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decided: March 6, 1947.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton

Author: VINSON

[ 330 U.S. Page 262]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In October, 1946, the United States was in possession of, and operating, the major portion of the country's bituminous coal mines.*fn1 Terms and conditions of employment

[ 330 U.S. Page 263]

     were controlled "for the period of Government possession" by an agreement*fn2 entered into on May 29, 1946, between Secretary of the Interior Krug, as Coal Mines Administrator, and John L. Lewis, as President of the United Mine Workers of America.*fn3 The Krug-Lewis agreement embodied far-reaching changes favorable to the miners;4*fn* and, except as amended and supplemented therein, the agreement carried forward the terms and conditions of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of April 11, 1945.*fn5

[ 330 U.S. Page 264]

     On October 21, 1946, the defendant Lewis directed a letter to Secretary Krug and presented issues which led directly to the present controversy. According to the defendant Lewis, the Krug-Lewis agreement carried forward § 15 of the National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement of April 11, 1945. Under that section either party to the contract was privileged to give ten days' notice in writing of a desire for a negotiating conference which the other party was required to attend; fifteen days after the beginning of the conference either party might give notice in writing of the termination of the agreement, effective five days after receipt of such notice. Asserting authority under this clause, the defendant Lewis in his letter of October 21 requested that a conference begin November 1 for the purpose of negotiating new arrangements concerning wages, hours, practices, and other pertinent matters appertaining to the bituminous coal industry.*fn6

Captain N. H. Collisson, then Coal Mines Administrator, answered for Secretary Krug. Any contractual basis for requiring negotiations for revision of the Krug-Lewis agreement was denied.*fn7 In the opinion of the Government, § 15 of the 1945 agreement had not been preserved by the Krug-Lewis agreement; indeed, § 15 had been expressly nullified by the clause of the latter contract providing that the terms contained therein were to cover the period of Government possession. Although suggesting that any negotiations looking toward a new agreement be carried on with the mine owners, the Government expressed willingness to discuss matters affecting the operation of the mines under the terms of the Krug-Lewis agreement.

[ 330 U.S. Page 265]

     Conferences were scheduled and began in Washington on November 1, both the union and the Government adhering to their opposing views regarding the right of either party to terminate the contract.*fn8 At the fifth meeting, held on November 11, the union for the first time offered specific proposals for changes in wages and other conditions of employment. On November 13 Secretary Krug requested the union to negotiate with the mine owners. This suggestion was rejected.*fn9 On November 15 the union, by John L. Lewis, notified Secretary Krug that "Fifteen days having now elapsed since the beginning of said conference, the United Mine Workers of America, exercising its option hereby terminates said Krug-Lewis Agreement as of 12:00 o'clock P. M., Midnight, Wednesday, November 20, 1946."

Secretary Krug again notified the defendant Lewis that he had no power under the Krug-Lewis agreement or under the law to terminate the contract by unilateral declaration.*fn10 The President of the United States announced his strong support of the Government's position and requested reconsideration by the union in order to avoid a national crisis. However, the defendant Lewis, as union president, circulated to the mine workers copies of the November 15 letter to Secretary Krug. This communication was for the "official information" of union members.

The United States on November 18 filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia against

[ 330 U.S. Page 266]

     the United Mine Workers of America and John L. Lewis, individually and as president of the union. The suit was brought under the Declaratory Judgment Act*fn11 and sought judgment to the effect that the defendants had no power unilaterally to terminate the Krug-Lewis agreement. And, alleging that the November 15 notice was in reality a strike notice, the United States, pending the final determination of the cause, requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief.

The court, immediately and without notice to the defendants, issued a temporary order*fn12 restraining the

[ 330 U.S. Page 267]

     defendants from continuing in effect the notice of November 15, from encouraging the mine workers to interfere with the operation of the mines by strike or cessation of work, and from taking any action which would interfere with the court's jurisdiction and its determination of the case. The order by its terms was to expire at 3:00 p.m. on November 27 unless extended for good cause shown. A hearing on the preliminary injunction was set for 10:00 a. m. on the same date. The order and complaint were served on the defendants on November 18.

A gradual walkout by the miners commenced on November 18, and, by midnight of November 20, consistent with the miners' "no contract, no work" policy, a full-blown strike was in progress. Mines furnishing the major part of the nation's bituminous coal production were idle.

On November 21 the United States filed a petition for a rule to show cause why the defendants should not be punished as and for contempt, alleging a willful violation of the restraining order. The rule issued, setting November 25 as the return day and, if at that time the contempt was not sufficiently purged, setting November 27 as the day for trial on the contempt charge.

