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CLARK V. PAUL GRAY, INC., 306 U. S. 583 (1939)

U.S. Supreme Court

Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U.S. 583 (1939)

Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc.

No. 534

Argued March 27, 1939

Decided April 17, 1939

306 U.S. 583


1. The Court raises sua sponte the question whether jurisdictional amounts were in controversy in the District Court. P. 306 U. S. 588.

2. When several plaintiffs assert separate and distinct demands in a single suit, the amounts involved cannot be added together to satisfy jurisdictional requirements; jurisdiction as to each separate controversy depends upon the amount involved in that controversy. P. 306 U. S. 589.

3. When several plaintiffs assert separate and distinct demands in one suit, a general allegation in the bill that the amount involved in the litigation is in excess of $3,000 and a finding of the District Court that the amount involved in the suit exceeds the jurisdictional amount give no indication that the amount in controversy with respect to the claim of any single plaintiff exceeds the jurisdictional amount, and are insufficient to show that the District Court had jurisdiction of the cause. P. 306 U. S. 589.

4. The amount in controversy in a suit to restrain illegal imposition of fees or taxes is the amount of the fees and taxes which would normally be collected during the period of the litigation. P. 306 U. S. 589.

5. The question whether the jurisdictional amount was involved in the District Court is determined by the record of that court, which cannot be supplemented by affidavits filed in this Court. P. 306 U. S. 590.

6. A suit by several plaintiffs, each bound to establish the jurisdictional amount with respect to his own claim, should he dismissed as to those who fail to do so. P. 306 U. S. 590.

7. The States have constitutional authority to exact reasonable fees for the use of their highways by vehicles moving interstate, and for that purpose they may classify the vehicles according to the character of the traffic and the burden it imposes on the State by

Page 306 U. S. 584

that use, and charge for the use a fee not shown to be unreasonable or excessive. P. 306 U. S. 593.

8. Such classification is a legislative act, and is presumed to be supported by facts known to the legislature, unless facts judicially known or proved preclude that possibility. P. 306 U. S. 594.

9. In passing upon the validity of such a classification, the function of the court is to determine whether it is possible to say that the legislative decision is without rational basis. This is equally the case where the classification, which is one which the legislature was competent to make, is applied to vehicles using the state highways in interstate commerce. P. 306 U. S. 594.

10. The California "Caravan" Act of 1937, defining "caravaning" as the transportation of any vehicle operated on its own wheels, or in tow of a motor vehicle, for the purpose of sale, exacts two license fees, each of $7.50, for a six month's permit to "caravan" a vehicle on the state highways. One of the fees is declared to be to reimburse the State for expense incurred in administering police regulations pertaining to the operation of vehicles moved pursuant to such permits, and pertaining to public safety upon the highways as affected by such operation; the other is declared to be compensation for the privilege of using the public highways. Vehicles moving wholly within either of two zones, which are approximately the northern and southern halves of the State, are excepted from the operation of the statute.


(1) That the tax is not an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce, nor an infraction of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as applied to one engaged in the distinct business of bringing motor cars into the State for sale, in extensive caravans or convoys composed largely of cars coupled in twos, each pair in control of a single driver. Cf. Morf v. Bingaman, 298 U. S. 407. Pp. 306 U. S. 594-595.

The evidence shows that coupled cars, under control of a single driver, subject the highways to increased wear and tear because of their tendency to skid and sway on curves and in passing other traffic, and that the length of the caravans and the inefficiency and irresponsibility of the drivers, casually employed, increase traffic congestion and the inconveniences and hazards of automobile traffic. These circumstances have caused the State to make increased provision for the policing of the traffic.

(2) One engaged in this class of highway traffic has no ground or status to complain of the discrimination involved in exacting the fees where cars are transported into the State for sale singly, and

Page 306 U. S. 585

not where they move singly intrazone or enter the State not for purposes of sale. P. 595.

(3) No unconstitutional discrimination results from failure to apply the statute to cars that move for sale intrazone in caravans, it appearing that cars in that class are driven relatively short distances, over highways of more than two lanes, as distinguished from caravans coming from without the State, which move for long distances over two-lane highways in mountain districts; that such intrazone caravans or convoys as there are consist of two to four cars; that coupling is negligible; that each car is in charge of a regularly licensed driver, and that such intrazone movement is subject to other licensing and taxing provisions, the differences between which and the exactions here in question may bear a fair relation to the differences in the burden of the traffic for which the State must provide. P. 306 U. S. 596.

(4) The legislature having made its classification by the establishment of zones, in the light of special conditions in the State, courts are not free to set side its determination unless they can say that it is without any substantial basis. P. 306 U. S. 596.

(5) The complainant has not sustained the burden of proving, and the evidence does not show, that the fees exacted by the statute are excessive for the purposes indicated. P. 306 U. S. 600.

23 F.Supp. 946 reversed.

Appeal from a final decree of the District Court of three judges which enjoined the appellants, officers of the State of California, from enforcing statutory provisions imposing license fees for the use of the state highways in the transportation for sale of motor vehicles in "caravans."

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