Standard Oil Co. v. Missouri,
224 U.S. 270 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Standard Oil Co. v. Missouri, 224 U.S. 270 (1912)

Standard Oil Company of Indiana v. Missouri

Nos. 47, 48

Argued November 8, 9, 1911

Decided April 1, 1912

224 U.S. 270


It is essential to the validity of a judgment that the court rendering it have jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the parties; but it is for the highest court of a state to determine its own jurisdiction and that of the local tribunals.

Where the constitution of a state gives to its highest court the power

Page 224 U. S. 271

to issue writs of quo warranto and to hear and determine the same, judgment of ouster and fine entered by that court implies that it had jurisdiction to so decide and enter judgment, and is conclusive upon this Court whether the judgment is civil or criminal or both. Standard Oil Co. v. Tennessee, 217 U. S. 420.

Under due process of law, one is entitled to notice and opportunity to be heard, and the notice must correspond to the hearing and the relief must be appropriate to the notice and the hearing.

Even a court of original general jurisdiction, civil and criminal, cannot enter a judgment beyond the claim asserted. It would not be due process of law.

Quaere whether, under general rules, information in the nature of quo warranto is a civil or criminal proceeding, and whether, under general allegations of misuse, with only a prayer for ouster, a fine may be imposed in those jurisdictions where quo warranto has ceased to be a criminal proceeding.

Whatever the rule elsewhere, in Missouri, a corporation may in quo warranto be subjected to a money judgment, whether, in nature of fine or damages for breach of implied contract not to violate its franchise.

The prayer for relief is not a part of the notice guaranteed by the due process clause of the Constitution. The facts state the limit of the relief.

It is not a denial of due process of law for a court having jurisdiction to determine quo warranto and to enter judgment for a fine because there is no statute fixing the maximum penalty.

The power to fine reposed in a court of last resort is not unlimited, but is limited by the obligation not to impose excessive fines.

Right of appeal is not essential to due process of law, and the legislature may determine where final power shall be lodged and litigation cease. Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 111.

If due process has been accorded as to notice and opportunity to be heard, it is not for this Court to determine whether error has been committed in construction of statute or common law.

If the judgment of the state court is not void, this Court cannot consider collateral and nonfederal questions.

A corporation tried under information in the nature of quo warranto for combination in restraint of trade and sentenced to ouster and fine is not denied equal protection of the law because corporations prosecuted under the antitrust statute of the state would not be subjected to as severe a penalty.

The highest court of Missouri having held that quo warranto for misuser

Page 224 U. S. 272

can be maintained against a corporation for entering into a combination in restraint of trade, the validity or invalidity of the antitrust statute of that state has no bearing on the subject.

If the judgment of the state court cannot be reversed on the constitutional ground, it cannot be modified or amended by this Court.

This Court has no right to assume that a state statute will be so applied as to interfere with the constitutional right of a corporation to carry on interstate business.

218 Mo. 1 affirmed.

Writ of error to a judgment of ouster and fine against plaintiffs in error in original quo warranto proceedings in the Supreme Court of Missouri.

The Missouri Anti-Trust Act (Rev.Stat. of 1899, §§ 8968, 8971) provides that any person or corporation which shall form a combination in restraint of trade shall be deemed guilty of a conspiracy to defraud, and on conviction shall be subject to a penalty of not less than $5 nor more than $100 per day for each day the combination continues, and in addition the guilty corporation shall have its franchises forfeited.

In April, 1905, while this act was in force, the Attorney General filed an information in the nature of a writ of quo warranto against the Standard Oil Company and the Republic Oil Company, foreign corporations, holding licenses to do business in Missouri, and the Waters-Pierce Oil Company, a domestic company, alleging that between the ___ day of ___, 1901, and March 29, 1905, they had formed and maintained a combination to prevent competition in the buying, selling and refining oil to the great damage of the people of Missouri. The information contained no reference to the Antitrust Act further than was involved in the allegation that

"by reason of the premises, said respondents . . . grossly offended against the laws of the state and willfully and flagrantly abused and misused their . . . franchises . . . , and their acts . . . constitute a

Page 224 U. S. 273

willful and malicious perversion of the franchise granted the said corporations. . . . Wherefore, your informant, prosecuting in this behalf for the State of Missouri, prays"

that each of the defendants be ousted of their said corporate franchises and license to do business under the laws of the state.

The defendants answered, denying all the allegations of the petition and moving to dismiss on many grounds not material to be considered here. The case was referred to a commissioner to take testimony and report findings of fact and conclusions of law.

While the case was under consideration, the antitrust statute was amended in March, 1907, so as to provide that, if any corporation should be found guilty of a violation of the provisions of the act, its charter or license should be forfeited, and the court might also forfeit any or all of its property to the state, or cancel its right to do business, or the court might assess a fine. It was provided that the act should not operate to release any penalty, forfeiture, or liability already incurred.

After the passage of this amendment, making new and increased penalties for a violation of the antitrust statute, the commissioner made his report, finding (May 24, 1907) against the defendants on the law and the fact. On June 22, 1907, the Republic Oil Company filed with the Secretary of State, in statutory form, a notice of its withdrawal from the state. On October 23, 1907, the fact of this withdrawal was brought to the attention of the court, and a motion was made that the case be abated so far as the Republic Oil Company was concerned. The motion was overruled, and later the court found that each of the defendants had entered into a combination in restraint of trade, and prevented and destroyed competition. And it was adjudged that the defendants had each forfeited their right to do business, and they were each ousted of any and all right and franchise, and fined

Page 224 U. S. 274

$50,000. In view of the capital of the company and the amount of profits that had been made during the period of the combination, some members of the court expressed the opinion that the fine should be $1,000,000.

A motion for rehearing was denied. The Waters-Pierce Oil Company paid the fine and complied with conditions, by virtue of which it was permitted to continue to do business in the state. The other two defendants brought the case here.

It is alleged that --

"(b) The court held that this was a civil proceeding, and that it had no criminal jurisdiction. It then, in addition to an ouster, adjudged that this respondent should pay a fine of $50,000. This fine was at least the exercise of criminal jurisdiction in an original proceeding, which was beyond the court's power and jurisdiction. The court thereby takes from the respondent its property without due process of law, discriminates against respondent, and refuses to accord to it the equal protection of the law, all of which is contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

There are various assignments of error challenging the constitutionality of the antitrust statute on the ground that it deprived defendants of their property without due process of law and interfered with interstate commerce. It was also claimed that the defendants were denied the equal protection of the law in that, in forfeiting their franchise and imposing a fine of $50,000 without a jury trial, a different procedure had been adopted and a different judgment entered from that which could have been rendered on conviction by a jury for violation of the antitrust statute.

The defendants (now plaintiffs in error) sought first a reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri, and, in the alternative, a modification of the judgment.

Page 224 U. S. 275

To this end, attention was called to the fact that the plaintiffs in error were parties in the case of United States v. Standard Oil Company et al. They pray that the judgment herein be modified so as to provide that it should not be held to conflict with any decree entered in that equity cause so far as concerned property in Missouri belonging to plaintiffs in error.

It was also urged that the statute making it a felony for any person to sell or deal in articles manufactured by a corporation whose license had been forfeited would operate to destroy the value of the plaintiffs' property in Missouri, and would in effect prevent them from engaging in interstate commerce. They moved that the judgment be modified here so as to provide against any such result.

Page 224 U. S. 280

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