On the return day, defendants, by counsel, informed the court that no action had been taken concerning the November 15 notice, and denied the jurisdiction of the court to issue the restraining order and rule to show cause. Trial on the contempt charge was thereupon ordered to begin as scheduled on November 27. On November 26 the defendants filed a motion to discharge and vacate the rule to show cause. Their motion challenged the jurisdiction of the court, and raised the grave question of

[ 330 U.S. Page 268]

     whether the Norris-LaGuardia Act*fn13 prohibited the granting of the temporary restraining order at the instance of the United States.*fn14

After extending the temporary restraining order on November 27, and after full argument on November 27 and November 29, the court, on the latter date, overruled the motion and held that its power to issue the restraining order in this case was not affected by either the Norris-LaGuardia Act or the Clayton Act.*fn15

The defendants thereupon pleaded not guilty and waived an advisory jury. Trial on the contempt charge proceeded. The Government presented eight witnesses, the defendants none. At the conclusion of the trial on

[ 330 U.S. Page 269]

     December 3, the court found that the defendants had permitted the November 15 notice to remain outstanding, had encouraged the miners to interfere by a strike with the operation of the mines and with the performance of governmental functions, and had interfered with the jurisdiction of the court. Both defendants were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of both criminal and civil contempt dating from November 18. The court entered judgment on December 4, fining the defendant Lewis $10,000, and the defendant union $3,500,000. On the same day a preliminary injunction, effective until a final determination of the case, was issued in terms similar to those of the restraining order.

On December 5 the defendants filed notices of appeal from the judgments of contempt. The judgments were stayed pending the appeals. The United States on December 6 filed a petition for certiorari in both cases. Section 240 (a) of the Judicial Code authorizes a petition for certiorari by any party and the granting of certiorari prior to judgment in the Circuit Court of Appeals. Prompt settlement of this case being in the public interest, we granted certiorari on December 9, and subsequently, for similar reasons, granted petitions for certiorari filed by the defendants, 329 U.S. 708, 709, 710. The cases were consolidated for argument.


Defendants' first and principal contention is that the restraining order and preliminary injunction were issued in violation of the Clayton and Norris-LaGuardia Acts. We have come to a contrary decision.

It is true that Congress decreed in § 20 of the Clayton Act that "no such restraining order or injunction shall prohibit any person or persons . . . from recommending, advising, or persuading others . . ." to strike. But by the

[ 330 U.S. Page 270]

     Act itself this provision was made applicable only to cases "between an employer and employees, or between employers and employees, or between employees, or between persons employed and persons seeking employment . . . ."*fn16 For reasons which will be explained at greater length in discussing the applicability of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, we cannot construe the general term "employer" to include the United States, where there is no express reference to the United States and no evident affirmative grounds for believing that Congress intended to withhold an otherwise available remedy from the Government as well as from a specified class of private persons.

Moreover, it seems never to have been suggested that the proscription on injunctions found in the Clayton Act is in any respect broader than that in the Norris-LaGuardia Act. Defendants do not suggest in their argument that it is. This Court, on the contrary, has stated that the Norris-LaGuardia Act "still further . . . [narrowed] the circumstances under which the federal courts could grant injunctions in labor disputes."*fn17 Consequently, we would feel justified in this case to consider the application of the Norris-LaGuardia Act alone. If it does not apply, neither does the less comprehensive proscription of the Clayton Act;*fn18 if it does, defendants' reliance on the Clayton Act is unnecessary.

By the Norris-LaGuardia Act, Congress divested the federal courts of jurisdiction to issue injunctions in a specified class of cases. It would probably be conceded that the characteristics of the present case would be such

[ 330 U.S. Page 271]

     as to bring it within that class if the basic dispute had remained one between defendants and a private employer, and the latter had been the plaintiff below. So much seems to be found in the express terms of §§ 4 and 13 of the Act, set out in the margin.*fn19 The specifications in

[ 330 U.S. Page 272]

     § 13 are in general terms and make no express exception of the United States. From these premises, defendants argue that the restraining order and injunction were forbidden by the Act and were wrongfully issued.

Even if our examination of the Act stopped here, we could hardly assent to this conclusion. There is an old and well-known rule that statutes which in general terms divest pre-existing rights or privileges will not be applied to the sovereign without express words to that effect.*fn20 It has been stated, in cases in which there were extraneous

[ 330 U.S. Page 273]

     and affirmative reasons for believing that the sovereign should also be deemed subject to a restrictive statute, that this rule was a rule of construction only.*fn21 Though that may be true, the rule has been invoked successfully in cases so closely similar to the present one,*fn22 and the statement of the rule in those cases has been so explicit,*fn23 that we are inclined to give it much weight here. Congress was not ignorant of the rule which those cases reiterated; and, with knowledge of that rule, Congress would not, in writing the Norris-LaGuardia Act, omit to use "clear and specific [language] to that effect" if it actually intended to reach the Government in all cases.

