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CHESAPEAKE & OHIO RY. CO. V. KENTUCKY, 179 U. S. 388 (1900)

U.S. Supreme Court

Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Kentucky, 179 U.S. 388 (1900)

Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company v. Kentucky

No. 103

Argued November 13-14, 1900

Decided December 3, 1900

179 U.S. 388


The separate coach law of Kentucky, being operative only within the state, and having been construed by the Supreme Court of that state as applicable only to domestic commerce, is not an infringement upon the exclusive power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

This was a writ of error to review the conviction of the railway company for failing to furnish separate coaches for the transportation of white and colored passengers on the line of its road in compliance with a statute of Kentucky enacted in 1892, the first section of which reads as follows:

"§ 1. Any railroad company or corporation, person or persons, running or otherwise operating railroad cars or coaches by steam or otherwise on any railroad line or track within this

Page 179 U. S. 389

state, and all railroad companies, person, or persons, doing business in this state, whether upon lines of railroad owned in part or whole or leased by them, and all railroad companies, person, or persons operating railroad lines that may hereafter be built under existing charters, or charters that may hereafter be granted in this state, and all foreign corporations, companies, person, or persons organized under charters granted, or that may be hereafter granted, by any other state, who may be now or may hereafter be engaged in running or operating any of the railroads of this state, either in part or whole, either in their own name or that of others, are hereby required to furnish separate coaches or cars for the travel or transportation of the white and colored passengers on their respective lines of railroad. Each compartment of a coach divided by a good and substantial wooden partition, with a door therein, shall be deemed a separate coach within the meaning of this act, and each separate coach or compartment shall bear in some conspicuous place appropriate words in plain letters indicating the race for which it is set apart."

The second section requires such companies to make no difference or discrimination in the quality, convenience, or accommodations in such coaches, and the fifth provides that conductors

"shall have power, and are hereby required, to assign to each white or colored passenger his or her respective car, or coach, or compartment, and should any passenger refuse to occupy the car, coach, or compartment to which he or she might be assigned by the conductor or manager, the latter shall have the right to refuse to carry such passenger,"

and may put him off the train. The seventh section contains an exception of employees of railroads, or persons employed as nurses, or officers in charge of prisoners.

The indictment followed the language of the statute above quoted. The defendant demurred upon the ground that the law was repugnant to the Constitution of the United States in that it was a regulation of interstate commerce. The demurrer was overruled, and the case tried before a jury which found the defendant guilty and fixed its fine at five hundred dollars. The case was carried by appeal to the Court of Appeals, and

Page 179 U. S. 390

the conviction affirmed. The court delivered a brief opinion to the effect that its judgment was concluded by the case of the Ohio Valley Railways' Receiver v. Lander, 20 Ky.L.Rep. 913.

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