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COMPAGNIE GENERALE TRANSATLANTIQUE v. ELTING

decided: May 18, 1936.

COMPAGNIE GENERALE TRANSATLANTIQUE
v.
ELTING, COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS*FN*



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo

Author: Van Devanter

[ 298 U.S. Page 220]

 MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases are much alike. Each involves the validity of a fine imposed on the owner of a foreign ship for an asserted failure to detain on board certain alien seamen after their examination. In both the owner seeks to recover money deposited with the collector of customs to cover the fine, if and when imposed. The deposit was made to obtain clearance of the vessel pending the administrative proceedings which resulted in the fine. A trial by jury resulted in a directed verdict and judgment for the collector, which the Circuit Court of Appeals

[ 298 U.S. Page 221]

     affirmed. 74 F.2d 209. The cases are here on certiorari, which was granted because of an apparent divergence in Court of Appeals decisions.

The material facts, taken largely from controlling allegations and admissions in the pleadings and in part from undisputed evidence are as follows:

In No. 6 the Ile de France, owned by a foreign corporation, arrived at the port of New York from a foreign port February 6, 1930, with two aliens in her crew. Under the supervision of the immigration officer in charge, an inspector boarded the ship, examined the crew, and directed the master to detain the two aliens on the ground that they were not shown to be bona fide seamen. The master endeavored to detain them, but they escaped during the night following the direction given to the master. The direction was in writing and addressed "To the Owner, Agent, Consignee, Master or Officer in Charge of the Ile de France," but was neither served on the owner nor brought to its knowledge prior to the escape. The master reported the escape and the immigration officer then served on the New York agent of the ship a notice to the effect that a fine was about to be imposed for the failure to detain; that a hearing would be allowed if desired; and that the ship would be granted clearance for her outward-bound voyage upon condition that there be deposited with the collector of customs the sum of $2,000 to cover the fine, should one be imposed. The owner made the deposit under protest, and through counsel requested and participated in a hearing; after which the administrative officers imposed on the owner a fine of $1,000 in respect of each of the alien seamen not detained.

In No. 7 the owner was another foreign corporation. The direction to detain related to but one alien seaman, was delivered to the chief officer of the ship, and was then brought to the knowledge of the master but not to

[ 298 U.S. Page 222]

     the knowledge of the owner. The master took steps to detain, but the alien seaman escaped. The amount of the deposit, as also the fine, was $1,000. In all other material respects the facts are like those in No. 6.

The statute under which the fines were imposed is ยง 20 (a) of the Immigration Act of 1924, c. 190, 43 Stat. 164, 8 U. S. C. 167 (a), which provides:

"The owner, charterer, agent, consignee, or master of any vessel arriving in the United States from any place outside thereof who fails to detain on board any alien seaman employed on such vessel until the immigration officer in charge at the port of arrival has inspected such seaman (which inspection in all cases shall include a personal physical examination by the medical examiners), or who fails to detain such seaman on board after such inspection or to deport such seaman if required by such immigration officer or the Secretary of Labor to do so, shall pay to the collector of customs of the customs district in which the port of arrival is located the sum of $1,000 for each alien seaman in respect of whom such failure occurs. No vessel shall be granted clearance pending the determination of the liability to the payment of such fine, or while the fine remains unpaid, except that ...


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