But we need not place entire reliance on this exclusionary rule. Section 2,*fn24 which declared the public policy of

[ 330 U.S. Page 274]

     the United States as a guide to the Act's interpretation, carries indications as to the scope of the Act. It predicates the purpose of the Act on the contrast between the position of the "individual unorganized worker" and that of the "owners of property" who have been permitted to "organize in the corporate and other forms of ownership association," and on the consequent helplessness of the worker "to exercise actual liberty of contract . . . and thereby to obtain acceptable terms and conditions of employment." The purpose of the Act is said to be to contribute to the worker's "full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of his own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of his employment, and that he shall be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agents, in the designation of such representatives . . . for the purpose of collective bargaining . . . ." These considerations, on their face, obviously do not apply to the Government as an employer or to relations between the Government and its employees.

If we examine §§ 4 and 13, on which defendants rely, we note that they do not purport to strip completely from the federal courts all their pre-existing powers to issue injunctions, that they withdraw this power only in a specified

[ 330 U.S. Page 275]

     type of case, and that this type is a case "involving or growing out of any labor dispute." Section 13, in the first instance, declares a case to be of this type when it "involves persons" or "involves any conflicting or competing interests" in a labor dispute of "persons" who stand in any one of several defined economic relationships. And "persons" must be involved on both sides of the case, or the conflicting interests of "persons" on both sides of the dispute. The Act does not define "persons." In common usage that term does not include the sovereign, and statutes employing it will ordinarily not be construed to do so.*fn25 Congress made express provision, R. S. § 1, 1 U. S. C. § 1, for the term to extend to partnerships and corporations, and in § 13 of the Act itself for it to extend to associations. The absence of any comparable provision extending the term to sovereign governments implies that Congress did not desire the term to extend to them.

Those clauses in § 13 (a) and (b) spelling out the position of "persons" relative to the employer-employee relationship affirmatively suggest that the United States, as an employer, was not meant to be included. Those clauses require that the case involve persons "who are engaged in the same industry, trade, craft, or occupation," who "have direct or indirect interests therein," who are "employees of the same employer," who are "members of the same or an affiliated organization of employers or employees," or who stand in some one of other specified positions relative to a dispute over the employer-employee relationship. Every one of these qualifications in § 13 (a) and (b) we think relates to an economic role ordinarily filled by a private individual or corporation, and not by a sovereign government. None of them is at all suggestive of any part played by the United States in its relations

[ 330 U.S. Page 276]

     with its own employees. We think that Congress' failure to refer to the United States or to specify any role which it might commonly be thought to fill is strong indication that it did not intend that the Act should apply to situations in which the United States appears as employer.

In the type of case to which the Act applies, § 7 requires certain findings of fact as conditions precedent to the issuance of injunctions even for the limited purposes recognized by the Act. One such required finding is that "the public officers charged with the duty to protect complainant's property are unable or unwilling to furnish adequate protection." Obviously, such finding could never be made if the complainant were the United States, and federal property were threatened by federal employees, as the responsibility of protection would then rest not only on state officers, but also on all federal civil and military forces. If these failed, a federal injunction would be a meaningless form. This provision, like those in §§ 2, 4 and 13, already discussed, indicates that the Act was not intended to affect the relations between the United States and its employees.

Defendants maintain that certain facts in the legislative history of the Act so clearly indicate an intent to restrict the Government's use of injunctions that all the foregoing arguments to the contrary must be rejected.

Representative Beck of Pennsylvania indicated in the course of the House debates that he thought the Government would be included within the prohibitions of the Act.*fn26 Mr. Beck was not a member of the Judiciary Committee which reported the bill, and did not vote

[ 330 U.S. Page 277]

     for its passage. We do not accept his views as expressive of the attitude of Congress relative to the status of the United States under the Act.

Representative Blanton of Texas introduced an amendment to the bill which would have made an exception to the provision limiting the injunctive power "where the United States Government is the petitioner," and this amendment was defeated by the House.*fn27 But the first comment made on this amendment, after its introduction, was that of Representative LaGuardia, the House sponsor of the bill, who opposed it, not on the ground that such an exception should not be made, but rather on the ground that the express exception was unnecessary. Mr. LaGuardia read the definition of a person "participating or interested in a labor dispute" in § 13 (b), referred to the provisions of § 13 (a), and then added: "I do not see how in any possible way the United States can be brought in under the provisions of this bill." When Mr. Blanton thereupon suggested the necessity of allowing the Government to use injunctions to maintain discipline in the army and navy, Mr. LaGuardia pointed out that these services are not "a trade, craft, or occupation." Mr. Blanton's only answer to Mr. LaGuardia's opposition was that the latter "does not know what extensions will be made." A vote was then taken and the amendment defeated.*fn28 Obviously this incident does not reveal a Congressional intent to legislate concerning the relationship between the United States and its employees.

