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STREET v. LINCOLN SAFE DEPOSIT COMPANY ET AL.

November 8, 1920

STREET
v.
LINCOLN SAFE DEPOSIT COMPANY ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Clarke

[ 254 U.S. Page 89]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the court.

By the motion to dismiss the bill filed in this suit it is admitted: that the defendant Lincoln Safe Deposit Company is a corporation, organized under the laws of the State of New York, and authorized to engage in the warehousing business; that prior to the effective date of the National Prohibition (Volstead) Act [41 Stat. 305] the appellant was the lessee of a room in the warehouse of the defendant Deposit Company, in which he had stored wines and liquors lawfully acquired by him, which "are in his exclusive possession and control, and are intended, and will be used only for personal consumption by himself and the members of his family or his bona fide guests;" that the defendant Daniel L. Porter is an agent of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, charged with the duty of enforcing the Volstead Act, who in his official capacity has publicly declared and threatened that such storage of liquor by the defendant Deposit Company would be unlawful after the Volstead Act became effective and would expose plaintiff and the Deposit Company to the penalties of that act, which would be enforced against them; that

[ 254 U.S. Page 90]

     the appellant desired to continue to store his liquors in said rented room after the Volstead Act should become effective and intended to report the same to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, as therein required; and that the Deposit Company, moved wholly by the notices and threats of defendant Porter, had notified plaintiff that he must remove his liquors from its warehouse or that it would remove and deliver them to Porter as outlawed property, to be dealt with under the Volstead Act after it became effective.

Averring as a matter of law that such possession of liquors in a warehouse is not forbidden by the Eighteenth Amendment or the Volstead Act, the appellant prayed that an injunction should issue, restraining the defendants from interfering with his possession of the room in the warehouse and from removing or disposing of his liquors.

The motion to dismiss was sustained, and a constitutional question being involved, appellant brought the case by direct appeal to this court.

Thus is presented for decision the question:

May a warehousing corporation lawfully permit to be stored in its warehouse, after the effective date of the Volstead Act, liquors admitted to have been lawfully acquired before that date and which are so stored, solely and in good faith, for the purpose of preserving and protecting them until they shall be consumed by the owner and his family or bona fide guests?

Since the Volstead Act has been held by this court to be a valid law, the answer to this question must be found in its provisions, and the sections of it which it is argued sustain the negative answer to the question given by the court below, are 3, 21 and 25 of Title II.

Since here, as always, the purpose of Congress in enacting a law is of importance in determining the meaning of it, it is noteworthy that Title II of the Volstead Act was passed under the grant of power to enforce the first section

[ 254 U.S. Page 91]

     of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes, but does not indicate any purpose to confiscate liquors lawfully owned at the time the Amendment ...


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