Certiorari to the chancery court of Pulaski County to review and quash the judgment of that court adjudging petitioner, J. A. Pitcock, to be guilty of contempt in disobeying an injunction.
On January 14, 1909, the Arkansas Brick & Manufacturing Company, a corporation, instituted suit in the Pulaski Chancery Court against appellant J. A. Pitcock, superintendent of the Arkansas State Penitentiary, and Geo. W. Donaghey, Governor of the State, O. C. Eudwig, Secretary of State, Hal L. Norwood, Attorney General, Jno. R. Jobe, Auditor of State, and Guy B. Tucker, State Commissioner of Mines and Agriculture, composing the Board of Commissioners of the Arkansas State Penitentiary, to restrain them from violating an alleged contract which had been entered into between them and the plaintiff for furnishing to the latter of the labor of State convicts. It is alleged in the complaint that bn February 3, 1899, a written con*530tract was duly entered into between the Arkansas Chair Factory, a corporation, and the superintendent and financial agent of the State Penitentiary, with the approval of said Board of Commissioners, whereby the convicts of the State were hired to said corporation at price of fifty cents per day for each man worked, for a period commencing on that day and ending January 1, 1909; that, according to the terms of said contract, it was agreed that forty able-bodied convicts were 'hired for the first year, and as many thereafter as needed, not exceeding two hundred; that the board should furnish all necessary buildings to be used under the contract (except certain ones specified), and also clothe and feed the convicts; that prior to July 31, 1899, said Arkansas Chair Factory, with the consent of said board, assigned said contract to plaintiff; that on the last-named date said contract was by mutual consent of the parties amended so as to permit the working of convicts by plaintiff outside of the walls of the Penitentiary in manufacturing, agriculture, railway building and other pursuits, and that said board should furnish to plaintiff three hundred able-bodied men on demand of the plaintiff after January 1, 1900, and that plaintiff should work not less than one hundred men at all times; that plaintiff complied with its part of the contract, and at great expense prepared to work said convicts ; that the Board of Commissioners complied with said contract except that after January 1, 1901, they failed to furnish the number of convicts required by the -contract, and only furnished a far less number; that'since the first day of January, 1900, and up to the time of the commencement of this suit, the plaintiff has continuously demanded from said board the amount of convict labor called for by said contract, but that the board and superintendent at various times and under various pretexts failed to furnish the amount of labor so demanded, 'but that in each instance, when the requisite number were not furnished on demand, said Board of Commissioners represented to the plaintiff that it would subsequently make good the deficit thus caused by furnishing to said plaintiff such an amount of convict labor, as to make it receive eventually the aggregate number of convicts called for by said contract, and that “in each instance the said superintendent and board expressly promised to make good said deficit and adopted resolutions to this effect, which were spread *531at length upon the minutes of said board, and the plaintiff could not other than rely upon said representations and promises, and for this reason it accepted the same;” that, “in reliance upon said representations and promises of the board and believing that the State would carry out its contract with it in all respects, it was induced to make the large expenditures hereinbefore stated, which were absolutely necessary in order to prepare the proper facilities for making it profitable to the plaintiff to use the amount of labor due it under said contract, and which it fully expected would eventually be furnished to it;” that the said members of the Board of Commissioners, pretending to act as the Board of Penitentiary Commissioners, had on the 14th day of January, 1909, made and were about to enforce a resolution in substance declaring said contract to be at an end and directing the superintendent of the Penitentiary to withdraw all convicts from the premises and works of the plaintiff and place them on the State farm or within the walls of the Penitentiary.
It is further alleged in the complaint “that the Board had no authority in law to make said pretended order, and that the same is null and void; that the said board had no authority to take the said convicts from the plaintiff until the balance of the convict labor due to the plaintiff, as aforesaid, has been furnished to the plaintiff in full; that the said resolution was passed, not because of any default on the part of the plaintiff in carrying out the terms of said contract, and not because the board does not acknowledge the violation of said contract on its part as herein alleged, but solely on the ground that the board pretends to possess the arbitrary power of withholding said labor from the plaintiff on the theory that the State is not amenable to any legal proceeding against it, and that the members of the board can shield themselves by this protection in favor of the State.”
The prayer of the complaint us as follows: “Premises considered, the plaintiff prays that a temporary restraining order be made, restraining the defendants, and each of them, from taking any action looking to the withdrawal of the convicts now in its possession, and particularly from taking from plaintiff’s brick works any of the men now engaged in labor therein, and requiring said Board of Penitentiary Commissioners, and the super*532intendent of said Penitentiary, to carry out the terms of the agreement hereinbefore set forth — that is, to require said board and superintendent of the Penitentiary to furnish the plaintiff a sufficient number of able-bodied convicts to repay it for the labor of the convicts so withheld, 'withdrawn and taken from it by the Board of Commissioners as set forth herein. Plaintiff prays that upon the final hearing a decree be entered as above prayed, and that the said order of the board directing the superintendent to take away from the plaintiff the convicts now held by it, and refusing to carry out the terms of the agreements before stated, be declared null and void.”