In the debates in both Houses of Congress numerous references were made to previous instances in which the United States had resorted to the injunctive process in labor disputes between private employers and private employees,*fn29

[ 330 U.S. Page 278]

     where some public interest was thought to have become involved. These instances were offered as illustrations of the abuses flowing from the use of injunctions in labor disputes and the desirability of placing a limitation thereon. The frequency of these references and the attention directed to their subject matter are compelling circumstances. We agree that they indicate that Congress, in passing the Act, did not intend to permit the United States to continue to intervene by injunction in purely private labor disputes.

But whether Congress so intended or not is a question different from the one before us now. Here we are concerned only with the Government's right to injunctive relief in a dispute with its own employees. Although we recognize that Congress intended to withdraw such remedy in the former situation, it does not follow that it intended to do so in the latter. The circumstances in which the Government sought such remedy in 1894 and 1922 were vastly different from those in which the Government is seeking to carry out its responsibilities by taking legal action against its own employees, and we think that the references in question have only the most distant and uncertain bearing on our present problem. Indeed, when we look further into the history of the Act, we find other events which unequivocally demonstrate that injunctive relief was not intended to be withdrawn in the latter situation.

When the House had before it a rule for the consideration of the bill, Representative Michener, a ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee and spokesman for the minority party on the Rules Committee, made a general statement in the House concerning the subject matter of the bill and advocating its immediate consideration. In this survey he clearly stated that the Government's

[ 330 U.S. Page 279]

     rights with respect to its own employees would not be affected:*fn30

"Be it remembered that this bill does not attempt to legislate concerning Government employees. I do not believe that the enactment of this bill into law will take away from the Federal Government any rights which it has under existing law, to seek and obtain injunctive relief where the same is necessary for the functioning of the Government."

In a later stage of the debate, Representative Michener repeated this view in the following terms:*fn31

"This deals with labor disputes between individuals, not where the Government is involved. It is my notion that under this bill the Government can function with an injunction, if that is necessary in order to carry out the purpose of the Government. I should like to see this clarified, but I want to go on record as saying that under my interpretation of this bill the Federal Government will not at any time be prevented from applying for an injunction, if one is necessary in order that the Government may function."

Representatives Michener and LaGuardia were members of the Judiciary Committee which reported and recommended the bill to the House. They were the most active spokesmen for the Committee, both in explaining the bill and advocating its passage. No member of the House who voted for the bill challenged their explanations. At least one other member expressed a like understanding.*fn32 We cannot but believe that the House accepted

[ 330 U.S. Page 280]

     these authoritative representations as to the proper construction of the bill.*fn33 The Senate expressed no contrary understanding,*fn34 and we must conclude that Congress, in passing the Act, did not intend to withdraw the Government's existing rights to injunctive relief against its own employees.

If we were to stop here, there would be little difficulty in accepting the decision of the District Court upon the scope of the Act. And the cases in this Court express consistent views concerning the types of situations to which the Act applies.*fn35 They have gone no farther than to follow Congressional desires by regarding as beyond the jurisdiction of the District Courts the issuance of injunctions sought by the United States and directed to persons who are not employees of the United States. None of these cases dealt with the narrow segment of the employer-employee relationship now before us.

[ 330 U.S. Page 281]

     But regardless of the determinative guidance so offered, defendants rely upon the opinions of several Senators uttered in May, 1943, while debating the Senate version of the War Labor Disputes Act.*fn36 The debate at that time centered around a substitute for the bill, S. 796, as originally introduced.*fn37 Section 5 of the substitute, as amended, provided, "The district courts of the United States and the United States courts of the Territories or possessions shall have jurisdiction, for cause shown, but solely upon application by the Attorney General or under his direction . . . to restrain violations or threatened violations of this act."*fn38 Following the rejection of other amendments aimed at permitting a much wider use of injunctions and characterized as contrary to the Norris-LaGuardia Act,*fn39 several Senators were of the opinion that § 5 itself would remove some of the protection given employees by that Act,*fn40 a view contrary to what we have just determined to be the scope of the Act as passed in 1932. Section 5 was defeated and no injunctive provisions were contained in the Senate bill.

