Gordon v. Texas

LOCATION: Philadelphia Board of Public Education

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1957-1958)
LOWER COURT: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 355 US 369 (1958)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1958
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1958

Facts of the case


Media for Gordon v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 1958 (Part 2) in Gordon v. Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 1958 (Part 1) in Gordon v. Texas

Earl Warren:

Number 71, I. N. Gordon, Appellant versus State of Texas.

Mr. Stewart.

B. R. Stewart:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case that we have today is a bit different from the points that normally get publicity, the ones of the Federal Government imposing their will upon the state's rights of the various states.

I think in this instance, this is a case of the State imposing its will on the federal rights in a case.

We have involved in this case -- I would like to relate the facts if that's permissible.

A man charged with possession of liquor in the State of Texas on which the Texas liquor stamp had not been paid.

The facts involved -- he was fined incidentally $100 in the County Court of Hidalgo County, Texas.

The facts involved are these.

Mr. Gordon, the appellant, his wife and daughter had been residing for sometime in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Mr. Gordon is or was an author.

His wife and his daughter decided that they should return to the States and in the process, they purchased each of them and jointly together, 12 bottles of Mexican liquor.

I think there were some eight or nine bottles of rums and some other types of brandy, a total of 12 bottles.

They reached the border and during the period of their journey with 11 bottles as they cross the port of entry in Hidalgo -- Hidalgo County, Texas.

They passed through the U.S. customs inspection and after clearance through the customs inspection station, they were approached by the Texas State Control Board official on duty at the International Bridge there in Hidalgo and requested that they pay a Texas state liquor tax on this liquor which they were importing from the State of Mexico -- Republic of Mexico.

They were merely joining -- he requested that that be paid and the appellant refused.

His offhand remark as I recall the testimony was that it was unconstitutional.

He left the port of entry in journeyed towards McAllen, Texas.

Town of ten miles away, he was stopped in the process by state highway patrolmen, some seven miles distance and held by them -- by the state highway patrolmen until some officials for the Liquor Control Board arrived at the point where he was stopped.

He was taken into custody by the officials of the Liquor Control Board and turned to the International Bridge and given the opportunity to again pay the Texas state tax and he again he refused.

The officials then took Mr. Gordon before a local Justice of the Peace and charged him with the possession of unstamped liquor in the State of Texas.

He was held in jail that night and the next day he was released and he and his wife and daughter continued their journey to the State of North Carolina.

He returned in November and was tried the jury -- before a jury and the jury verdict was guilty and a fine of $100 was given.

I might mention that the car that he was driving bore a North Carolina license plate at that time.

Now, at the time of trial prior thereto in -- at all times during the appeal, we raised two points that the Texas liquor tax violated the U.S. Constitution that it violated it -- the portion of the Export-Import Clause where Congress is given the control over duties on exports and imports and secondly on the Commerce Clause.

We presented this to the Court for the first time in a motion to dismiss prior to trial.

We also had a sworn motion to quash prior to trial.

We had our trial -- both of those motions were overruled.

We had a trial.

I had a motion to instruct a verdict in favor of the jury based on these two grounds and some others that were local in nature.