Murdock Acceptance Corporation v. United States

PETITIONER: Murdock Acceptance Corporation
RESPONDENT: United States

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

ARGUED: Feb 27, 1956
DECIDED: Mar 26, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Murdock Acceptance Corporation v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1956 in Murdock Acceptance Corporation v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 56, Murdock Acceptance Corporation versus United States of America.

Now, Mrs. Grayson, you may proceed.

Elizabeth Hulen Grayson:

May it please the Court.

This case is before this Court on certiorari from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

It arises out of the seizure of an automobile as violating the statute against a vehicle transporting whiskey without tax on it which is Section 26 U.S.C.A. 3321.

A petition was -- for remission was filed by the Murdock Acceptance Corporation under Section 18 U.S.C.A. 3617.

The position being taken and it now being admitted that Murdock Acceptance Corporation was a good faith lienor, that it acquired its lien on this automobile in good faith with no knowledge that it would be used for the transportation of -- of liquor in any form.

And that it inquired its lien after an investigation and inquiry as required by the statute at the proper place and from the proper Federal law-enforcement office of the Alcohol Tax Unit.

That it had received form the Alcohol Tax Unit its standard form reply always used when the subject had no reputation or record for violating the liquor laws of the State -- of any state of the United States.

It, therefore, filed its petition as now admitted that it has complied to that extent with every phase of the statute.

Its petition for remission was denied by the District Judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana where the car was seized.

In his opinion, the District Judge stated and took the position that he had discretion regardless of the fact that the claimant had complied with the requirements of the statute as to inquiry and regardless of being a good faith lienor, that he had discretion to deny the remission.

An appeal was taken to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and was -- there, the decision of the District Judge was almost summarily affirmed.

Now, of our own petition for rehearing, Mr. Justice Tuttle wrote a strong dissenting opinion.

As late as the -- as the briefs in this Court on petition for certiorari, the Government has taken the position that the discretion of that District Judge is not reviewable by this Court.

We have an illustration in this case of our great democracy at work and that we have here a case involving One 1951 Chevrolet which after three years of storage and the passage of time could not be worth over $500.

We have, however, in this case, the Murdock Acceptance Corporation which indirectly is standing before this Court on behalf of our finance company.

We all realized that our economy is bottomed on credit buying, that our manufacturing industry is bottomed on the continuance of that large credit buying.

We also realized that credit selling to continue in the course in which it is now progressing must be also bottomed on stability of its security on the knowledge that its right in two (Inaudible) will be determined by a court of law according to established principles with the right of review, not merely as done before 1936 by mercy and justice.

The facts in this case are quite simple.

It was tried on an agreed statement of facts which is only two pages in length.

This car was sold by -- the paper was purchased by Murdock Acceptance Corporation which is a Tennessee corporation operating in surrounding state.

At its Jackson, Mississippi office, it was tendered to Murdock Acceptance Corporation by a dealer and prior to acquiring the -- the paper, Murdock Acceptance Corporation made inquiry of the proposed purchaser.

There is no question in this case as to the type of inquiry or the wording of the inquiry.

The inquiry is made as to both record and reputation.

There is no question in this case as to the location of the inquiry.

The inquiry was made of the highest Federal law-enforcement office in the State of Mississippi.

It was made at the proper place and that it is admitted and agreed that the Jackson office, which was a statewide office, had statewide jurisdiction and the inquiry could have been made at no other place in the State of Mississippi, that had it been made in any other of the -- what they call the "field offices" which might have been a little closer to the residence of the -- of purchaser that they would have immediately been referred to the Jackson office.

And therefore, no question is raised by the Government as to the place of inquiry or as to -- or the office has made.

It is admitted that the inquiries made of the only Federal law-enforcement officer that where inquiry could have been made.