We have considered these opinions, but cannot accept them as authoritative guides to the construction of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. They were expressed by Senators,

[ 330 U.S. Page 282]

     some of whom were not members of the Senate in 1932, and none of whom was on the Senate Judiciary Committee which reported the bill. They were expressed eleven years after the Act was passed and cannot be accorded even the same weight as if made by the same individuals in the course of the Norris-LaGuardia debates.*fn41 Moreover, these opinions were given by individuals striving to write legislation from the floor of the Senate and working without the benefit of hearings and committee reports on the issues crucial to us here.*fn42 We fail to see how the remarks of these Senators in 1943 can serve to change the legislative intent of Congress expressed in 1932, and we accordingly adhere to our conclusion that the Norris-LaGuardia Act did not affect the jurisdiction of the courts to issue injunctions when sought by the United States in a labor dispute with its own employees.

It has been suggested, however, that Congress, in passing the War Labor Disputes Act, effectively restricted the theretofore existing authority of the courts to issue injunctions in connection with labor disputes in plants seized by the United States. Chief reliance is placed upon the rejection by the Senate of § 5 of the Connally substitute bill.*fn43 But it is clear that no comparable

[ 330 U.S. Page 283]

     action transpired in the House. Indeed, proposals in the House and the House substitute*fn44 for S. 796 authorized the use of injunctions in connection with private plants not yet seized by the United States. These admitted inroads on the Norris-LaGuardia Act drew much comment*fn45 on the floor of the House, but nevertheless prevailed. Seizure was also contemplated, and criminal sanctions were made available in this situation, without specifically authorizing the use of injunctions by the United States. The latter issue was not raised, not debated and not commented upon in the House. But the fact that the House version did not provide for the issuance of injunctions to aid in the operation of seized plants is not the issue here. Rather, it is whether the House expressed any intent to restrict the existing authority of the courts. We find not the slightest suggestion to that effect in either the House substitute bill or the debates concerning it.

Nor can the action of the conference committee be construed as a Congressional proscription of issuing injunctions to aid the United States in dealing with employees in seized plants. Neither the House nor Senate version, as these bills went to conference, in any way placed this issue before the conferees. The conference committee simply struck the broader provisions of the House bill allowing injunctions to issue in private labor disputes and

[ 330 U.S. Page 284]

     had no occasion to consider the narrower question we have before us now. The conferees, in producing the Act in its final form, did nothing which suggests that the Congress intended to bar injunctions sought by the Government to aid in the operation of seized plants. We thus find nothing in the legislative background of the War Labor Disputes Act which constitutes an authoritative expression of Congress directing the courts to withhold from the United States injunctive relief in connection with an Act designed to strengthen the hand of the Government in serious labor disputes.

The defendants contend, however, that workers in mines seized by the Government are not employees of the Federal Government; that in operating the mines thus seized, the Government is not engaged in a sovereign function; and that, consequently, the situation in this case does not fall within the area which we have indicated as lying outside the scope of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. It is clear, however, that workers in the mines seized by the Government under the authority of the War Labor Disputes Act stand in an entirely different relationship to the Federal Government with respect to their employment from that which existed before the seizure was effected. That Congress intended such to be the case is apparent both from the terms of the statute and from the legislative deliberations preceding its enactment. Section 3 of the War Labor Disputes Act calls for the seizure of any plant, mine, or facility when the President finds that the operation thereof is threatened by strike or other labor disturbance and that an interruption in production will unduly impede the war effort. Congress intended that by virtue of Government seizure, a mine should become, for purposes of production and operation, a Government facility in as complete a sense as if the Government held full

[ 330 U.S. Page 285]

     title and ownership.*fn46 Consistently with that view, criminal penalties were provided for interference with the operation of such facilities.*fn47 Also included were procedures for adjusting wages and conditions of employment of the workers in such a manner as to avoid interruptions in production.*fn48 The question with which we are confronted is not whether the workers in mines under Government seizure are "employees" of the Federal Government for every purpose which might be conceived,*fn49 but whether,

[ 330 U.S. Page 286]

     for the purposes of this case, the incidents of the relationship existing between the Government and the workers are those of governmental employer and employee.

Executive Order 9728, in pursuance of which the Government seized possession of the mines, authorized the Secretary of the Interior to negotiate with the representatives of the miners, and thereafter to apply to the National Wage Stabilization Board for appropriate changes in terms and conditions of employment for the period of governmental operation.*fn50 Such negotiations were undertaken and resulted in the Krug-Lewis agreement. That agreement contains many basic departures from the earlier contract entered into between the mine workers and the private operators on April 11, 1945, which, except as amended and supplemented by the Krug-Lewis agreement, was continued in effect for the period of Government possession. Among the terms of the Krug-Lewis agreement were provisions for a new mine safety code. Operating managers were directed to provide the mine employees with the protection and benefits of Workmen's Compensation and Occupational Disease Laws. Provision was made for a Welfare and Retirement Fund and a Medical and Hospital Fund. The agreement granted substantial wage increases and contained terms relating to vacations and vacation pay. Included were provisions calling for changes in equitable grievance procedures.

