JACK V. KANSAS, 199 U. S. 372 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jack v. Kansas, 199 U.S. 372 (1905)

Jack v. Kansas

No. 54

Argued November 8, 1905

Decided November 27, 1905

199 U.S. 372


This Court is bound by the decision of the highest court of a state that a state statute does not violate any provision of the state constitution, and is valid so far as that instrument is concerned.

The first ten amendments to the federal Constitution operate on the National government only, and were not intended to, and did not, limit the powers of the states in respect to their own people.

A state cannot, by statute, grant immunity to a witness from prosecution by the United States for violation of a federal statute, or prevent the testimony given by him under compulsion of the statute from being used against him in a prosecution by the United States, and the absence of such immunity from prosecution by the United States, does not necessarily invalidate the statute under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The provisions in the Kansas antitrust law, as construed by the highest court of that state, compelling witnesses to testify as to violations of the act, and granting immunity from prosecution for violations testified to, or the use of the testimony against the witness, are not void under the Fourteenth Amendment because immunity from federal prosecution is not granted, and one committed, in accord with the provisions of the statute, for contempt for refusing to testify to acts within his knowledge is not deprived of his liberty without due process of law.

The plaintiff in error seeks to review the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Kansas affirming a judgment against him of imprisonment for contempt, entered by direction of the district court of Shawnee County in that state. The plaintiff in error had been duly subpoenaed as a witness to appear before the above mentioned district court, and was examined before that court under and by virtue of the provisions of section 10 of chapter 265 of the Laws of Kansas of 1897. Gen.Stat. 1901, § 7873. The statute is known as the Kansas Anti-Trust Act. Section 10 is reproduced in the margin. *

Page 199 U. S. 373

The proceeding was commenced in September, 1903, by the Attorney General and County Attorney of Shawnee County, and those officers presented to the court their verified application, informing it of the existence of combinations of persons engaged in the operation of coal mines in Osage County to fix the price of coal at the mines, and the price to be charged to purchasers; that the members of the combination met at a place in Shawnee County monthly to fix the minimum price to be charged for coal, and that they would not sell coal for less than the minimum price so fixed, and that the agreements thus entered into were by them carried out and executed. The plaintiff in error was engaged in operating a coal mine in Osage County, and was named in the application as one who had a knowledge concerning the existence of the combination, and a subpoena was thereupon asked for to be served upon him. The district judge granted the application. The subpoena was duly served, and the plaintiff in error appeared pursuant thereto before the district judge and answered some questions that were propounded him by the attorney general or county attorney. Other questions were put to him in relation to his knowledge of the meetings, and as to the existence of any agreement between

Page 199 U. S. 374

the operators of the coal mines of Osage County, and with regard to the fixing of the price of coal to be sold to residents and citizens of Kansas. The plaintiff in error refused to answer these questions, and assigned reasons for such refusal at some length; but the chief ground now relied on in this Court as forming a federal question is that the statute violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the federal Constitution; that the statute did not furnish a broad enough indemnity, and the judgment of imprisonment deprived him of his liberty without due process of law.

The court held that the excuses given for declining to answer were insufficient, and thereupon instructed and directed the witness to answer the questions propounded to him, but he still refused to do so. Whereupon the court found him guilty of a direct contempt of court in refusing to answer the questions, and ordered that he be committed to the jail of Shawnee County until he should answer them, but not beyond a period of thirty days.

The plaintiff in error then appealed from the judgment rendered against him to the supreme court, where it was affirmed in May, 1904. To review that judgment of affirmance, the plaintiff in error has brought the case here by writ of error.

Page 199 U. S. 379

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