause issued, requiring each of the defendants to show cause why they should not be adjudged to be in contempt and be punished for the same. Each of the defendants answered under oath, and, as treating the contempt proceeding as a part of the original cause, admitted the allegations as to the history of the litigation in paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the petition, but 'for greater accuracy refer to the record in this cause.' Publications were admitted, but explained. Each of the defendants denied under oath that he had been in disregard or contempt of the court's order, and denied that any of the acts and charges complained of constituted a violation of the order. There were several issues of fact on which much evidence was taken. This related to the question of intent, and whether there had been a purpose and plan to evade any injunction which might be granted. There was also an issue as to whether John Mitchell had put a resolution to the convention of the United Mine Workers; whether Samuel Gompers and Frank Morrison had rushed the mailing of the January issue of the American Federationist, on December 22, so as to avoid the injunction dated December 17, which became operative on giving bond by complainant on December 23; and also whether they had thereafter sold and circulated copies of this issue containing the Buck's Stove Company on the 'Unfair' and 'We Don't Patronize' lists. Evidence was taken partly by deposition, partly before an examiner in chancery.

Each of the defendants was called as a witness by the complainant, and each testified as to facts on which the allegation of intent or evasion was based, and as to the publications, speeches, and resolutions which he was accused of having made, and which the petition alleged constituted an act of disobedience and contempt of court.

'The court made a special finding as to two of the nine charges, and then found that all three of the defendants were guilty of the several acts charged in paragraphs 17 and 26; that respondents Gompers and Morrison were guilty of the several acts charged in the 16th and 20th paragraphs; that respondent Morrison was guilty of the acts charged in the 25th paragraph; and that respondent Gompers was guilty of the several acts charged in the paragraphs 19, 21, 22, and 23. The finding concluded:

'The court, being fully advised in the premises, it is by it, this 23d day of December, A.D. 1908, considered that the said respondents, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell, are guilty of contempt in their said disobedience of the plain mandates of the said injunctions; and it is therefore ordered and adjudged that the said respondent Frank Morrison be confined and imprisoned in the United States jail in the District of Columbia for and during a period of six months; that the said respondent John Mitchell be confined and imprisoned in the said jail for and during a period of nine months; and that the respondent Samuel Gompers be confined and imprisoned in the said jail for and during a period of twelve months; said imprisonment as to each of said respondents to take effect from and including the date of the arrival of said respective respondents at said jail.'

On the same day the defendants entered an appeal, which was allowed, and bail fixed. After notice to the defendants the complainant moved 'the court to amend or supplement its decree by awarding to it its costs against the defendants under the proceedings in contempt against them.' This motion was granted in an order which recited that 'upon consideration of the motion of complainant, filed in the above cause, for award of its costs in the contempt proceedings in said cause against the defendants Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison, and after argument by the solicitors of the respective parties, the motion is granted, and it is ordered that the complainant, the Buck's Stove & Range Company, do recover against the defendants named, its costs in the said contempt proceeding, to be taxed by the clerk, and that it have execution therefor as at law.'

The parties also entered into a stipulation, the material portions of which are as follows:

'For the purpose of avoiding unnecessary cost in the matter of the appeal by the defendants Samuel H. Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison from the judgment against them under the contempt proceedings in the above entitled cause, it is stipulated that, . . . with the approval of the court of appeals, the record in the above cause [Buck's Stove & Range Co. v. American Federation of Labor et al.] . . . may be read from by either party to the appeal in said contempt proceedings, in so far as the same may be relevant and material, with like effect as if the said record of the original cause were embraced in the transcript, in the appeal from the said contempt proceedings.'

This stipulation was signed by counsel for the defendants and for the Buck's Stove & Range Company.

The petition in the contempt proceeding, the answer, orders, final decree, amended decree, and stipulations, were all entitled in the original cause, 'Buck Stove & Range Company v. The American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, Frank Morrison, et al.' The appeal papers in the court of appeals of the District were, and those here on certiorari are, entitled 'Samuel Gompers, John Mitchell, and Frank Morrison, appellants, v. The Buck Stove & Range Company.'

