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    IROQUOIS TRANSP. CO. v. DE LANEY FORGE & IRON CO., 205 U.S. 354 (1907)

    U.S. Supreme Court

    IROQUOIS TRANSP. CO. v. DE LANEY FORGE & IRON CO., 205 U.S. 354 (1907)

    205 U.S. 354

    IROQUOIS TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Claimant of the Steamer 'Winnebago,' etc., Plff. in Err.,
    No. 218.

    IROQUOIS TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Claimant of the Steamer 'Winnebago,' etc., Plff. in Err.,
    GEORGE W. EDWARDS, Frank W. Eddy, and George W. Edwards, Executor of the Estate of H. D. Edwards, Deceased, Copartners as H. D. Edwards & Company.

    No. 219.

    Nos. 218, 219.
    Argued February 28, 1907.
    Decided April 8, 1907.

    [205 U.S. 354, 355]   These cases may be considered together. They are writs of error to the judgments of the supreme court of Michigan affirming the decrees of the circuit court of Wayne county, Michigan, enforcing liens for the De Laney Forge & Iron Company, defendant in error, in 218, and George W. Edwards and others, defendants in error in 219, and interveners in the original case.

    The Winnebago, a steel steamer of 1,091 tons burden, was built by the Columbia Iron Works, at St. Clair, Michigan. The contract price was $95, 000; date of contract, March 8, 1902; between the Columbia Iron Works and John J. Boland and Thomas J. Prindeville. It was understood that these persons should organize a corporation to be known as the Iroquois Transportation Company. The contract price was to be paid, $31,000 in cash, from time to time; for the balance the transportation company was to execute its notes to the amount of $16,000, to issue bonds for $48,000, to be secured by mortgage upon its property. On April 5, 1902, Boland and Prindeville assigned the contract to the Iroquois Transportation Company. Payments were made on the contract as follows: $7,500, at date of signing contract; 7,500, April 3, 1902; 4,000, April 14, 1902; 4,000, June 15, 1902; 4,000, July 15, 1902

    An additional $4,000 was paid on October 3, 1902, and two negotiable notes of $4,000 given, maturing respectively November 1, 1903, and November 1, 1904.

    The steamer was launched March 21, 1903. After she was in the water the work on the contract continued. On July 18, 1903, she was inspected, measured, enrolled, and licensed to [205 U.S. 354, 356]   be employed in domestic and foreign trade. This license was issued in the name of the Columbia Iron Works as owner.

    On July 19, 1903, the Iroquois Transportation Company received a bill of sale of the steamer and delivered to the Columbia Iron Works ninety-six negotiable bonds of $500 each, secured by mortgage on the steamer, and paid the balance of the purchase money, which was to be paid in cash, then amounting between $400 and $500.

    The agreement recited that possession was given to the Iroquois Transportation Company for the purpose of completing and finishing up those things still remaining undone on the steamer and required to be done by the iron works by the terms of the contract for the construction of the steamer, 'it being the sole intent and purpose of this agreement to enable the Iroquois Transportation Company to obtain immediate possession of the steamer, and without intending either to limit the extent of the obligation of said Columbia Iron Works under the original specifications.'

    The steamer left St. Clair for Lorain, Ohio, July 19, 1903. At that time she was not completed, and workmen remained on her and went with her to St. Clair, where additional work was done upon her. She was afterwards engaged in carrying cargoes between points on Lake Erie and Lake Superior.

    On July 30, 1903, the Columbia Iron Works made an assignment for the benefit of creditors. On August 25, 1903, the De Laney Forge & Iron Company served notice on the Iroquois Transportation Company that it made a claim of lien against the steamer for forging and material furnished; and on October 6, 1903, complaint was filed in the circuit court of Wayne county, Michigan, and shortly thereafter Edwards and others intervened in the case, claiming a lien. The Iroquois Company gave a bond under the statute for the release of the vessel. Decrees were rendered in favor of the claimants and interveners in the circuit court of Wayne county, and upon appeal they were affirmed in the supreme court of Michigan, 142 Mich. 84, 105 N. W. 527.

    Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:

    The Michigan statute under which the liens are claimed in this case is as follows:

    Messrs. Charles E. Kremer and William T. Gray for plaintiff in error.

    [205 U.S. 354, 358]   Messrs. Herbert K. Oakes, John C. Shaw, Charles B. Warren, William B. Cady, Joseph C. Hamblen, Jr., and Hugh Shepherd for defendant in error.

    Statement by Mr. Justice Day:

    [205 U.S. 354, 360]   Several objections are urged by the plaintiff in error which, if sustained, will result in the reversal of the judgments of the supreme court of Michigan. Some of them are of a non-Federal character. It is insisted that the statute does not apply in this case, because the steamer Winnebago was not to be used in navigating the waters of Michigan, within the terms of the statute. But this only presents a question of state law, upon which the judgment of the state court is final and conclusive. The same may be said as to the objection because the transportation company was a bona fide purchaser without notice of complainant's lien, and because complainant did not within a year file its claim for a lien with the proper court in the county in which it resided. These are state questions, likewise concluded by the decision of the state court.

