Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. Cade - 233 U.S. 642 (1914)
U.S. Supreme Court
Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. Cade, 233 U.S. 642 (1914)
Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway
Company of Texas v. Cade
Submitted February 24, 1914
Decided May 11, 1914
233 U.S. 642
Where a state statute has been held unconstitutional under the state constitution by an inferior state court, and subsequently has been upheld by the highest court of the state, this Court, when the case is properly here under § 237, Judicial Code, must regard the statute as valid under the state constitution and consider only the question of its validity under the federal Constitution, although intermediately this Court has followed the decision of the lower state court.
The validity of a state statute under the commerce clause or the Act to Regulate Commerce cannot be attacked in a suit which is not based upon a claim arising out of interstate commerce.
A state may classify claims against persons or corporations where there is no classification of debtors and where the claims are not grouped together for the purpose of bearing against any class of citizens or corporations.
A state police regulation designed to promote payment of small claims of certain classes and discourage unnecessary litigation respecting them should not be set aside by the federal courts on the ground that claims of other kinds have not been included where the legislature was presumably dealing with an actual mischief, and made the act as broad in its scope as seemed necessary from the practical standpoint.
The Fourteenth Amendment does not require that state laws shall be. perfect.
In the absence of a construction by the state courts to that effect, this Court will not concede that a state statute confers its benefits only upon natural persons who are plaintiffs in certain classes of actions, and not upon corporation plaintiffs.
A defendant corporation is not in a position to assail a state statute as denying equal protection of the law because its benefits do not inure to corporations which are plaintiffs.
If the classification is otherwise reasonable, a state statute does not deny equal protection of the law because attorney's fees are allowed to successful plaintiffs only, and not to successful defendants. The classification is reasonable.
A statute allowing an attorney's fee in cases involving small amounts is not one imposing a penalty where it appears that the effect is merely to require defendant to reimburse plaintiff for part of his expenses.
This Court follows the construction of the highest court of the state to the effect that a statute imposing an attorney's fee on the defeated defendant is limited to claims of an amount specified in the title.
The statute of Texas of 1909 imposing an attorney's fee on the defeated defendant in certain classes of cases, as the same has been construed by the highest court of that state, is not unconstitutional under the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment. Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe R. Co. v. Ellis, 165 U. S. 150, distinguished.
The facts, which involve the construction and constitutionality under the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment of a statute of Texas of 1909 imposing an attorney's fee on the defeated defendant in certain classes of cases, are stated in the opinion.