Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: January 6, 1908.




[ 207 U.S. Page 550]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

We take the findings of fact by the state court as conclusive upon us. It therein appears that the company was duly served with a notice (which was in substance a substitute for a subpoena duces tecum) to produce books and papers required, and that they had not been destroyed, but were then under its control and custody; that the papers were material evidence upon the subject of inquiry before the grand jury, and that the company had (with some minor exceptions) omitted and refused to produce them before that body. The company had a hearing before the court, and an opportunity was given it, under the statute, to set up any reasonable cause for its failure to comply with the requirements of the notice. The court, after this hearing, found the company guilty of the contempt charged and fined it accordingly.

The company insists that the proceedings were in violation of the Constitution of the United States. The objections made before us were: (1) That the notice to produce was in excess of the authority granted by the statute, and was therefore invalid; (2) that neither the statute nor the notice afforded the company an opportunity to present in court reasons why the writings demanded should not be produced; (3) that the effect of the statute is to limit a corporation in the complete dominion and control of its property situated in another State, although the corporation is not organized under the laws of the State of Vermont, and is not personally within her jurisdiction; (4) that the statute attempts to confer judicial functions upon non-judicial bodies, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; (5) that the statute and notice required the company to produce writings which tend to inncriminate it, without extending immunity

[ 207 U.S. Page 551]

     against criminal prosecution; (6) that the statute and notice authorized an unreasonable search and seizure of the private books and documents of the company; (7) that the statute provided no compensation for the time, trouble and expense imposed upon a corporation in a foreign State or country of collecting and sending the documents demanded to the State of Vermont; and lastly (8) that the statute is confined in its operation to corporations, thus making an arbitrary classification, by which the company is deprived of the equal protection of the law secured by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The first objection made by counsel for the company is not of a Federal nature. Whether the notice to produce was broader than the statute provided for is a question of the construction of the state statute, and of the notice, and the decision of the state court is final on that question.

Counsel insisted before us in discussing the second objection that the failure to give an opportunity to be heard why the books should not be produced deprived it of due process of law guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment. Without discussing the question whether this matter comes within the meaning of due process of law, we may say that the objection to the statute is not borne out by its text. The company had under its provisions, and by the fourth section, full opportunity to show cause before the court why it did not produce the papers, and the Supreme Court of Vermont has held in this case that any objection to the production of the papers made before the grand jury would have raised the question before that body, which it would have been its duty to report to the court for its action. Upon such question the company would have been entitled to be heard, and it was in fact heard before the court previous to any decision by the court regarding the right of the company to withhold the papers. So long as a hearing is given before any proceeding is concluded to enforce the production of the papers, due process of law is afforded. Simon v. Craft, 182 U.S. 427; Wilson v. Standefer, 184 U.S.

[ 207 U.S. Page 552399]

     , 415; New Orleans Waterworks Co. v. Louisiana, 185 U.S. 336, 349.

The third objection is without force. It is argued that the statute in this particular denies due process of law to the company, because it authorized the infliction of a fine by the court for failure to perform an act outside the State, ordered by a non-judicial body, and without notice and opportunity for hearing. The last reason has already been answered by showing that a hearing is provided for before any punishment of the company for disobedience to the requirements of the notice to produce can be enforced. There can surely be no illegality in providing that a corporation doing business in the State and protected by its power may be compelled to produce before a tribunal of the State material evidence in the shape of books or papers kept by it in the State, and which are in its custody and control, although for the moment outside the borders of the State. The statute is in no sense a provision as to how the company shall perform its duties and obligations in other States. It directs the company doing business in the State and present therein, by its officers or some of them, to do something which it is entirely competent to do, the purpose of which is to enable the tribunal making the investigation under a state statute to perform its duty.

Fourth. There is no provision in the Federal Constitution which directly or impliedly prohibits a State, under its own laws, from conferring upon non-judicial bodies certain functions that may be called judicial. It is said that the statute, in providing for the production of books and papers, includes not only the court and grand jury, but any tribunal or commission authorized by the State. There is nothing, as we have said, in the Federal Constitution which prevents it.

The fifth objection is also without merit, even upon the assumption that in such a case as this the company could take the objection through the witness. The court simply held that it could not determine whether the objection as to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.