McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras

RESPONDENT: Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras
LOCATION: James Wah Toy’s Laundry

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 372 US 10 (1963)
ARGUED: Dec 11, 1962 / Dec 12, 1962
DECIDED: Feb 18, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1962 (Part 1) in McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 11, 1962 in McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 12, 1962 (Part 2) in McCulloch v. Sociedad Nacional de Marineros de Honduras

Earl Warren:

Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Chief Justice, I have just one or two moments remaining and I would like to take them with the Court's permission to indicate how the Incres case which is to be heard after these N. L. R. B. cases fits in to our scheme.

The -- we've not asked for time in that case and I think to round out the problem, it might be proper to say just a word or two about it.

Our basic proposition as I indicated before lunch is that the flag is not only so much the most convenient but indeed the only convenient way of determining which nation may regulate a unitary problem of labor management relations, that the flag should be regarded as decisive where it has some solid foundation and usually in the fact that the vessel is carrying the trade of the flag country.

Now the Incres case which is to follow this, you will find that the vessel sails under the Liberian flag but has virtually no contact with Liberia and specifically carries no Liberian trade.

If the vessel were U.S. owned and beneficially operated, if it were operated as part of an enterprise based on the United States, shall I say, in the sense that the aluminum industry is based on the United States or the parts of the steel industry.

Then we would have the question which the Government does not reach.

But in the Incres case, the vessel is not beneficially owned or managed by what is essentially a domestic corporation.

The vessel is Italian owned and operated in every beneficial sense and the immediate corporate owner is a Liberian corporation.

The crew and articles are Italian.

The owner of the New York agency which handles the bookings for these cruises is Italian.

The home port of the vessel is Italian and the only connection with this country really is that it carries trade out of New York to the Caribbean and back again.

So that even if it be said that the flag is a fiction, in our view, there is not a sufficient U.S. interest in this case to attack the fiction assuming that it can ever be attacked, virtually, everything about it is formed.

Now the case does have one added complication.

It's been held that a state court does not have jurisdiction to deal with a labor management relations problem where it is arguably dealt with in the National Labor Relations Act.

And in the case involving the Great Lakes last term, the Court said that this rule applied where the question was whether these were employees and this was a labor organization arguably within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act.

We think those cases but notwithstanding those cases, the Court of Appeals of New York erred here because on these factual reason.

This fact, it is not even arguable we think, that the National Labor Relations Board would have jurisdiction.

Now the facts, the decisive facts in our view are all known.

There's no problem of growing inferences.

No problem of weighing or balancing or occasion for the use of expert discretion.

Second, we think the doctrine of arguably subject should not be applied in this area where the question is one of the statutory jurisdiction of the Board, vis-à-vis the claims of foreign nations because this is a matter of some one person must do it.

You can't all take hold of it.

This is not a field which involves the interpretation of some broad term contained in the Act such as employee or labor organization.

It's a matter in which the Board has no particular expertise and we would think therefore that it is not cut in to the usual doctrine to say that it has no application here.

We conclude therefore that to disregard the registry of either the Honduran vessels or the Liberian vessels in the words of this Court, does not fit the accommodations that become relevant in fair and prudent regard for the interest of foreign nations in relation to their own ships and their own nationals, and the effect upon our interest of our treatment of the legitimate interest of foreign nations.

Potter Stewart:

Where were those words spoken?

Archibald Cox:

Those come from the Romero case.

Potter Stewart:


Could I ask you one question before you sit down?