BACHTEL V. WILSON, 204 U. S. 36 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bachtel v. Wilson, 204 U.S. 36 (1907)

Bachtel v. Wilson

No. 446

Argued November 14, 15, 1906

Decided January 7, 1907

204 U.S. 36


The highest court of a state is, except in the matter of contracts, the ultimate tribunal to determine the meaning of its statutes.

Where the highest court of a state has, without opinion, sustained the validity of a state statute and there were at least two questions of construction before it, one of which excluded all federal objections on which its decision can rest, until it is shown which construction the state court accepted, this Court cannot hold the statute to be unconstitutional.

While a state legislature may not arbitrarily select certain individuals for the operation of its statutes, the selection, in order to be obnoxious to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, must be clearly and actually arbitrary and unreasonable, and not merely possibly so.

Writ of error to review 74 Ohio St. 524 dismissed.

The sole question in this case, as stated by counsel for plaintiff in error, is whether the following section of the statutes of Ohio contravenes section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:

"Every president, director, cashier, teller, clerk, or agent of any banking company who shall embezzle, abstract, or willfully misapply any of the moneys, funds, or credits of such company, or shall, without authority from the directors, issue or put forth any certificate of deposit, draw any order or bill of exchange, make any acceptance, assign any notes, bonds, drafts, or bills of exchange, mortgage, judgment, or decree, or shall make any false entry in any book, report, or statement of the company, with intent in either case to injure or defraud the company, or any other company, body politic or corporate, or any individual person, or to deceive any officer of the company, or any agent appointed to inspect the affairs of any banking company in this state, shall be guilty of an offense, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in the penitentiary

Page 204 U. S. 37

at hard labor not less than one year nor more than ten years."

Section 30, Act of March 21, 1851, entitled, "An Act to Authorize Free Banking," as amended April 24, 1879, 76 Ohio Laws, 74; 2 Bates' Anno.Stat. (Ohio) 6th ed. §§ 3821-3885.

Plaintiff in error, who was cashier of the Canton State Bank, a bank incorporated under the above "free banking" act, was indicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Stark County for a violation of this section. A demurrer to the indictment having been overruled, he, before arraignment, sued out a writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court of that county. Thereafter, the final judgment of the supreme court of the state in that proceeding having been adverse, he brought the case here on this writ of error.

Page 204 U. S. 38

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