1. The amount in controversy in a suit to enjoin enforcement of
a statute alleged to be unconstitutional in relation to the
plaintiff's business is the value of his right to carry on the
business free from the restraint of the statute. P. 264 U. S.
2. When prevention of criminal prosecutions under an
unconstitutional statute is essential to protect property rights,
equitable jurisdiction exists to restrain them. P. 264 U. S.
3. A New York statute requires persons engaged in the business
of carrying passengers for hire in motor vehicles upon public
streets to file security or insurance for payment of judgments for
death, or injury to person or property, caused in the operation or
by defective construction of such motor vehicles.
(a) Not in violation of equal protection of the laws either
because it applies only in cities of the first class or because it
does not apply to persons operating motor vehicles for their own
private ends, or because it does not apply to street cars and
omnibuses, which are regulated under another law. P. 264 U. S.
(b) Not so burdensome in this case as to amount to confiscation,
in violation of due process of law, in view of the opportunity
allowed to file a corporate or personal bond if the cost of
insurance be excessive compared with the returns from plaintiff's
business. P. 264 U. S.
(c) Inability of a party to comply with the statute without
assuming an excessive burden does not render the requirement
unconstitutional if due to his peculiar circumstances.
4. The regulatory power over an activity carried on by
government sufferance or permission is greater than over one
engaged in by private right. Id.
Appeal from a decree of the district court, which dismissed a
bill to enjoin enforcement of a New York statute regulating
carriers of passengers for hire by motor vehicle.
Page 264 U. S. 141
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a suit to enjoin the enforcement of a statute of New
York (Laws 1922, p. 1566, c. 612), alleged to be in contravention
of the equal protection of the laws and due process clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment. The statute requires every person, etc.,
engaged in the business of carrying passengers for hire in any
motor vehicle, except street cars and motor vehicles subject to the
Public Service Commission Law, upon any public street in a city of
the first class, to file with the state tax commission either a
personal bond with sureties, a corporate surety bond, or a policy
of insurance in a solvent and responsible company in the sum of
$2,500, conditioned for the payment of any judgment recovered
against such person, etc., for death or injury caused in the
operation or by the defective construction of such motor vehicle.
The bill alleges that the rate of premium for the required policy
is fixed by the insurance companies at $960; that the net income
from the operation of a motor vehicle is
Page 264 U. S. 142
about $35 a week, which would be reduced by the operation of the
law to $16.50 per week, resulting in confiscation of the earnings
of appellant for the benefit of the insurance companies. The
statute makes it a misdemeanor to operate such motor vehicle
without having furnished the required bond or policy, and appellant
avers that appellees, as prosecuting officers of the state, have
threatened, and, if not enjoined, will proceed, to prosecute him
unless he complies with the law. The court below was constituted of
three judges under § 266 of the Judicial Code. Upon the return of
the order to show cause, a hearing was had and the court denied a
motion for an injunction pendente lite,
and dismissed the
bill for want of equity, without handing down an opinion.
1. Appellees insist that the district court was without
jurisdiction because the matter in controversy does not exceed the
value of $3,000. Judicial Code, § 24, subd. 1. The bill discloses
that the enforcement of the statute sought to be enjoined will have
the effect of materially increasing appellant's expenditures, as
well as causing injury to him in other respects. The allegations,
in general terms, are that the sum or value in controversy exceeds
$3,000, which the affidavits filed in the lower court tend to
support; that appellant is the owner of four motor vehicles, the
income from which would be reduced, if the law be enforced, to the
extent of $18.50 each per week, and that his business would
otherwise suffer. The object of the suit is to enjoin the
enforcement of the statute, and it is the value of this object thus
sought to be gained that determines the amount in dispute.
Railroad Co. v.
2 Black 485; Railway Co. v. Kuteman,
54 F. 547, 552; Nashville, C. & St.L. R. Co. v.
82 F. 65, 73; Scott v. Donald,
165 U. S. 107
165 U. S. 114
City of Hutchinson v. Beckham,
118 F. 399, 402;
Evenson v. Spaulding,
150 F. 517, 520; Hunt v. N.Y.
Cotton Exchange, 205 U. S. 322
205 U. S.
Page 264 U. S. 143
Counteraffidavits were filed tending to show that the expenses
incident to compliance with the statute would be less than alleged,
but it sufficiently appears that the value of the right of
appellant to carry on his business, freed from the restraint of the
statute, exceeds the jurisdictional amount.
