Toyota v. Hawaii
226 U.S. 184 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Toyota v. Hawaii, 226 U.S. 184 (1912)

Toyota v. Hawaii

No. 49

Submitted November 13, 1912

Decided December 2, 1912

226 U.S. 184

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE TERRITORY OF HAWAII

Syllabus

Section 1343, Revised Laws of Hawaii, imposing a license fee of six hundred dollars for auctioneers in the District of Honolulu and fifteen dollars for each other taxation district, is not unconstitutional

Page 226 U. S. 185

as depriving an auctioneer in Honolulu of his property without due process of law or as denying him the equal protection of the laws.

On writ of error to a territorial court, only such questions are before this Court as can be raised upon writ of error to a state court.

What amounts to selling at auction, within the meaning of a license statute, is for the state or territorial court to determine, and presents no federal question reviewable by this Court.

It is the province of the legislature to determine upon the amount of license fees, and unless the classification is arbitrary and unreasonable it may establish different amounts for different districts.

This Court will assume that the legislature of a state or territory takes into consideration the varying conditions in respective localities in which the same business is to be conducted, and unless palpably arbitrary the classification will not be disturbed.

In view of the fact that the great bulk of the business of Hawaii is done at Honolulu, this Court will not declare that a license fee of six hundred dollars for auctioneers in that district is an arbitrary and unreasonable classification as against fifteen dollars for auctioneer's license in other districts of Hawaii.

19 Haw. 651 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 226 U. S. 190

MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error was convicted in the district court of Honolulu, Hawaii, of the offense of selling goods at auction, in Honolulu, without an auctioneer's license, and was sentenced to pay a fine of $600 and costs. The supreme court affirmed the conviction, and the case comes here on error.

In order to obtain a license for auction sales, it was necessary to pay the fee prescribed by § 1343 of the Revised Laws of the territory of Hawaii, which provides:

"The annual fee for a license to sell goods, wares, and merchandise or other property at auction shall be $600 for the District of Honolulu, and $15 for each other taxation district."

An agreed statement of facts showed that the plaintiff in error was the agent of the corporation known as the "Hawaiian Fisheries, Limited," which handled fish daily for a large number of fishermen. The catch was brought to the market in Honolulu, where the plaintiff in error offered it in basket lots, each basket containing from 70 to 100 pounds, to the retail dealers of fish only, the one bidding the highest price becoming the purchaser.

The plaintiff in error contended in the territorial court that he did not sell at auction within the meaning of the statute, and further, that the statute, if it was applicable, denied to him the equal protection of the laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, because of the discrimination between the

Page 226 U. S. 191

District of Honolulu and other districts in the amount of the license fees imposed.

The Supreme Court of Hawaii assumed, as the plaintiff in error argues, that the word "auction" in § 1343 means public auction. This conclusion was reached in the light of the requirement of § 1345, that the bond to be given by the person receiving the license should contain a provision that he will not sell "except at public auction," and the court ruled that the sales conducted by the plaintiff in error were sales at public auction within the contemplation of the statute, although bids were accepted only from the retail dealers or the persons conducting fish tables at the market. This ruling presents no federal question, and hence is not reviewable, here, as only such questions are before us upon this writ of error as could be raised upon a writ of error to a state court. Act of April 30, 1900, c. 339, § 86, 31 Stat. 141, 158; Equitable Life Assurance Society v. Brown,187 U. S. 308, 187 U. S. 309; Notley v. Brown,208 U. S. 429, 208 U. S. 440. In view of the amount involved, the case cannot in any view come within the amendment made by the Act of March 3, 1905, c. 1465, § 3, 33 Stat. 1035; Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co. v. Wilder,211 U. S. 144.

The remaining contention, urged in various forms by the assignments of error, comes to the single point that the statute created an arbitrary classification. It cannot be said, however, that there was no reasonable basis for a distinction between Honolulu and other districts. And it was the province of the legislature to decide upon the amount of the fees which should be charged. It must be assumed that, in so deciding, it took into account varying conditions in the respective localities, as, for example, in the amount of business transacted and in the corresponding value of such licenses. Necessarily, as was said in Magoun v. Illinois Trust & Savings Bank,170 U. S. 283, 170 U. S. 294, the power of classification "must have a wide range of discretion." It is not reviewable "unless palpably

Page 226 U. S. 192

arbitrary." Orient Insurance Co. v. Daggs,172 U. S. 557, 172 U. S. 562; Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton,218 U. S. 36, 218 U. S. 52-55; Engel v. O'Malley,219 U. S. 128; Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co.,220 U. S. 61, 220 U. S. 78; Mutual Loan Co. v. Martell,222 U. S. 225, 222 U. S. 235. With its intimate knowledge of local conditions, the supreme court of the territory said upon this point:

"The great bulk of the business of the territory is done in Honolulu. It is not for us to say whether we would make the difference in the amount of license fees in this case as large as the legislature has made it. It is sufficient that we cannot say that the difference is unreasonable, or that the statute is unequal or arbitrary in its operation."

We find no ground for a different conclusion.

Judgment affirmed.

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