Cotting v. Kansas City Stock Yards Co.,
183 U.S. 79 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cotting v. Kansas City Stock Yards Co., 183 U.S. 79 (1901)

Cotting v. Kansas City Stock Yards Company

No. 1

Argued November 14-15, 1899

Reargued, January 23-24, 1901, before a full bench.

Decided November 25, 1901

183 U.S. 79


The statute of Kansas of March 3, 1897, entitled

"An act defining what shall constitute public stockyards, defining the duties of the person or persons operating the same, and regulating all charges thereof, and removing restrictions in the trade of dead animals, and providing penalties for violations of this act"

is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in that it applies only to the Kansas City Stock Yards Company, and not to other companies or corporations engaged in like business in Kansas, and thereby denies to that company the equal protection of the laws.

In March, 1897, Charles U. Cotting, a citizen of the State of Massachusetts, filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kansas a bill of complaint against the Kansas City Stockyards Company, a corporation of the State of Kansas, and certain officers of that company, and Louis C. Boyle, Attorney General of the State of Kansas. A few days later Francis Lee Higginson, a citizen of the State of Massachusetts, filed a bill of complaint in the same court and against the same parties.

These suits were subsequently ordered by the court to be consolidated, and were thereafter proceeded in as one.

The plaintiffs respectively alleged that they were stockholders of the Kansas City Stockyards Company, and that the suits were brought in their own behalf and that of other stockholders having a like interest, who might thereafter join in the prosecution thereof. The main purpose of the suits was to have declared invalid a certain act of the Legislature of the State of Kansas approved March 3, 1897, entitled

"An Act Defining What shall Constitute Public Stock Yards, Defining the Duties of

Page 183 U. S. 80

the Person or Persons Operating the Same, and Regulating All Charges thereof, and Removing Restrictions in the Trade of Dead Animals, and Providing Penalties for Violations of This Act."

A temporary restraining order was granted, and subsequently a motion for a preliminary injunction was made. Pending that motion the court appointed a special master, with power to take testimony and report the same, with his findings, as to all matters and things in issue upon the hearing of the preliminary injunction prayed for. 79 F. 679. On August 24, 1897, the special master filed his report. On October 4, 1897, the motion for a preliminary injunction was heard on affidavits, the master's report, exceptions thereto on behalf of both parties, and arguments of counsel. The motion was refused and the restraining order, which had remained in force in the meantime, was set aside. 82 F. 839.

A stipulation was thereupon entered into that the defendants should forthwith file their answers to the bills; that replications thereto should be immediately filed, and that the cases thus put at issue should be heard on final hearing, upon the pleadings, proofs, master's report, and exhibits, without further testimony from either party.

On October 28, 1897, after argument, the court dismissed the bills of complaint. 82 F. 850. In the opinion of Circuit Judge Thayer, there was the following order, which was also embodied in the final decree:

"The great importance of the questions involved in these cases will doubtless occasion an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, where they will be finally settled and determined. If, on such appeal, the Kansas statute complained of should be adjudged invalid for any reason, and in the meantime the statutory schedule of rates should be enforced, the Stockyards company would sustain a great and irreparable loss. Under such circumstances, as was said in substance by the Supreme Court in Hovey v. McDonald, 109 U. S. 161, it is the right and duty of the trial court to maintain, if possible, the status quo pending an appeal, if the questions at issue are involved in doubt, and Equity Rule 93 was enacted in recognition of that right. The court is of opinion that the cases at bar are

