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dictment or other criminal proceedings for a violation of the act, would therefore furnish no reasonable or adequate opportunity for the presentation of a defense founded upon the assertion that the rates were too low and therefore the act invalid.
We do not say the company could not interpose this defense in an action to recover penalties or upon the trial of an indictment (St. Louis &c. Ry. Co. v. Gill, 156 U. S. 649), but the facility of proving it in either case falls so far below that which would obtain in a court of equity that comparison is scarcely possible.
To await proceedings against the company in a state court grounded upon a disobedience of the act, and then, if necessary, obtain a review in this court by writ of error to the highest state court, would place the company in peril of large loss and its agents in great risk of fines and imprisonment if it should be finally determined that the act was valid. This risk the company ought not to be required to take. Over eleven thousand millions of dollars, it is estimated, are invested in railroad property, owned by many thousands of people who are scattered over the whole country from ocean to ocean, and they are entitled to equal protection from the laws and from the courts, with the owrers of all other kinds of property, no more, no less. The courts having jurisdiction, · Federal or state, should at all times be open to them as well as to others, for the purpose of protecting their property and their legal rights.
All the objections to a remedy at law as being plainly.inadequate are obviated by a suit in equity, making all. who are directly interested parties to the suit, and enjoining the enforcement of the act until the decision of the court upon the legal question.
An act of the legislature fixing rates, either for passengers or freight, is to be regarded as prima facie valid, and the onus rests upon the company to prove its assertion to the contrary. Under such circumstances it was stated by Mr. Justice Miller,
in his concurring opinion in Chicago &c. Co. v. Minnesota, 134 U. S. 418, 460, that the proper, if not the only, mode of judicial relief against the tariff of rates established by the legislature or by its Commission is by a bill in chancery, asserting its unreasonable character, and that until the decree of the court in such equity suit was obtained it was not competent for each individual having dealings with a carrier, or for the carrier in regard to each individual who demands its services, to raise a contest in the courts over the questions which ought to be settled in this general and conclusive manner. This remedy by bill in equity is referred to and approved by Mr. Justice Shiras, in delivering the opinion of the court in St. Louis &c. Co. v. Gill, 156 U. S. 649, 659, 666, although that question was not then directly before the court. Such remedy is undoubtedly the most convenient, the most comprehensive and the most orderly way in which the rights of all parties can be properly, fairly and adequately passed upon. It cannot be to the real interest of anyone to injure or cripple the resources of the railroad companies of the country, because the prosperity of both the railroads and the country is most intimately connected. The question of sufficiency of rates is important and controlling, and being of a judicial nature it ought to be settled at the earliest moment by some court, and when a Federal court first obtains jurisdiction it ought, on general principles of jurisprudence, to be permitted to finish the inquiry and make a conclusive judgment to the exclusion of all other courts. This is all that is claimed, and this, we think, must be admitted.
Finally it is objected that the necessary result of upholding this suit in the Circuit Court will be to draw to the lower Federal courts a great flood of litigation of this character, where one Federal judge would have it in his power to enjoin proceedings by state officials to enforce the legislative acts of the State, either by criminal or civil actions. To this it may be answered, in the first place, that no injunction ought to be granted unless in a case reasonably free from doubt. We
think such rule is, and will be, followed by all the judges of the Federal courts.
