ERROR TO THE JUSTICE COURT, PRECINCT NO. 7, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS
White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney; Lurton took no part in the decision of this case
MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.
This action was brought in the Justice Court to recover the sum of ten dollars and seventy-five cents alleged to be due as wages from the defendant (now plaintiff in error) to the plaintiff below, with an attorney's fee of nine dollars. The fee was claimed only by virtue of an act of the legislature, approved March 13, 1909, Laws, p. 93, now forming Arts. 2178 and 2179, Texas Rev. Civ. Stat. 1911. Defendant specially excepted to this part of plaintiff's claim, on the ground that the act was invalid as constituting a burden upon interstate commerce, contrary to the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution and the Act to Regulate Commerce and amendments thereof, and as violating the "equal protection" and "due process" clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Notwithstanding these contentions, judgment was rendered in favor of plaintiff for the amount claimed, including the attorney's fee. Under the local practice, no appeal lies from a decision of the Justice Court to a higher state court in a case involving less than twenty dollars, and so the judgment is brought directly here by writ of error for a review of the Federal questions.
The statute in question (including its caption) is set
forth in the margin.*fn1 This is the same act that was held invalid under the state constitution by the Court of Civil Appeals in Fort Worth & D.C. Ry. Co. v. Loyd, 132 S.W. Rep. 899, because of which decision this court, in Gulf, Colorado
been granted, and this law compels one refusing payment of such demand to pay the cost and attorney's fees, not to exceed twenty dollars. The limitation of the amount of the fee to twenty dollars and to cases in which an attorney has been actually employed practically implies that such action might be prosecuted without an attorney which in effect limits the amount of the claim to two hundred dollars, because the only court in which suits of that character could be instituted by non-professional claimants, without the services of an attorney, is that of justice of the peace, whose jurisdiction cannot exceed two hundred dollars, therefore, the limitation in the caption is in effect the same as that of the body of the law, because the proviso in the law can be harmonized with the title by no other construction."
So far as the present attack is founded upon the commerce clause and the Act to Regulate Commerce, it is sufficient to say that the judgment under review was not based upon a claim arising out of interstate commerce, and hence plaintiff in error does not bring itself within the class with regard to whom it claims the act to be in this respect repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the United States. Seaboard Air Line v. Seegers, 207 U.S. 73, 76; Tyler v. Judges, 179 U.S. 405; 409; Hooker v. Burr, 194 U.S. 415, 419; Hatch v. Reardon, 204 U.S. 152, 160; Southern Railway Co. v. King, 217 U.S. 524, 534; Standard Stock Food Co. v. Wright, 225 U.S. 540, 550; Rosenthal v. New York, 226 U.S. 260, 271; Farmers Bank v. Minnesota, 232 U.S. 516, 530; Plymouth Coal Co. v. Pennsylvania, 232 U.S. 531, 544.
Upon the other questions, plaintiff in error relies chiefly upon Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Ry. v. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150. In that case a previous act of the legislature of Texas (act of April 5, 1889, c. 107, General Laws, p. 131; Supp. to Sayles' Tex. Civ. Stat., Art. 4266 a; p. 768) was held repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment. That act
allowed the recovery of plaintiff's attorney's fees in certain classes of cases, but only where the defendant was a railroad company, and it was adjudged to be invalid because it singled out a particular class of debtors and imposed this burden upon them, without any reasonable ground existing for the discrimination. The classification was held to be arbitrary, because having no relation to the special privileges granted to this class of ...