Page 183 U. S. 81

of such moment and the questions at issue so balanced with doubt as to justify and require an exercise of the power in question. Therefore, although the bills will be dismissed, yet an order will at the same time be entered restoring and continuing in force the injunction which was heretofore granted for the term of ten days, and if in the meantime an appeal shall be taken, such injunction will be continued in force until the appeal is heard and determined in the Supreme Court of the United States; provided that, in addition to the ordinary appeal bond, the Kansas City Stockyards Company shall make and file in this court its bond in the penal sum of $200,000, payable to the clerk of this court and his successors in office, for the benefit of whom it may concern, conditioned that in the event the decree dismissing the bills is affirmed it will, on demand, pay to the party or parties entitled thereto all overcharges for yarding and feeding livestock at its stockyards in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, which it may have enacted in violation of sections 4 and 5 of the Kansas statute relative to stockyards, approved March 3, 1897, since an injunction was first awarded herein, to-wit, on April __, 1897, and that it will in like manner pay such overcharges, if any, as it may continue to exact in violation of said statute during the pendency of the appeal; said obligation to become void if the statute in question shall be pronounced invalid by the Supreme Court."

82 F. 857.

On November 4, 1897, an appeal was duly taken and allowed to this Court.

Subsequently, Louis C. Boyle's term of office as Attorney General having expired, his successor, A. A. Godard, was substituted as a party defendant.

The act of the Legislature of the State of Kansas is in the following terms:

"SEC. 1. Any stockyards within this state into which livestock is received for the purpose of exposing or having the same exposed for sale or feeding, and doing business for a compensation, and which for the preceding twelve months shall have had an average daily receipt of not less than one hundred head

Page 183 U. S. 82

of cattle, or three hundred head of hogs, or three hundred head of sheep, are hereby declared to be public Stockyards."

"SEC. 2. Any person, company, or corporation owning or operating any public stockyard or stockyards in this state is hereby declared to be a public stockyards operator, whether living or being within this state or not."

"SEC. 3. Every such public stockyards operator or operators shall annually, on the 31st day of December of each year, file with the secretary of state an itemized statement certified and sworn to, setting forth the number of head of cattle, calves, sheep, hogs, horses, and mules received in his or their public stockyards during the year next preceding."

"SEC. 4. It shall be unlawful for the owners, proprietors, or the employees of the owners or proprietors of any such public stockyards within this state to charge for driving, yarding, watering, and weighing of stock, greater prices than the following: for driving, yarding, watering, and weighing of cattle, 15 cents per head; calves, 8 cents per head; hogs, 6 cents per head; sheep, 4 cents per head, and there shall be but one yardage charged."

"SEC. 5. It shall be unlawful for the owner, owners, or proprietors, or their employees, of any such stockyards within this state to sell and deliver at the rate of less than two thousand pounds for a ton of hay, or any part thereof, the same to be of good quality, or to charge for or to sell the same at more than one hundred percent above the average market price or value of such hay upon the markets of the towns or cities wherein such stockyards are located, upon the day preceding such sale and delivery, and it shall also be unlawful for any such owners or proprietors or employees to sell and deliver less than seventy pounds of corn in the car for a bushel, or less than fifty-six pounds of shelled corn for a bushel, or to charge for or to sell the same at more than one hundred percent above the average market price or value of such ear corn or shelled corn on the markets of the towns or cities wherein said stockyards are located on the day next preceding such sale and delivery. All feed not above named shall be sold for no greater percent of profit than hereinbefore provided. "

Page 183 U. S. 83

"SEC. 6. It shall be unlawful for the owners or proprietors of any stockyards to prohibit the owner or owners, or the representatives of any owner or owners, of any dead stock in such yard or yards from selling such dead stock to any person or persons."

"SEC. 7. That any person or persons violating any of the provisions of this act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined for the first offense not more than one hundred dollars; for the second offense not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars, and for the third offense not less than two hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars and by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months for each offense, and for each subsequent offense he or they shall be fined in any sum not less than one thousand dollars and by imprisonment in the county jail not less than six months."

"SEC. 8. It is hereby made the duty of the Attorney General to prosecute all violations of the provisions of this act."

"SEC. 9. All acts or parts of acts in conflict with this act are hereby repealed."

"SEC. 10. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its publication in the official state paper."

Laws of Kansas 1897, c. 240, p. 448.

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