It should be observed that the Krug-Lewis agreement was one solely between the Government and the union.

[ 330 U.S. Page 287]

     The private mine operators were not parties to the contract nor were they made parties to any of its subsequent modifications. It should also be observed that the provisions relate to matters which normally constitute the subject matter of collective bargaining between employer and employee. Many of the provisions incorporated into the agreement for the period of Government operation had theretofore been vigorously opposed by the private operators and have not subsequently received their approval.

It is descriptive of the situation to state that the Government, in order to maintain production and to accomplish the purposes of the seizure, has substituted itself for the private employer in dealing with those matters which formerly were the subject of collective bargaining between the union and the operators. The defendants by their conduct have given practical recognition to this fact. The union negotiated a collective agreement with the Government and has made use of the procedures provided by the War Labor Disputes Act to modify its terms and conditions. The union has apparently regarded the Krug-Lewis agreement as a sufficient contract of employment to satisfy the mine workers' traditional demand of a contract as a condition precedent to their work. The defendant Lewis, in responding to a suggestion of the Secretary of the Interior that certain union demands should be taken to the private operators with the view of making possible the termination of Government possession, stated in a letter dated November 15, 1946: "The Government of the United States seized the mines and entered into a contract. The mine workers do not propose to deal with parties who have no status under that contract." The defendant Lewis in the same letter referred to the operators as "strangers to the Krug-Lewis Agreement" and to the miners as the "400,000 men who now serve the Government of the United States in the bituminous coal mines."

[ 330 U.S. Page 288]

     The defendants, however, point to the fact that the private managers of the mines have been retained by the Government in the role of operating managers with substantially the same functions and authority. It is true that the regulations for the operation of the mines issued by the Coal Mines Administrator provide for the retention of the private managers to assist in the realization of the objects of Government seizure and operation.*fn51 The regulations, however, also provide for the removal of such operating managers at the discretion of the Coal Mines Administrator.*fn52 Thus the Government, though utilizing the services of the private managers, has nevertheless retained ultimate control.

The defendants also point to the regulations which provide that none of the earnings or liabilities resulting from the operation of the mines, while under seizure, are for the account or at the risk or expense of the Government;*fn53 that the companies continue to be liable for all Federal, State, and local taxes;*fn54 and that the mining companies remain subject to suit.*fn55 The regulations on which defendants rely represent an attempt on the part of the Coal Mines Administrator to define the respective powers and obligations of the Government and private operators during the period of Government control. We do not at this time express any opinion as to the validity of these regulations. It is sufficient to state that, in any event, the matters to which they refer have little persuasive weight in determining the nature of the relation existing between the Government and the mine workers.

[ 330 U.S. Page 289]

     We do not find convincing the contention of the defendants that in seizing and operating the coal mines the Government was not exercising a sovereign function and that, hence, this is not a situation which can be excluded from the terms of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. In the Executive Order which directed the seizure of the mines, the President found and proclaimed that "the coal produced by such mines is required for the war effort and is indispensable for the continued operation of the national economy during the transition from war to peace; that the war effort will be unduly impeded or delayed by . . . interruptions [in production]; and that the exercise . . . of the powers vested in me is necessary to insure the operation of such mines in the interest of the war effort and to preserve the national economic structure in the present emergency . . . ." Under the conditions found by the President to exist, it would be difficult to conceive of a more vital and urgent function of the Government than the seizure and operation of the bituminous coal mines. We hold that in a case such as this, where the Government has seized actual possession of the mines, or other facilities, and is operating them, and the relationship between the Government and the workers is that of employer and employee, the Norris-LaGuardia Act does not apply.


Although we have held that the Norris-LaGuardia Act did not render injunctive relief beyond the jurisdiction of the District Court, there are alternative grounds which support the power of the District Court to punish violations of its orders as criminal contempt.

Attention must be directed to the situation obtaining on November 18. The Government's complaint sought a declaratory judgment in respect to the right of the defendants

[ 330 U.S. Page 290]

     to terminate the contract by unilateral action. What amounted to a strike call, effective at midnight on November 20, had been issued by the defendant Lewis as an "official notice." Pending a determination of defendants' right to take this action, the Government requested a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief. The memorandum in support of the restraining order seriously urged the inapplicability of the Norris-LaGuardia Act to the facts of this case, and the power of the District Court to grant the ancillary relief depended in great part upon the resolution of this jurisdictional question. In these circumstances, the District Court unquestionably had the power to issue a restraining order for the purpose of preserving existing conditions pending a decision upon its own jurisdiction.