    It is further contended that to seize the vessel and subject her to sale and the proceeds thereof to distribution in the state court would be in direct conflict with the exclusive jurisdiction in admiralty in the courts of the United States in favor of liens of a maritime character, and therefore the Michigan act is unconstitutional. No maritime lien is asserted in this case, and it is merely a matter of speculation as to whether any such claim existed, or might be thereafter asserted. No holder of any such maritime lien is here contesting the constitutionality of the state law.

    In a case from a state court, this court does not listen to objections of those who do not come within the class whose constitutional rights are alleged to be invaded; or hold a law unconstitutional because, as against the class making no complaint, the law might be so held. This was distinctly ruled in a case decided at this term. New York ex rel. Hatch v. Reardon, 204 U.S. 152 , 51 L. ed. 415, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 188. See also Albany County v. Stanley, 105 U.S. 305 -311, 26 L. ed. 1044-1049; Lampasas v. Bell, 180 U.S. 276, 283 , 284 S., 45 L. ed. 527, 530, 531, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 368; Clark v. Kansas City, 176 U.S. 114 -118, 44 L. ed. 392-396, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 284; Cronin v. Adams, 192 U.S. 108 -114, 48 L. ed. 365- 368, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 219.

    There is no one in position in this case to make this objection, and, for aught that this record discloses, no such maritime [205 U.S. 354, 361]   lien existed. If this statute is broad enough to include strictly maritime liens, it can only be held unconstitutional, in a case coming from a state court, where the complaint on that ground is made by the holder of such a demand. We agree with Judge Severns, speaking for the circuit court of appeals for the sixth circuit, in a case directly involving this question, where other claimants upon the Winnebago had removed a case to the United States circuit court for the eastern district of Michigan, whence it was taken to the circuit court of appeals:

    It is next insisted that the materials and supplies were not furnished on the credit of the vessel, but were contracted for, furnished, and delivered on the credit of the Columbia Iron Works.

    The findings upon this proposition are again questions within the exclusive jurisdiction of the state court. The findings will not be disturbed here.

    It is next objected that the court erred because certain items were allowed for material furnished the vessel after she was launched, and therefore the subject of exclusive jurisdiction for which a lien could only be enforced in the admiralty. But we agree with the state court that these items were really furnished for the completion of the vessel, and were fairly a part of her original construction. In such a case the remedy was within the jurisdiction of the state court. The Iosco, 1 Brown, Adm. 495, Fed. Cas. No. 7,060; The Victorian, 24 Or. 121, 41 Am. St. Rep. 838, 32 Pac. 1040; The Winnebago, 73 C. C. A. 295, 141 Fed. 945.

    It is urged that the attempt to enforce the lien on the vessel was while she was engaged in interstate commerce, and therefore proceedings against her were unlawful and void, in view of the exclusive control of this subject by Congress under the Constitution and laws of the United States. But it must be remembered that concerning contracts not maritime in their nature, the state has authority to make lawa and enforce liens, and it is no valid objection that the enforcement of such laws may prevent or obstruct the prosecution of a voyage of an interstate character. The laws of the states enforcing attachment and execution in cases cognizable in state courts have been sustained and upheld. Johnson v. Chicago & P. Elevator Co. 119 U.S. 388 -398, 30 L. ed. 447-480, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 254. The State may pass laws enforcing the rights of its citizens which affect interstate commerce, but fall short of regulating such commerce in the sense [205 U.S. 354, 363]   in which the Constitution gives exclusive jurisdiction to Congress. Sherlock v. Alling, 93 U.S. 99 -103, 23 L. ed. 819, 820; Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1, 23 , 32 S. L. ed. 346, 351, 2 Inters. Com. Rep. 232, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 6; Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Hughes, 191 U.S. 477 , 48 L. ed. 268, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 132.

    Upon the subject, Mr. Justice Brown, speaking for the court in Knapp, S. & Co. Co. v. McCaffrey, 177 U.S. 638 -642, 44 L. ed. 921-923, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 824-827, said:

    The contract in this case being for the construction of a vessel, and its enforcement within the power and jurisdiction of the state courts, we do not think that execution of such a decree can be avoided because the vessel engaged in interstate commerce.

    Finally, an elaborate and able argument is made in support of the contention that a contract to build a ship is a maritime contract, and therefore can be enforced only in admiralty; but, as late as this term, in Graham & M. Transp. Co. v. Craig Shipguilding Co., this contention was overruled upon the authority of the previous decisions of this court. 203 U.S. 577 , 51 L. ed. --, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 777.

    The judgments of the Supreme Court of Michigan are affirmed.

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