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U.S. Supreme Court

Independent Warehouses, Inc. v. Scheele, 331 U.S. 70 (1947)

Independent Warehouses, Inc. v. Scheele

No. 83

Argued December 16, 1946

Decided April 14, 1947

331 U.S. 70


1. A New Jersey municipal ordinance which forbids carrying on the business of storing goods for hire without payment of an annual license tax does not violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution when applied (in the circumstances of this case) to a warehouse in which coal shipped from another state is stored within the municipality under a "transit" privilege, pending a decision by the owner whether to ship it to another state or to another point in the same state, even though most of the coal actually is shipped to other states. Minnesota v. Blasius, 290 U. S. 1. Pp. 331 U. S. 79-85.

2. The fact that the ordinance applies only to commercial storage facilities, and that there are no other commercial storage facilities in the municipality subject to the tax, does not render the ordinance violative of the due process or equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 331 U. S. 86.

3. The decision of the highest court of a State that a local tax is valid under the law of the State is binding upon this Court. Pp. 331 U. S. 86-87.

4. The tax cannot be held unconstitutional as excessive where the amount of it is not shown to be unrelated to the value of the privilege conferred. P. 331 U. S. 87.

5. The power of the State to impose the tax here in question cannot be defeated by private contractual arrangements such as those here involved. P. 331 U. S. 87.

Page 331 U. S. 71

6. The tax cannot be deemed prohibitive in view of the fact that it was imposed in lieu of other taxes of substantially the same amount which had been paid in previous years. Pp. 331 U. S. 87-88.

7. So far as the ordinance provides for the punishment of individuals who work in unlicensed storage facilities, it violates no provision of the Federal Constitution. P. 331 U. S. 88.

8. One who has made no attempt to secure the license required by the ordinance is without standing to attack the constitutionality of a provision which allegedly gives to the municipality an uncontrolled discretion to revoke licenses which may be issued. P. 331 U. S. 88.

9. The claim that the provision of the ordinance for cumulative penalties violates the Fourteenth Amendment is without substance, since the provision has not been applied in this case so as to impose cumulative penalties, and since the provision is expressly made separable if invalid. Pp. 331 U. S. 88-89.

134 N.J.L. 133, 45 A.2d 703, affirmed.

From convictions of violating a municipal ordinance providing for the licensing of storage warehouses, the appellants, a corporation and an individual, appealed. The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the convictions. 132 N.J.L. 390, 40 A.2d 796. The Court of Errors and Appeals reversed, sustaining the convictions. 134 N.J.L. 133, 45 A.2d 703. Affirmed, p. 331 U. S. 89.

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