Kennedy v. Silas Mason Co.
Annotate this Case
334 U.S. 249 (1948)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Kennedy v. Silas Mason Co., 334 U.S. 249 (1948)
Kennedy v. Silas Mason Co.
Argued April 20, 1948
Decided May 17, 1948
334 U.S. 249
Petitioners, who worked in a Government-owned plant in which respondent produced munitions under a cost plus fixed fee contract with the War Department, sued respondent for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The District Court's summary judgment for respondent was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Among other issues involved were whether petitioners were employees of the Government or of the private contractor and whether munitions produced for shipment across state lines are produced for "commerce" and are "goods" within the meaning of the Act. Substantial claims of the petitioners would be denied or large sums added to the cost of the war by the answers to the questions raised, and many other cases would be governed by the decision. Also, certain contentions were made in this Court
which were not made in the courts below, and an adequate consideration of the problem would require consideration of three different acts of Congress, two of which were not properly before this Court on the record in this case.
Held: without intimating any conclusion on the merits, the judgments are vacated and the cause is remanded to the District Court for reconsideration and amplification of the record in the light of this Court's opinion and of present contentions. Pp. 334 U. S. 251-257.
(a) The hearing of contentions as to disputed facts, the sorting of documents to select relevant provisions, ascertain their ultimate form and meaning, the practical construction put on them by the parties, and reduction of a mass of conflicting contentions as to fact and inference from facts is a task primarily for a trial court, instead of this Court. P. 334 U. S. 256.
(b) Summary procedures under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, however salutary where issues are clear-cut and simple, present a treacherous record for deciding issues of far-flung import, on which this Court should draw inferences with caution from complicated courses of legislation, contracting and practice. Pp. 334 U. S. 256-257.
(c) As a matter of good judicial administration, this Court will not attempt to decide these far-reaching issues on such a record, presenting an indefinite factual foundation and involving such a welter of new contentions and statutory provisions, but will await the presentation of these issues on a record containing a more solid basis of findings based on litigation or on a comprehensive statement of agreed facts. P. 334 U. S. 257.
164 F.2d 1016, judgments vacated and cause remanded.
In an action by petitioners to recover overtime compensation claimed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the District Court first denied, 68 F.Supp. 576, but later granted, 70 F.Supp. 929, summary judgment for respondent. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 164 F.2d 1016. This Court granted certiorari. 333 U.S. 841. Judgments vacated and cause remanded, p. 334 U. S. 257.