And, again, it must be remembered that jurisdiction of this general character has, in fact, been exercised by Federal courts from the time of Osborn v. United States Bank up to the present; the only difference in regard to the case of Osborn and the case in hand being that in this case the injury complained of is the threatened commencement of suits, civil or criminal, to enforce the act, instead of, as in the Osborn case, an actual and direct trespass upon or interference with tangible property. A bill filed to prevent the commencement of suits to enforce an unconstitutional act, under the circumstances already mentioned, is no new invention, as we have already seen. The difference between an actual and direct interference with tangible property and the enjoining of state officers from enforcing an unconstitutional act, is not of a radical nature, and does not extend, in truth, the jurisdiction of the courts over the subject matter. In the case of the interference with property the person enjoined is assuming to act in his capacity as an official of the State, and justification for his interference is claimed by reason of his position as a state official. Such official cannot so justify when acting under an unconstitutional enactment of the legislature. So, where the state official, instead of directly interfering with tangible property, is about to commence suits, which have for their object the enforcement of an act which violates the Federal Constitution, to the great and irreparable injury of the complainants, he is seeking the same justification from the authority of the State as in other cases. The sovereignty of the State is, in reality, no more involved in one case than in the other. The State cannot in either case impart to the official immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States. See In re Ayers, 123 U. S. 507.
This supreme authority, which arises from the specific provisions of the Constitution itself, is nowhere more fully illustrated than in the series of decisions under the Federal habeas
corpus statute (8 753, Rev. Stat.), in some of which cases persons in the custody of state officers for alleged crimes against the State have been taken from that custody and discharged by a Federal court or judge, because the imprisonment was adjudged to be in violation of the Federal Constitution. The right to so discharge has not been doubted by this court, and it has never been supposed there was any suit against the State by reason of serving the writ upon one of the officers of the State in whose custody the person was found. In some of the cases the writ has been refused as matter of discretion, but in others it has been granted, while the power has been fully recognized in all. Ex parte Royall, 117 U. S. 241; In re Loney, 134 U. S. 372; In re Neagle, 135 U. S. 1; Baker v. Grice, 169 U. S. 284; Ohio v. Thomas, 173 U. S. 276; Minnesota v. Brundage, 180 U. S. 499, 502; Reid v. Jones, 187 U. S. 153; United States v. Lewis, 200'U. S. 1; In re Lincoln, 202 U. S. 178; Urquhart v. Brown, 205 U. S. 179.
It is somewhat difficult to appreciate the distinction which, while admitting that the taking of such a person from the custody of the State by virtue of service of the writ on the state officer in whose custody he is found, is not a suit against the State, and yet service of a writ on the Attorney General to prevent his enforcing an unconstitutional enactment of a state legislature is a suit against the State.
There is nothing in the case before us that ought properly to breed hostility to the customary operation of Federal courts of justice in cases of this character.
The rule to show cause is discharged and the petition for writs of habeas corpus and certiorari is dismissed.
So ordered. MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, dissenting.
Although the history of this litigation is set forth in the opinion of the court, I deem it appropriate to restate the principal facts of the case in direct connection with my examination of the question upon which the decision turns.
That question is, whether the suit in the Circuit Court of the United States was, as to the relief sought against the Attorney General of Minnesota, forbidden by the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, declaring that "the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign State.” That examination, I may say at the outset, is entered upon with no little embarrassment, in view of the fact that the views expressed by me are not shared by my brethren. I may also frankly admit embarrassment arising from certain views stated in dissenting opinions heretofore delivered by me which did not, at the time, meet the approval of my brethren, and which I do not now myself entertain. What I shall say in this opinion will be in substantial accord with what the court has heretofore decided, while the opinion of the court departs, as I think, from principles previously announced by it upon full consideration. I propose to adhere to former decisions of the court, whatever may have been once my opinion as to certain aspects of this general question.
The plaintiffs in the suit referred to, Perkins and Shepard, were shareholders of the Northern Pacific Railway Company and citizens, respectively, of Iowa and Minnesota. The defendants were the railway company, Edward T. Young, Attorney General of Minnesota, the several members of the State Railroad and Warehouse Commission, and certain persons who were shippers of freight over the lines of that railway.
The general object of the suit was to prevent compliance with the provisions of certain acts of the Minnesota legislature and certain.orders of the State Railroad and Warehouse Commission, indicating the rates which the State permits to be charged for the transportation of passengers and commodities upon railroads within its limits; also, to prevent shippers from bringing actions against the railway company to enforce those acts and orders.