The temporary restraining order was served on November 18. This was roughly two and one-half days before the strike was to begin. The defendants filed no motion to vacate the order. Rather, they ignored it, and allowed a nationwide coal strike to become an accomplished fact. This Court has used unequivocal language in condemning such conduct,*fn56 and has in United States v. Shipp, 203 U.S. 563 (1906), provided protection for judicial authority in situations of this kind. In that case this Court had allowed an appeal from a denial of a writ of habeas corpus by the Circuit Court of Tennessee. The petition had been filed by Johnson, then confined under a sentence of death imposed by a state court. Pending the appeal, this Court issued an order staying all proceedings against

[ 330 U.S. Page 291]

     Johnson. However, the prisoner was taken from jail and lynched. Shipp, the sheriff having custody of Johnson, was charged with conspiring with others for the purpose of lynching Johnson, with intent to show contempt for the order of this Court. Shipp denied the jurisdiction of this Court to punish for contempt on the ground that the stay order was issued pending an appeal over which this Court had no jurisdiction because the constitutional questions alleged were frivolous and only a pretense. The Court, through Mr. Justice Holmes, rejected the contention as to want of jurisdiction, and in ordering the contempt to be tried, stated:

"We regard this argument as unsound. It has been held, it is true, that orders made by a court having no jurisdiction to make them may be disregarded without liability to process for contempt. In re Sawyer, 124 U.S. 200; Ex parte Fisk, 113 U.S. 713; Ex parte Rowland, 104 U.S. 604. But even if the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction to entertain Johnson's petition, and if this court had no jurisdiction of the appeal, this court, and this court alone, could decide that such was the law. It and it alone necessarily had jurisdiction to decide whether the case was properly before it. On that question, at least, it was its duty to permit argument and to take the time required for such consideration as it might need. See Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake Michigan Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 387. Until its judgment declining jurisdiction should be announced, it had authority from the necessity of the case to make orders to preserve the existing conditions and the subject of the petition, just as the state court was bound to refrain from further proceedings until the same time. Rev. Stat. § 766; act of March 3, 1893, c. 226, 27 Stat. 751. The fact that the petitioner was entitled to argue his

[ 330 U.S. Page 292]

     case shows what needs no proof, that the law contemplates the possibility of a decision either way, and therefore must provide for it." 203 U.S. 573.

If this Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal in the Shipp case, its order would have had to be vacated. But it was ruled that only the Court itself could determine that question of law. Until it was found that the Court had no jurisdiction, ". . . it had authority from the necessity of the case to make orders to preserve the existing conditions and the subject of the petition . . . ."

Application of the rule laid down in United States v. Shipp, supra, is apparent in Carter v. United States, 135 F.2d 858 (1943). There a district court, after making the findings required by the Norris-LaGuardia Act, issued a temporary restraining order. An injunction followed after a hearing in which the court affirmatively decided that it had jurisdiction and overruled the defendants' objections based upon the absence of diversity and the absence of a case arising under a statute of the United States. These objections of the defendants prevailed on appeal, and the injunction was set aside. Brown v. Coumanis, 135 F.2d 163 (1943). But in Carter, a companion case, violations of the temporary restraining order were held punishable as criminal contempt. Pending a decision on a doubtful question of jurisdiction, the District Court was held to have power to maintain the status quo and punish violations as contempt.*fn57

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     In the case before us, the District Court had the power to preserve existing conditions while it was determining its own authority to grant injunctive relief. The defendants, in making their private determination of the law, acted at their peril. Their disobedience is punishable as criminal contempt.

Although a different result would follow were the question of jurisdiction frivolous and not substantial, such contention would be idle here. The applicability of the Norris-LaGuardia Act to the United States in a case such as this had not previously received judicial consideration, and both the language of the Act and its legislative history indicated the substantial nature of the problem with which the District Court was faced.

Proceeding further, we find impressive authority for the proposition that an order issued by a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter and person must be obeyed by the parties until it is reversed by orderly and proper proceedings.*fn58 This is true without regard even for the constitutionality of the Act under which the order is issued. In Howat v. Kansas, 258 U.S. 181, 189-90 (1922) this Court said:

"An injunction duly issuing out of a court of general jurisdiction with equity powers upon pleadings properly invoking its action, and served upon persons made parties therein and within the jurisdiction, must

[ 330 U.S. Page 294]

     be obeyed by them however erroneous the action of the court may be, even if the error be in the assumption of the validity of a seeming but void law going to the merits of the case. It is for the court of first instance to determine the question of the validity of the law, and until its decision is reversed for error by orderly review, either by itself or by a higher court, its orders based on its decision are to be respected, and disobedience of them is contempt of its lawful authority, to be punished."*fn59

Violations of an order are punishable as criminal contempt even though the order is set aside on appeal, Worden v. Searls, 121 U.S. 14 (1887),*fn60 or though the basic action has become moot, Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418 (1911).

