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GOLDBERG v. MUTUAL READERS LEAGUE

August 3, 1961

Arthur J. GOLDBERG, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor,
v.
MUTUAL READERS LEAGUE, INC., and Saul Schenker



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOOD

This is an action to restrain the defendants from violating certain provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C.A. 201 et seq.). Section 17 of that Act (29 U.S.C.A. 217, 1960 Supp.) confers upon District Courts jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action. The defendant, Mutual Readers League, Inc. (hereinafter called 'Mutual') has moved to dismiss the Government's complaint on two grounds: 1) Mutual, as a foreign corporation, is not subject to the jurisdiction of this Court; and 2) Mutual was never validly served with process. Under the view we take of these issues, the validity of the service of process depends in large measure upon the power of this Court to exercise its jurisdiction over the person of the defendant Mutual. We shall, therefore, first take up the issue of jurisdiction.

Historical Background

 The defendant Mutual is a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in Des Moines, Iowa. It is a subsidiary of Cowles Magazines, Inc., publishers of Look magazine. Mutual's General Manager describes the corporation's business as '(a) the clearing of subscriptions to magazines and other periodicals with the publishers thereof * * * and (b) arranging through authorized independent contractor-dealers in various states for the sale on an installment basis of subscriptions to those magazines and periodicals for which Mutual has clearance agreements with the publishers * * *' (Affidavit of Byron Lodwick, paragraph 3.) We note, however, that the 'clearing' of subscriptions obtained for Mutual by its dealers appears to be merely a perfunctory function of Mutual. *fn1" Mutual's principal business interest appears to us to be the obtaining of subscriptions to the periodicals published by the companies with which Mutual has 'clearing agreements.' *fn2"

 The agreement further provides that before Schenker may use any form of order, or issue any customer receipt, or employ and advertising material, circulars, etc., these papers must first be submitted to Mutual for its approval. Finally, the agreement designates Schenker as an 'independent contractor,' having the sole right to employ salesmen for solicitation of subscriptions. These salesmen are themselves carefully described in the agreement as Schenker's men (employees or independent contractors), not Mutual's employees.

 Pursuant to the dealership arrangement, Schenker has secured as much as $ 323,226 of subscriptions in Pennsylvania within one year. *fn3"

 These facts significantly show the degree of control of Mutual over Schenker's business and the importance of Schenker's Pennsylvania operation to Mutual's very business existence. Our legal conclusions drawn from these facts will be explained in more detail below.

 Contentions of the Parties

 The Government's complaint alleges that Both Mutual and Schenker employ nine persons in each of their offices in Allentown and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under conditions of employment which violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. *fn4" Mutual contends that the complaint should be dismissed as to it because this Court has no jurisdiction over it. This contention is based upon the assertions that Mutual has no property, office, or agents in Pennsylvania and does no business in Pennsylvania; that Schenker is an independent contractor with his won business; that the employment conditions which violate the Act, if any, are under the sole control of Schenker; and that even if Schenker were deemed the agent of Mutual, his activities consisting merely of soliciting subscriptions, do not constitute 'doing business' in Pennsylvania for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction in this Court. In support of this conclusion, Mutual relies on a line of cases decided by Federal Courts, holding that mere solicitation of subscriptions to magazines does not constitute 'doing business' for the purpose of exercising jurisdiction over a foreign corporation.

 On the other hand, the Government contends that even though the dealership agreement designates Schenker as an 'independent contractor,' Mutual's control over Schenker's operations' and the business realities of the situation, clearly demonstrate that Schenker is Mutual's agent; that Schenker's activities constitute doing business in Pennsylvania; that Schenker's business is Mutual's business; and that therefore Mutual is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court. The Government relies upon the recent cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that a foreign corporation may be subject to the jurisdiction of state courts if that foreign corporation has 'minimum contacts' with the state sufficient to warrant forcing the corporation to trial in that state without violating traditional concepts of fair play and substantial justice. *fn5"

 In addition, the Government correctly points out that the relationship between Mutual and the door-to-door salesmen employed by Schenker may be an employer-employee relationship under the expressed policy and the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act; it being settled law that the finding of an employment relationship under that Act does not depend upon traditional principles of common law. In any event, says the Government, the existence of that relationship should be tested at the trial with Mutual as one of the defendants.

 Applicable Law Re Jurisdiction

 All counsel agree that the question of jurisdiction presented by the present motion is a question to be determined by 'Federal law.' It has been previously stated that the Court's jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action depends upon the Fair Labor Standards Act; and the questions presented by the suit are questions arising under a Federal statute. Therefore, we believe that Pennsylvania statutory law and case law on the issue of the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania courts over foreign corporations have no bearing on this case. State law has been followed by Federal Courts in diversity cases to determine the jurisdiction of the Federal Court over a foreign corporation. Apparently, the Circuit Courts of Appeal are not in accord as to whether state law should be determinative of a Federal Court's jurisdiction even in diversity cases. *fn6" However, it seems clear that 'Federal law' should control the question of our jurisdiction in this case. *fn7" It is not so clear just what Federal law exists to guide our determination.

 Mutual has relied upon a line of cases, which although decided by Federal Courts, held that foreign corporate defendants were not 'doing business' under a state test of doing business. Obviously, these cases do not provide us with 'Federal law' on the subject of a Federal Court's jurisdiction over a foreign corporation in a suit arising under a Federal statute. Furthermore, many of the cases relied upon by Mutual were decided before the Supreme Court's decisions in International Shoe and McGee, supra. Of course, these cases greatly expanded the reach of the state courts over foreign corporations, and substituted the test of 'minimum contacts' with the state for the old fictions of corporate 'presence' and 'consent.' *fn8" For these ...


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