Benz v. Compania Naviera Hidalgo, S. A.

PETITIONER: Benz
RESPONDENT: Compania Naviera Hidalgo, S. A.
LOCATION: Quality Photo Shop

DOCKET NO.: 204
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 353 US 138 (1957)
ARGUED: Mar 06, 1957
DECIDED: Apr 08, 1957

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Benz v. Compania Naviera Hidalgo, S. A.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 06, 1957 in Benz v. Compania Naviera Hidalgo, S. A.

Earl Warren:

Number 204 William Benz et al., Petitioners, versus Compania Naviera Hidalgo, a Corporation.

Mr. Tanner.

Kneland C. Tanner:

May it please, Your Honors.

These cases are here on certiorari from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The petitioners are complaining of judgments for damages which were entered against them in the District Court of Oregon in suits brought by the respondent to enjoin the picketing of respondent's vessel the S.S. Riviera.

The ship, at the time of the picketing by the petitioners, and for more than a month prior to the activities of these petitioners, was moored at the dock in the Willamette River in the Port of Portland.

No claim has been made by the respondents that the activities in and of themselves and dissociated from their objectives were illegal either under Oregon law or federal law.

The picketing was peaceful.

It occurred on the dock.

There was no trespassing and it was unaccompanied by violence, threats or intimidation of any kind.

Indeed, when the picketing was commenced by Benz of the Sailors' Union Pacific, the respondents went in to the state court with an application for an injunction.

And their application, a-- a demurrer was interposed to their complaint.

The demurrer was sustained and they then filed an amended complaint to which a demurrer was sustained and the amended complaint that -- that they then filed is -- was in substantially the same form that was filed by the respondent against Benz in the Federal District Court invoking the jurisdiction of that Court by reason of the diversity of citizenship and the necessary amount in controversy.

The -- the District Court -- the Federal District Court thought that the activities of the pickets were wrongful by reason of the mental processes or the objectives of the pickets.

He thought that their objectives were unworthy of attainment, and issued a temporary injunction.

The picketing stopped upon the issuance of the injunctions and the vessel signed on a new crew.

This -- their crew that brought the vessel into Portland on the 3rd of September had been discharged by the respondents.

That is, the unlicensed personnel.

I think there were some five or six licensed officers still aboard the ship, but the unlicensed personnel had been discharged.So that the vessel was there in Portland without a crew and there were some 23 or 25 jobs available.

An -- an appeal was taken from this temporary injunction pursuant to the statute.

But the Court of Appeals thought the controversy with respect to the injunctions had become moot because the vessel, after it had attained a new crew and I think this new crew was employed in the vicinity of Vancouver, they were employed on the West Coast and they were put aboard the ship.

And the ship had sailed.

So, the Court of Appeals thought that so far as the injunctions were concerned, the controversy had become moot.

And we applied to this Court for certiorari and our application was denied.

The cases were then consolidated for trial on the merits and upon the issue of damages with the provision that it was to be tried without prejudice to the rights of the defendants in the case, the -- the petitioners here, with respect to urge the question of the -- the jurisdiction of the Court in the premises not only to -- to assess damages or jurisdiction in the premises.

I assume that was what the reservation was intended for.

Now, the -- the trial court, on the basis of the trial court's decision, was apparently based upon a -- a doctrine that has drawn up, it had its beginning, I -- I believe, in the interpretation of a -- a labor dispute under the Norris-LaGuardia Act.

Some of the courts felt that if the objectives were unworthy of attainment, as the controversy ceased be a labor dispute.

And so the trial court made the question of the objectives of these petitioners, the important matter upon which the -- apparently the trial court had based its decision.

Now, the findings followed very closely the allegations of the respondent's complaint.