2. Another preliminary contention is that the bill cannot be
sustained, because there is a plain, adequate, and complete remedy
at law -- that is, that the question may be tried and determined as
fully in a criminal prosecution under the statute as in a suit in
equity. The general rule undoubtedly is that a court of equity is
without jurisdiction to restrain criminal proceedings, unless they
are instituted by a party to a suit already pending before it to
try the same right that is in issue there. In re Sawyer,
124 U. S. 200
124 U. S.
-211; Davis & Farnum Manufacturing Co. v. Los
Angeles, 189 U. S. 207
189 U. S.
But it is settled that "a distinction obtains, and equitable
jurisdiction exists to restrain criminal prosecutions under
unconstitutional enactments, when the prevention of such
prosecutions is essential to the safeguarding of rights of
property." Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S.
, 239 U. S. 37
The question has so recently been considered that we need do no
more than cite Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.
, where the cases are collected, and state our
conclusion that the present suit falls within the exception and not
the general rule. Huston v. City,
176 Iowa, 455, 464;
Dobbins v. Los Angeles, 195 U. S. 223
3. We come then, to the question whether the statute assailed
contravenes the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. That the
selection of cities of the first class for the application of the
regulations and the exclusion of all others is not an unreasonable
and arbitrary classification does not admit of controversy.
Hayes v. Missouri, 120 U. S. 68
cannot say that there are not reasons applicable to the streets of
large cities, such as
Page 264 U. S. 144
their use by a great number of persons or the density and
continuity of traffic, justifying measures to safeguard the public
from dangers incident to the operation of motor vehicles which do
not obtain in the case of the smaller communities.
The contention most pressed is that the act unreasonably and
arbitrarily discriminates against those engaged in operating motor
vehicles for hire in favor of persons operating such vehicles for
their private ends, and in favor of streetcars and motor omnibuses.
If the state determines that the use of streets for private
purposes in the usual and ordinary manner shall be preferred over
their use by common carriers for hire, there is nothing in the
Fourteenth Amendment to prevent. The streets belong to the public,
and are primarily for the use of the public in the ordinary way.
Their use for the purposes of gain is special and extraordinary,
and, generally at least, may be prohibited or conditioned as the
legislature deems proper. Neither is there substance in the
complaint that streetcars and omnibuses are not included in the
requirements of the statute. The reason, appearing in the statute
itself, for excluding them is that they are regulated by the Public
Service Commission Laws, and this circumstance, if there were
nothing more, would preclude us from saying that their noninclusion
renders the classification so arbitrary as to cause it to be
obnoxious to the equal protection clause. Decisions sustaining the
validity of legislation like that here involved are numerous and
substantially uniform. Among them we cite the following: Nolen
225 F. 812, 818; Schoenfeld v. Seattle,
265 F. 726, 730; Lane v. Whitaker,
275 F. 476, 480;
Huston v City,
176 Iowa 455, 468; City of Memphis v.
133 Tenn. 83, 89; Ex parte Dickey,
576, 578; Melconian v. City of Grand Rapids,
397, 403; State v. Seattle Taxicab & Transfer Co.,
Wash. 416; Donella v. Enright et al.,
Page 264 U. S. 145
195 N.Y.S. 217; People v. Martin,
203 App.Div. 423,
where the statute now under review was sustained against the
attacks here made as to its constitutionality. And see Fifth
Avenue Coach Co. v. New York, 221 U.
; Pacific Express Co. v. Seibert,
142 U. S. 339
142 U. S.
It is asserted that the requirements of the statute are so
burdensome as to amount to confiscation, and therefore to result in
depriving appellant of his property without due process of law. The
allegation is that the rate of premium fixed by insurance companies
operating in New York amounts to about $18.50 per week for each
taxicab, while the net income from each is about $35 per week. The
operator, under the statute, however, is not confined to this
method of security, but instead may file either a personal bond
with two approved sureties or a corporate surety bond. Appellant
says that he cannot procure a personal bond, but it does not appear
that he might not procure the corporate surety bond at a less cost.
Affidavits filed below on behalf of appellees tend to show that
insurance policies in mutual casualty companies may be secured for
$540 a year, and that operators of upwards of a thousand cars have
furnished personal bonds. The fact that, because of circumstances
peculiar to him, appellant may be unable to comply with the
requirement as to security without assuming a burden greater than
that generally borne, or excessive in itself, does not militate
against the constitutionality of the statute. Moreover, a
distinction must be observed between the regulation of an activity
which may be engaged in as a matter of right and one carried on by
government sufferance or permission. In the latter case, the power
to exclude altogether generally includes the lesser power to
condition, and may justify a degree of regulation not admissible in
the former. See Davis v. Massachusetts, 167 U. S.