On December 23d, 1908, the defendants were found guilty of contempt, and on the same day they appealed. On March 26, 1909, the court of appeals rendered its decision in favor of the Buck's Stove Company on the appeal from the decree of March 23d, 1908, and found that the decree was, in some respects, erroneous, and modified it accordingly. From that decision both parties appealed to this court,-the Buck's Stove Company contending that it was error to modify in any respect; the American Federation of Labor et al. contending that the court of appeals erred in not reversing and setting aside as a whole the decree granting the injunction.

There subsequently came on to be heard in the court of appeals of the District of Columbia the appeal from the decree in the contempt proceeding. On that hearing the Buck's Stove & Range Company moved to dismiss the appeal, because the evidence had not been incorporated in a bill of exceptions, claiming that it was a criminal proceeding and was governed by the practice applicable to law cases. This motion was resisted by the defendants, who contended that the contempt proceedings were a part of the equity cause, and that the case was to be governed by equity practice, in which the whole record could be examined on appeal.

The court of appeals held that the proceeding was for criminal contempt, and that for want of a bill of exceptions it could not examine the testimony, but must treat the findings of fact by the judge as conclusive, and limit its consideration to the question whether, as a matter of law, the petition charged and the finding found acts which amounted to a violation of the injunction. It held that some of the facts alleged did constitute a good charge of contempt, and as each of the defendants was found to be guilty of at least one of such acts of disobedience constituting a violation of the injunction and a contempt of court, it held that the conviction must be sustained. This ruling was put on the ground that on a general verdict of guilty, the conviction and sentence on an indictment containing several counts, some of which were bad, must stand, if those which were good would sustain the sentence. It therefore not only refused to examine the evidence, to determine whether the proof was sufficient to sustain the conviction, but it also declined to consider the sufficiency of the other charges in the petition, of which the defendants were also found guilty. If affirmed the judgment of the supreme court of the District. The defendants thereupon applied for and obtained a writ of certiorari.

The appeal and cross appeal in the original cause of the Buck's Stove & Range Company v. American Federation of Labor were heard here together. During the argument it appeared that the parties had settled their differences, and on the ground that the questions were moot this court dismissed both appeals. 219 U.S. 581, 55 L. ed. 345, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 472. Following this disposition of those appeals, and on the same day, the contempt case was called, and was argued by counsel for the Buck's Stove & Range Company and counsel for Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, and John Mitchell.

Messrs. Alton B. Parker, Jackson H. Ralston, Frederick L. Siddons, William E. Richardson, and John T. Walker for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 428-431 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. J. J. Darlington and Daniel Davenport for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 431-435 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Lamar, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

Notes[edit]

^1  Ordered that the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, Frank Morrison, . . . John Mitchell, . . . their and each of their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, and any and all persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them or any of them, be, and they are hereby, restrained and enjoined until the final decree in said cause from conspiring, agreeing, or combining in any manner to restrain, obstruct, or destroy the business of the complainant, or to prevent the complainant from carrying on the same without interference from them or any of them, and from interfering in any manner with the sale of the product of the complainant's factory or business by defendants, or by any other person, firm, or corporation, and from declaring or threatening any boycott against the complainant or its business, or the product of its factory, or against any person, firm, or corporation engaged in handling or selling the said product, and from abetting, aiding, or assisting in any such boycott, and from printing, issuing, publishing, or distributing through the mails, or in any other manner, any copy or copies of the American Federationist, or any other printed or written newspapers, magazine, circular, letter, or other document or instrument whatsoever, which shall contain or in any manner refer to the name of the complainant, its business or its product in the 'We Don't Patronize,' or the 'Unfair' list of the defendants, or any of them, their agents, servants, attorneys, confederates, or other person or persons acting in aid of or in conjunction with them, or which contains any reference to the complainant, its business or product, in connection with the term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize list, or with any other phrase, word, or words of similar import, and from publishing or otherwise circulating, whether in writing or orally, any statement or notice term 'Unfair' or with the 'We Don't Patronize' attention of the complainant's customers, or of dealers or tradesmen, or the public, to any boycott against the complainant, its business or its product, or that the same are, or were, or have been declared to be 'unfair,' or that it should not be purchased or dealt in or handled by any dealer tradesman, or other person whomsoever, or by the public, or any representation or statement of like effect or import, for


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).