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UNITED STATES v. NIXON

November 30, 1914

UNITED STATES
v.
NIXON, BIDDLE, AND WEST, RECEIVERS OF THE ST. LOUIS AND SAN FRANCISCO RAILROAD COMPANY



ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney; Mr. Justice McReynolds took no part in the consideration and decision of this case.

Author: Lamar

[ 235 U.S. Page 232]

 MR. JUSTICE LAMAR delivered the opinion of the court.

The Grand Jury for the Western Division of the Western District of Missouri returned an indictment against the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company and its Receivers, charging that on August 16, 1913, Nixon, Biddle and West, as Receivers of said Company, were operating the property and business of said corporation as a common carrier of freight, and unlawfully transported cattle from a quarantine district in Oklahoma to Kansas City, Missouri, without compliance with the rules and regulations established by the Secretary of Agriculture.

Both the endorsement and caption to this indictment described it as being for "violation of secs. 2 and 4 of the act of March 3, 1905, 33 Stat. 1264." Those sections of that act provide that "no railroad company . . . shall transport from any quarantine State . . . to any other State any cattle . . ." except "in compliance

[ 235 U.S. Page 233]

     with regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Agriculture."

The defendants demurred on the ground "that the indictment does not charge any offense for which Receivers herein can be held." The court treated the indictment as founded on the act of 1905 imposing a penalty upon railroad companies and after argument sustained the demurrer -- filing a memorandum in which he held that, under the ruling in United States v. Harris, 177 U.S. 305, the statute did not create an offense for which Receivers could be punished.

The case is here under the Criminal Appeals Act (34 Stat., 1246) on a writ of error in which the Government excepts generally to the quashing of the indictment and specially to the court's construction of this act of 1905.

In view of the decision in United States v. Harris, the judgment of the court below would necessarily have to be affirmed if the case was to be determined solely by the provisions of the Quarantine Act of 1905, which imposes a penalty for the transportation of cattle by a railroad company. But a Receiver is not a corporation, and, therefore, not within the terms of a statute applicable to railroad companies, even though cattle from an infected district transported by him would be as likely to transmit disease as if they had been shipped over the same line while it was being operated by the company itself. And, no doubt in recognition of this fact, and in order to make the remedy as broad as the evil sought to be cured, Congress, by the act of March 4, 1913, c. 145, 37 Stat. 828, 831, made all of the provisions of the original quarantine act of 1905 " apply to any railroad company or other common carrier, whose road or line forms any part of a route over which cattle or other live stock are transported in the course of shipment" from a quarantine State to any other State.

The statute, as thus amended, applied to transportation of live stock over short lines belonging to private individuals

[ 235 U.S. Page 234]

     or to lumber companies hauling freight for hire; to roads operated by Trustees under power contained in a mortgage; and also to the more common case where a railroad was being operated by a Receiver acting under judicial appointment. For in so far as he transports passengers and property he is a common carrier with rights and civil responsibility as such (Eddy v. Lafayette, 163 U.S. 456, 464; Hutchison on Carriers, ยง 77). And there is no reason suggested why a Receiver, operating a railroad, should not also be subject to the penal provisions of a statute prohibiting any common carrier ...


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