Scott v. Donald,
165 U.S. 58 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Scott v. Donald, 165 U.S. 58 (1897)

Scott v. Donald

Nos. 411-413

Argued October 21-22, 1896

Decided January 18, 1897

165 U.S. 58


Where a suit is brought against defendants who claim to act as officers of a state and under color of an unconstitutional statute commit acts of wrong and injury to the property of the plaintiff, to recover money or property in their hands unlawfully taken by them in behalf of the state, or for compensation for damages, such suit is not an action against the state within the meaning of the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Although the question of the jurisdiction of the court below has not been certified to this Court in the manner provided by the fifth section of the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891, yet, as the case is before it in a case in which the law of a state is claimed to be in contravention of the Constitution of the United States under another clause of that statute, it has jurisdiction of the entire case and of all questions involved in it.

Damages are the compensation which the law awards for an injury done, and exemplary damages are allowable in excess of the actual loss where a tort is aggravated by evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression.

The intentional, malicious, and repeated interference by the defendants with the exercise of personal rights and privileges secured to the plaintiffs by the Constitution of the United States, as alleged in the complaint, constitutes a wrong and injury not the subject of compensation by a mere money standard, but fairly within the doctrine of the cases wherein exemplary damages have been allowed, as those allegations of the complaints, though denied in the answers, have been sustained.

The statute of South Carolina of January 2, 1896, entitled

"an act to further declare the law in reference to, and further regulate the use, sale, consumption, transportation and disposition of alcoholic liquids or liquors within the South Carolina, and to police the same,"

recognizes liquors and wines as commodities which may be lawfully made, bought and sold, and which must therefore be deemed to be the subject of foreign and interstate commerce, and is an obstruction to and interference with that commerce, and must, as to those of its provisions which affect the plaintiffs, stand condemned.

That statute is not an inspection law, and is not within the scope of the Act of August 8, 1890, c. 728.

Page 165 U. S. 59

Whether those provisions of the act which direct that so-called contraband liquors may be seized without warrant by any state constable, sheriff, or policeman while in transit or after arrival, whether in possession of a common carrier, depot agent, express agent or private person, and which subject common carriers to fine and imprisonment for carrying liquors in any package, cask, jug, box, or other package under any other than the proper name or brand known to the trade, and which forbid the bringing of any suit for damages alleged to arise by seizing and detention of liquors would be lawful in an inspection law otherwise valid, is not decided.

So far as these actions are concerned, the damages recovered were for acts committed under the alleged authority of the act of 1895, and cannot be affected by the provisions of the subsequent act of 1896, even if the invalidities of the former act were thereby remedied -- a matter on which no opinion is expressed.

In the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of South Carolina, in February, 1895, two suits at law were brought by James Donald against J. M. Scott, and one by James Donald against Gardner and others, wherein the plaintiff sought to recover damages caused by the action of the defendants, who were state constables of the State of South Carolina, in seizing and carrying away several packages of wines and liquors belonging to the plaintiff, and at the time of the seizure in the possession of railroad companies which, as common carriers, had brought the packages within the state.

It appeared that one of the packages, consisting of a case of domestic California wine, came by rail from Savannah, Georgia, whither it had been imported by the plaintiff; another, consisting of a case of whisky, in bottles, made in Maryland, and imported by the plaintiff by way of the Baltimore Steam Packet Line, and another, consisting of one barrel of bottled beer, made at Rochester, New York, and imported by the plaintiff into the State of South Carolina by way of the Old Dominion Steamship Line.

Demurrers to the several declarations or complaints were interposed and overruled. Thereupon issues of fact were joined, and, trial by jury having been duly waived, the causes were tried and determined by the court, and resulted in findings and judgments in favor of the plaintiff for the sum of $300 and costs in each case, respectively.

Page 165 U. S. 60

Writs of error from this Court were then sued out and allowed.

Page 165 U. S. 66

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