A father and minor son secured a permanent injunction preventing
a manufacturer from discharging the son from employment in
consequence of the Federal Child Labor Tax Law upon the ground that
the law was unconstitutional, but, pending an appeal, the son
ceased to be within the ages affected by the statute. Held
that, as the case had become moot, the merits could not be
considered, but the decree should be reversed with direction to
dismiss the bill without costs. P. 259 U. S.
Appeal from a decree of the district court granting a permanent
injunction. See Child Labor Tax Case, post, 259 U. S. 20
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.
The two Johnstons, father and son, citizens of North Carolina,
the former in his own right and as the authorized
Page 259 U. S. 14
next friend of his son, filed their bill of complaint April 15,
1919, against the Atherton Mills, a corporation of the same state.
The bill averred that Johnston, the son, was a minor between the
ages of 14 and 16 years, that Johnston, the father, supporting his
son, was entitled to his earnings until he attained his majority,
that the son was in the employ of the defendant, that, by the terms
of the so-called Child Labor Tax Act, approved February 24, 1919, §
1200, 40 Stat. 1057, 1138, the defendant was subjected to a tax of
one-tenth of its annual profits if it employed a child within the
ages of 14 and 16 for more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, or
before the hour of 6 a.m. or after the hour of 7 p.m.; that the
defendant was unwilling to arrange a schedule of working hours to
comply with this requirement for the minor complainant, and was
about to discharge him because of the act, thus depriving the son
and father of all of the son's earnings. On the ground that the act
was invalid because beyond the powers of Congress, and that the
discharge would injure both complainants by a serious deprivation
of earnings which, but for the law, they would enjoy, and that the
granting of an injunction would prevent a multiplicity of suits,
they prayed for an injunction against the defendant from
discharging the complainant son or in any manner curtailing his
employment to eight hours a day or otherwise. The defendant
answered admitting all the substantial averments of the bill except
the invalidity of the Child Labor Tax Act. It specifically admitted
its intention to discharge the complainant son when the act went
into effect and solely because of the act. On April 23, 1919, a
motion for a preliminary injunction was heard. The United States
attorney for the Western district of North Carolina, not entering
an appearance but speaking as amicus curiae,
"the want of jurisdiction because there is no allegation in the
bill of a contract preventing the defendant
Page 259 U. S. 15
from discharging the employee for any reason that might seem fit
to it, and also because the case is not one arising under the
internal revenue or other federal laws so as to give the court
jurisdiction to pass on the validity of the law."
The court granted the temporary injunction and made it permanent
by order of May 2, 1919.
The defendant appealed directly to this Court under § 238 of the
Judicial Code, assigning error (1) to the failure to dismiss the
bill; (2) to the holding that the Child Labor Tax Act was invalid;
(3) to the injunction.
The record shows that the pleadings were framed to bring this
case within that of Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S.
, 239 U. S. 38
but it differs from that case in that the sole defendant here is
the employer, while in that case there was joined with the
employer, the state officer who threatened to enforce the alleged
invalid law against his codefendant and compel him to end the
contract against his will and to the complainant's irreparable
damage. The record further raises the doubt whether, on its face,
this is a real case within the meaning of the Constitution upon
which the judgment of this Court upon the validity of an act of
Congress under the Constitution can be invoked, and whether it does
not violate the principle and ignore the caution of the words of
Mr. Justice Brewer in Chicago & Grand Trunk Railway Co. v.
Wellman, 143 U. S. 339
143 U. S. 345
which are quoted in Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.
, 219 U. S. 359
These are serious questions requiring full consideration. We only
state them in order that it may not be thought by our conclusion
that we here decide them.
The lapse of time since the case was heard and decided in the
district court has brought the minor whose employment was the
subject matter of the suit to an age which is not within the ages
affected by the act. The act, even if valid, cannot affect him
further. The case for an injunction has therefore become moot, and
Page 259 U. S. 16
consider it. Mills v. Green, 159 U.
; Codlin v. Kohlhausen, 181 U.
; Tennessee v. Condon, 189 U. S.
, 189 U. S. 71
American Book Co. v. Kansas, 193 U. S. 49,
193 U. S. 51, 24
Sup.Ct. 394, 48 L. Ed. 613; Jones v. Montague, 194 U.
; Fisher v. Baker, 203 U.
The case having become moot, the decree is reversed with a
direction to dismiss the bill without costs to either party.