M. Kraus & Bros., Inc. v. United States
327 U.S. 614 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

M. Kraus & Bros., Inc. v. United States, 327 U.S. 614 (1946)

M. Kraus & Bros., Inc. v. United States

No. 198

Argued December 14, 1945

Decided March 25, 1946

327 U.S. 614

Syllabus

1. Section 1429.5 of Revised Maximum Price Regulation No. 269 (issued December 18, 1942, under the Emergency Price Control Act) -- which provides that the price limitations on poultry prescribed by the regulation shall not be evaded by any method, direct or indirect, whether in connection with any offer or sale of a price-regulated commodity alone "or in conjunction with any other commodity," or by way of any trade understanding "or otherwise" -- held not to forbid all tie-in sales, but only those which involve secondary products that are worthless or that are sold at artificial prices. Pp. 327 U. S. 622-626.

2. Where the information in a criminal prosecution for violations of Revised Maximum Price Regulation No. 269 charged that the

Page 327 U. S. 615

accused "unlawfully, willfully and knowingly evaded the provisions of" the regulation "by demanding, compelling and requiring" the retail buyer to purchase chicken feet or chicken skins at a specified price as a condition of the sale of poultry, and there was evidence that the chicken skins and feet sold had value, and were sold at their market price, a charge by the trial judge that the "one" question in the case was whether the sale of chicken parts was a necessary condition to the purchase of the poultry was a reversible error, since the jury may well have disregarded as irrelevant the evidence of value as to the secondary product, and convicted solely on the ground that there was a tie-in sale. P. 327 U. S. 626.

3. In order to sustain a criminal conviction, regulations prescribed by the Price Administrator under § 2(g) of the Emergency Price Control Act to prevent circumvention or evasion of price limitations must be explicit and unambiguous, and must adequately inform those who are subject to their terms what conduct will be considered evasive; the dividing line between unlawful evasion and lawful action cannot be left to conjecture. P. 327 U. S. 621.

4. A prosecutor, in framing an indictment, a court, in interpreting the Administrator's regulations, or a jury, in judging guilt, cannot supply that which the Administrator failed to do by express word or fair implication. P. 327 U. S. 622.

5. Nor can the Administrator's interpretations of his own regulations cure an omission or add certainty and definiteness to otherwise vague language of a regulation. P. 327 U. S. 622.

6. A criminal conviction for violation of an administrative regulation ought not to rest upon an administrative interpretation reached by the use of policy judgment, rather than by the inexorable command of relevant language of the regulation itself. P. 327 U. S. 626.

7. Where correct statements in a charge to a jury are so intertwined with incorrect statements as to negative the effect of the correct statements, the charge is a reversible error, since a conviction ought not to rest on an equivocal direction to the jury on a basic issue. Bollenbach v. United States,326 U. S. 607. Pp. 327 U. S. 626-627.

Petitioner was convicted of violating Revised Maximum Price Regulation No. 269, promulgated by the Price Administrator pursuant to the Emergency Price Control Act. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 149 F.2d 773. This Court granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 699. Remandedfor new trial. P. 327 U. S. 627.

Page 327 U. S. 616

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