The law of Pennsylvania of May 13, 1887, known as the Brooks
Law, which prohibits sale of spirituous liquor without a license,
is not at variance with, but rather in aid of the prohibitions of
the Eighteenth Amendment and the National Prohibition Act, and was
not superseded by them. P.
258 U. S. 408
271 Pa.St. 10 affirmed.
Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
affirming a conviction and sentence of the plaintiff in error for a
violation of a law of the state against selling liquor without a
Page 258 U. S. 407
MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
In the Court of Quarter Sessions of Fayette County,
Pennsylvania, Vigliotti was found guilty of selling, during the
spring of 1920, spirituous liquor without a license, in violation
of § 15 of the Act of May 13, 1887, P.L. 108, known as the Brooks
Law. The liquor so sold was a preparation called "Jamaica ginger,"
containing 88 percent of alcohol. The defendant claimed seasonably
that the state law as applied deprived him of rights guaranteed by
the federal Constitution because the sales complained of had been
made after January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment became
effective, after which the Volstead Act was the only law applicable
to sales of intoxicating liquors. This claim was overruled by the
trial court; the defendant was sentenced; the judgment was affirmed
by both the Superior Court, 75 Pa.St. 366, and the supreme court of
the state, 271 Pa. 10, and the case comes here on writ of error
under § 237 of the Judicial Code as amended. The question presented
for our decision is whether the provision of the Brooks Law here
applied had been superseded by the Eighteenth Amendment and the
The Brooks Law, as construed by the courts of the state,
prohibits every sale of spirituous liquor without a license
excepting only such sales as are made by druggists, and these are
forbidden to sell intoxicating liquors except on prescription of a
regular physician. The law applies however small the percentage of
alcohol, and although the liquor is not intoxicating. It applies to
liquor sold solely for industrial uses. It does not purport to
confer upon anyone anywhere the right to a license, nor does it
authorize the sale of liquor in any city or county having a special
prohibitory law. It merely grants to the appropriate officials,
where such authority exists, discretion to
Page 258 U. S. 408
give or to withhold the license under the conditions prescribed.
In case of an indictment for selling without a license, a sale is
presumed to be unlawful, and the burden is on the defendant to show
the authority on which he acted. It is thus primarily a prohibitory
law, and its prohibitory features are not so dependent upon those
respecting license as to be swept away by the Eighteenth Amendment
and the Volstead Act. The Supreme Court declared further that:
"the Brooks Law still survives as Pennsylvania's own police
power method of officially listing and adequately controlling the
customary sources of general supply and distribution, to the
peoples within her borders, of those kinds of liquors among which
intoxicating beverages are usually found, and she may thus assist
in prohibiting their illegal use as such."
271 Pa.St. 15. We, of course, accept as controlling the
construction given to the statute by the highest court of the
state. The question before us is whether, so construed, the statute
violates the federal Constitution.
The Brooks Law as thus construed does not purport to authorize
or sanction anything which the Eighteenth Amendment or the Volstead
Act prohibits. And there is nothing in it which conflicts with any
provision of either. It is merely an additional instrument which
the state supplies in the effort to make prohibition effective.
That the state may, by appropriate legislation, exercise its police
power to that end was expressly provided in § 2 of the amendment,
which declares that "Congress and the several states shall have
concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate
legislation." National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.
, 253 U. S. 387
That the Brooks Law, as construed, is appropriate legislation is
likewise clear. To prohibit every sale of spirituous liquors except
by licensed persons may certainly aid in preventing sales for
beverages purposes of liquor containing as much as one-half of one
percent of alcohol, and that is what the Volstead Act
Page 258 U. S. 409
prohibits. If the Brooks Law, as construed, had been enacted the
day after the adoption of the amendment, it would obviously have
been "appropriate legislation." It is not less so because it was
already in existence.
MR. JUSTICE DAY and MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS dissent.