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U.S. Supreme Court

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U.S. 36 (1910)

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company v. Melton

No. 180

Argued April 28, 29, 1910

Decided May 31, 1910

218 U.S. 36


When a federal question does exist, the writ of error will not be dismissed as frivolous or as foreclosed by former decisions when analysis of those decisions is necessary, where there has been division of opinion in the court below, as in this case, and conflict of opinion in prior decisions as to the point involved.

This Court is not concerned with the construction given by a state court to the statute of another state unless such construction offends a properly asserted federal right.

Whether a state court failed to give the full faith and credit required by the federal Constitution to a statute of another state because it did not construe it as construed by the courts of the latter state is not open in this Court unless the question is properly asserted in the state court.

The reiterated assertion in the lower court of federal right based solely on one provision of the federal Constitution is basis for the inference that no other provision was relied upon.

A question under the federal Constitution does not necessarily arise in every case in which the courts of one state are called upon to construe the statute of another state; the general rule, in the absence of statutory provision, is that a settled construction of a statute relied upon to control the court of another state must be pleaded and proved, and, if not pleaded and proved, the court construing the statute is not deprived of its independent judgment in regard thereto.

Page 218 U. S. 37

In determining on writ of error a federal question, this Court cannot predicate error as to matters which should be, and are not, pleaded or proved.

The equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment did not deprive the states of the power to classify, but only of the abuse of such power; nor is the clause offended against because some inequality may be occasioned by a classification in legislation properly enacted under the police power.

A classification in a state police statute proper as to a general class is not unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it ignores inequalities as to some persons embraced within the general class.

The Employers' Liability Statute of Indiana of 1893 is not unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it subjects railroad employees to a special rule as to the doctrine of fellow servant, Tullis v. Lake Erie & Western R. Co., 175 U. S. 348; Pittsburgh Ry. Co. v. Martin, 212 U. S. 560; nor is it unconstitutional under that clause as to such employees of railroads, such as bridge carpenters, as are not subject to the hazards peculiarly resulting from the operation of a railroad.

The fact that, since the decision of a state court under review construing a police statute of another state as including certain elements of a class, the highest court of the enacting state has construed the statute as excluding such elements does not necessarily enlarge the duty of this Court in determining the validity of the decision under review.

127 Ky. 276 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the Employers' Liability Act of Indiana as applied to employees of railroads engaged in work other than the direct operation of the railroad, are stated in the opinion.

Page 218 U. S. 43

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