We insist upon the same duty of obedience where, as here, the subject matter of the suit, as well as the parties, was properly before the court; where the elements of federal jurisdiction were clearly shown; and where the authority of the court of first instance to issue an order ancillary to the main suit depended upon a statute, the scope and applicability of which were subject to substantial doubt. The District Court on November 29 affirmatively decided that the Norris-LaGuardia Act was of no force in this case and that injunctive relief was therefore authorized. Orders outstanding or issued after that date were to be obeyed until they expired or were set aside by appropriate proceedings, appellate or otherwise. Convictions for criminal contempt intervening before that time may stand.

It does not follow, of course, that simply because a defendant may be punished for criminal contempt for disobedience

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     of an order later set aside on appeal, that the plaintiff in the action may profit by way of a fine imposed in a simultaneous proceeding for civil contempt based upon a violation of the same order. The right to remedial relief falls with an injunction which events prove was erroneously issued, Worden v. Searls, supra, at 25, 26; Salvage Process Corp. v. Acme Tank Cleaning Process Corp., 86 F.2d 727 (1936); S. Anargyros v. Anargyros & Co., 191 F. 208 (1911);*fn61 and a fortiori when the injunction or restraining order was beyond the jurisdiction of the court. Nor does the reason underlying United States v. Shipp, supra, compel a different result. If the Norris-LaGuardia Act were applicable in this case, the conviction for civil contempt would be reversed in its entirety.

Assuming, then, that the Norris-LaGuardia Act applied to this case and prohibited injunctive relief at the request of the United States, we would set aside the preliminary injunction of December 4 and the judgment for civil contempt; but we would, subject to any infirmities in the contempt proceedings or in the fines imposed, affirm the judgments for criminal contempt as validly punishing violations of an order then outstanding and unreversed.


The defendants have pressed upon us the procedural aspects of their trial and allege error so prejudicial as to require reversal of the judgments for civil and criminal contempt. But we have not been persuaded.

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     The question is whether the proceedings will support judgments for both criminal and civil contempt; and our attention is directed to Rule 42 (b) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.*fn62 The rule requires criminal contempt to be prosecuted on notice stating the essential facts constituting the contempt charged. In this respect, there was compliance with the rule here. Notice was given by a rule to show cause served upon defendants together with the Government's petition and supporting affidavit. The pleadings rested only upon information and belief, but Rule 42 (b) was not designed to cast doubt upon the propriety of instituting criminal contempt proceedings in this manner.*fn63 The petition itself charged a violation of the outstanding restraining order, and the affidavit alleged in detail a failure to withdraw the notice of November 15, the cessation of work in the mines, and the consequent

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     interference with governmental functions and the jurisdiction of the court. The defendants were fairly and completely apprised of the events and conduct constituting the contempt charged.

However, Rule 42 (b) requires that the notice issuing to the defendants describe the criminal contempt charged as such. The defendants urge a failure to comply with this rule. The petition alleged a willful violation of the restraining order, and both the petition and the rule to show cause inquired as to why the defendants should not be "punished as and for a contempt" of court. But nowhere was the contempt described as criminal as required by the rule.

Nevertheless, the defendants were quite aware that a criminal contempt was charged.*fn64 In their motion to discharge and vacate the rule to show cause, the contempt charged was referred to as criminal.*fn65 And in argument on the motion the defendants stated and were expressly informed that a criminal contempt was to be tried. Yet it is now urged that the omission of the words "criminal contempt" from the petition and rule to show cause was prejudicial error. Rule 42 (b) requires no such rigorous application,

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     for it was designed to insure a realization by contemnors that a prosecution for criminal contempt is contemplated.*fn66 Its purpose was sufficiently fulfilled here, for this failure to observe the rule in all respects has not resulted in substantial prejudice to the defendants.

Not only were the defendants fully informed that a criminal contempt was charged, but we think they enjoyed during the trial itself all the enhanced protections accorded defendants in criminal contempt proceedings.*fn67 We need not treat these at length, for defendants, in this respect, urge only their right to a jury trial as provided in § 11 of the Norris-LaGuardia Act. But § 11 is not operative here, for it applies only to cases "arising under this Act,"*fn68 and we have already held that the restriction upon injunctions imposed by the Act do not govern this case.*fn69 The defendants, we think, were properly tried by the court without a jury.

If the defendants were thus accorded all the rights and privileges owing to defendants in criminal contempt cases, they are put in no better position to complain because their trial included a proceeding in civil ...

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