PHILLIPS v. CITY OF MOBILE(1908)
The plaintiff in error herein seeks to reverse a judgment of the supreme court of Alabama which reversed a judgment in his favor given by the city court of Mobile.
The action was brought in the city court by the city of Mobile, by a written complaint, wherein the city sought to recover from the plaintiff in error (defendant in that court) the sum of $15, the amount of the fine imposed upon him by the recorder for the violation of what is termed the license ordinance of the city, approved March 14, 1904, by failing to obtain and pay for a license under the 28th subdivision of the 2d section of that ordinance, relating to the selling of beer in that city. The defendant filed a plea, setting up what he alleged was a defense. [208 U.S. 472, 473] Upon the trial in the city court the parties agreed upon a statement of facts.
From such statement it appears that the city council, as authorized by the state legislature, had, prior to the complaint in question, adopted an ordinance, 2 of which imposed a license tax for the fiscal year beginning March 15, 1904, 'on each person, firm, corporation, or association doing business or trading or carrying on any business, trade, or profession, by agent or otherwise, within the limits of the city of Mobile, . . . and such licenses are hereby fixed for such business, trade, or profession . . . as follows.'
Subsection 28 of 2 fixes the amount, upon the payment of which the license may be granted in such a case as this, as follows:
The statement of facts as agreed upon then continues as follows:
The case was submitted to the jury upon this agreed statement.
The plaintiff, the city of Mobile, asked the court to charge the jury that, if they believed the evidence, they must find for the plaintiff. The defendant also asked the court to charge the jury that, if they believed the evidence in this case, they ought to find for the defendant.
The court charged the jury in accordance with the request of the defendants, and a verdict was thereupon rendered in his favor.
On appeal from the judgment to the supreme court it was reversed, the court holding that the trial court should have refused the request of the defendant, and directed the jury to find a verdict for the plaintiff. The case was therefore remanded with such directions.
Messrs. Richard Wm. Stoutz and Walter A. White for plaintiff in error.
[208 U.S. 472, 477] Mr. Burwell Boykin Boone for defendant in error.
[208 U.S. 472, 478] Mr. Justice Peckham: after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:
The plaintiff in error asserts that a license tax, such as is provided in this ordinance, is a tax upon the seller of the goods under the license, and therefore a tax upon the goods themselves (Kehrer v. Stewart, 197 U.S. 60 , 49 L. ed. 663, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 403), and, as they were brought into the state from another state, they cannot be taxed in their original packages, even under the Wilson act. 26 Stat. at L. 313, chap. 728, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3177. The ordinance, it is said, is in the nature of a revenue act, and was not enacted in the exercise of the police powers of the state through the city. The Wilson act provides that the liquors, upon arrival in a state or territory to which the liquor may be sent, shall be subject to the operation and effect of the laws of the state or territory, enacted in the exercise of its police powers, to the same extent and in the same manner as though such liquids or liquors had been produced in such state or territory, and shall not be exempt therefrom by reason of being introduced therein in original packages or otherwise.
It is insisted that Congress, by the passage of the Wilson act, merely removed the impediment to the states reaching the interstate liquor through the police power, and that it intended to, and did, keep in existence any other impediment to state interference with interstate commerce in original packages.
But we are of opinion that this section of the ordinance was clearly an exercise of the police power of the state, and, as such, authorized by the act of Congress. The fact that the city derives more or less revenue from the ordinance in question does not tend to prove that this section was not adopted in [208 U.S. 472, 479] the exercise of the police power, even though it might also be an exercise of the power to tax. The police power is a very extensive one, and is frequently exercised where it also results in raising a revenue. The police powers of a state form a portion of that immense mass of legislation which embraces everything within the territory of a state not surrendered to the general government; all which may be most advantageously exercised by the states themselves. Inspection laws, quarantine laws, health laws of every description, as well as laws for the regulating the internal commerce of a state, and those which respect turnpike roads, ferries, etc., are component parts of this mass. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1-203, 6 L. ed. 23-71; New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 102, 139, 141, 9 L. ed. 648, 662, 663; Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 31 , 28 S. L. ed. 923, 924, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 357.
The sale of liquors is confessedly a subject of police regulation. Such sale may be absolutely prohibited, or the business may be controlled and regulated by the imposition of license taxes, by which those only who obtain licenses are permitted to engage in it. Taxation is frequently the very best and most practical means of regulating this kind of business. The higher the license, it is sometimes said, the better the regulation, as the effect of a high license is to keep out from the business those who are undesirable, and to keep within reasonable limits the number of those who may engage in it. We regard the question in this case as covered in substance by prior decisions of this court. See Vance v. W. A. Vandercook Co. 170 U.S. 438, 446 , 42 S. L. ed. 1100, 1103, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 674; Reymann Brewing Co. v. Brister, 179 U.S. 445 , 45 L. ed. 269, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 201; Pabst Brewing Co. v. Crenshaw, 198 U.S. 17, 25 , 49 S. L. ed. 925, 928, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 552; Delamater v. South Dakota, 205 U.S. 93 , 51 L. ed. 724, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 447. Even where the subject of transportation is not intoxicating liquor, this court has held that goods brought in the original packages from another state, having arrived at their destination, and being at rest there, may be taxed, without discrimination, like other property within the state, even while in the original packages in which they were brought from another state. American Steel & Wire Co. v. Speed, 192 U.S. 500 , 48 L. ed. 538, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 365. [208 U.S. 472, 480] This license tax is exacted without reference to the question as to where the beer was manufactured, whether within or without the state, and hence there is no discrimination in the case.
It is unnecessary to continue the discussion. As we have said, the cases above cited are conclusive in favor of the correctness of the judgment of the supreme court of Alabama.