First National Bank in Plant City v. Dickinson

PETITIONER: First National Bank in Plant City
RESPONDENT: Dickinson
LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DOCKET NO.: 19
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 396 US 122 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 16, 1969
DECIDED: Dec 09, 1969

Facts of the case

Question

Media for First National Bank in Plant City v. Dickinson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 16, 1969 in First National Bank in Plant City v. Dickinson

Warren E. Burger:

First National Bank versus Dickinson and the Camp versus Dickinson.

Mr. Springer, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

James Van R. Springer:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

These are two consolidated cases reviewing the same decision by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The ultimate question presented is whether state banking authorities can prevent a National Bank from providing its customers with an armored car messenger service to and from the bank, if they can do so on the theory that such a service amounts to the operation of a branch governed by a state law under the National Bank Act.

Section 36 (c) of that Act provides in general term that a National Bank may establish and operate a branch if a state bank similarly situated would be authorized under state law to do so.

Florida, where this case arises is a state that does not permit branch banking at all and it is further established for present purposes at least that a Florida State Bank would not be permitted by the state authorities to operate the messenger service here in question.

I might say parenthetically the reason it's established for present purposes only is that the Court of Appeals noted in its opinion that there is litigation pending in a Florida State Court where this issue had been raised for the first time that will resolve presumably as a matter of state interpretation whether or not this kind of service is in fact prohibited by the Florida statute.

However, subject to the outcome of that litigation which the Florida Court has stayed until this Court decides this case, the Court of Appeals accepted the interpretation of the Florida State Banking Commissioner who was one of the respondents here that the Florida Statute would prohibit this kind of service subject only to a retention of jurisdiction by the District Court to change its order.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Let's see Mr. Springer, the Florida Court would say that this is not prohibited by a part of a statute then the issue we have here wouldn't be here?

James Van R. Springer:

Yes, yes, that is correct Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Instead of putting the cart before the horse, is it?

James Van R. Springer:

In fact, it seemed a little strange to me that the Florida Court would stay itself pending determination of this case, but it in fact until is done so.

In any event, nobody knows what will happen to that litigation and unless something does happen, the Court of Appeals has in effect decided that this service cannot proceed.

The issue therefore in this case is whether the kind of messenger service involved here is a branch, being of course the term of order of the National Bank Act.

If it's a branch then 36 (c) of the National Bank Act makes its legality depend upon state law and as I have said, state law for present purposes forbids it.

If it is not a branch then its legality depends only upon the provisions of the National Bank Act relating to the powers of National Banks which do not refer to state law and are not in issue in this case.

As we see it, the definitional problem that this case presents breaks down really into two questions.

The first question is the threshold question of where we look for the criteria to determine, “What is a branch?”

We say that naturally enough one would look to subsection (f) of the branching section of the National Bank Act Section 36, which says that the term “branch” is used in this Section shall be held to include any branch bank, branch office, branch agency, additional office or any branch place of business at which deposits are received or checks paid or money lent.

The Court of Appeals said however, that 30 -- Section 36 (f) is hardly adequate as a definition, those are the words that it used, and therefore that the law of Florida should determine what is a branch for purposes of this incorporation of state law that's provided for in Section 36 (c).

As I've indicated if the Court of Appeals was right that in the case here, if we're right there remains a further question whether the District Court properly held that the armored car messenger service in question here was not branch banking as a matter of purely federal law under the Section 36 definition which the District Court treated as the exclusive definition and of course if the District Court was right, then Florida law has nothing to do with the case.

There are -- these main two cases, there are two petitioners here, Comptroller of the Currency who has authorized the service in question and the First National Bank in Plant City, Florida, which is the bank that's conducting the service.

There will be argument on behalf of each petitioner.

In my argument I plan to cover the first of the questions that I've mentioned, the choice of law question, which has importance not only for this particular kind of service but for a variety of other services that National Banks offer or may wish to offer.

Mr. Edwards who will be arguing on behalf of the bank will deal primarily with the second question which assumes that of course that if we prevail on the first question, the question as to how the facts of this particular service relate to the federal definition in Section 36 (f) if that is in fact the governing definition.

That question of course also has great importance because there are a great variety or a great number of National Banks throughout the country that provides services or interested in providing services of the general nature of the services that are involved in Plant City.

Because of this division, I would hope to limit my statement of the case to a very brief statement of how the case arouse and the fundamental facts, leaving for Mr. Edwards a more detailed description of the messenger service that's involved in the case.

Could you raise your voice a little, Mr. Springer?

James Van R. Springer:

I'm sorry.