It will be seen from the foregoing statement of facts that the contract, dated February 3, 1899, as amended on July 31, 1899, is the same contract which was the subject of litigation in the case of McConnell v. Ark. Brick & Mfg. Co., 70 Ark. 568, and it is so pleaded in this action, it being alleged that the contract had, by the Pulaski Chancery Court, and by the Supreme Court on appeal, been adjudged to be valid and enforceable.
Upon the filing of said complaint, the same was presented to the chancellor at 'chambers, and he at once granted a temporary injunction in accordance with the prayer of the complaint, restraining said members of the Board of Commissioners and the superintendent of the Penitentiary from withdrawing said convicts. The injunction was duly issued by the clerk after execution of the bond by plaintiff in accordance with the statute and the order of the chancellor, and immediately served on all the members of the board; but the sheriff was unable to serve same upon appellant Pitcock until Monday morning, January 18, 1909. He was, however, duly notified of the issuance of the injunction by the sheriff, and by one of the attorneys for the plaintiff in a conversation over the telephone, immediately after the issuance of the injunction, and before lie removed the convicts.
Immediately after the adoption of the resolution by the Board of Penitentiary Commissioners, and regardless of the notice to him of the issuance of the injunction, Pitcock set about complying with the resolution, and within the succeeding three days withdrew all convicts from the plaintiff’s works and premises, and returned same to State convict farm and to the walls of the Penitentiary. .
*533Upon the affidavit filed by the plaintiff setting forth the issuance and violation of said injunction, Pitcock was cited by the chancellor to appear and show cause why he should not be punished for contempt, and upon a hearing he was adjudged by the chancery court to be in contempt on account of having violated said injunction, and a fine of $500 was imposed upon him. The record has been brought -here by writ of certiorari to review the action of the chancery court in adjudging Pitcock to be in contempt and imposing the fine upon him.
It is earnestly insisted on behalf of appellant that the evidence introduced at the hearing does not sustain the finding of the chancellor that appellant was informed of the issuance of the writ of injunction prior to the service on him on January 18, 1909, or that he had violated the injunction after being notified thereof. We are convinced, however, from a careful consideration of the testimony adduced at the hearing, that Pitcock, after receiving actual notice of the issuance of the injunction, evaded the service of the writ by the sheriff, and intentionally violated its terms by withdrawing the convicts from the premises and works of said plaintiff, pursuant to the resolution adopted by the Board of Penitentiary Commissioners. Actual notice of the issuance of the injunction, without formal service of the writ upon him, was sufficient to put him in contempt of the court by violating the terms of the writ, if the court possessed jurisdiction of the cause. Kirby’s Dig. § 3984; 1 Joyce on Injunctions §§ 247-249, 251; High on Injunctions §§ 352, 353. We therefore treat as settled the fact that appellant Pitcock intentionally violated the injunction; and the only remaining question is whether or not the court had jurisdiction, for it is well settled that errors of the court in issuing an injunction cannot be taken advantage of by one who has violated the injunction.
If the court had the jurisdiction of the parties and subject-matter of the cause of action in which the injunction was issued, the fact that it was érroneously and improvidently issued does not excuse disobedience on the part of those who are bound by its terms. Meeks v. State, 80 Ark. 579.
In considering this question, the distinction must not be overlooked between the violation of a preliminary injunction *534preserving the status quo of the subject-matter of the litigation during the pendency thereof, and the final decrees of courts requiring the parties to do or not to do the things enjoined upon them by such decrees. In the latter cases, if the decree was rendered without jurisdiction, it can be disobeyed with impunity, for no one owes obedience to a void decree, as it is without any force whatever. “A void judgment is, in legal effect, no judgment. By it no rights are divested. From it no rights can be obtained. Being worthless in itself, all proceedings founded upon it are equally worthless. It neither binds nor bars any one.' All acts performed under it and all acts flowing out of it are void. The parties attempting to enforce it may be responsible as trespassers.” Rankin v. Schofield, 81 Ark. 463. On the other hand, a court possesses the power of hearing and determining the question of its jurisdiction, and may, while so doing, require the parties to preserve the status of the subject-matter. United States v. Arredondo, 6 Pet. 709; United States v. Shipp, 203 U. S. 563. However, when the pleadings show on their face that the court is wholly without jurisdiction of the subject-matter set forth therein, any preliminary order made or final judgment rendered is void. Williford v. State, 43 Ark. 62.
It becomes necessary, therefore, to inquire as to the alleged cause of action set forth in the complaint — whether any cause of action is set forth at all, and, if so, whether or not it falls within the jurisdiction of the chancery court.
The complaint alleges in substance that -the State of Arkansas, acting through its authorized officers and agents, entered into a written contract with the plaintiff’s assignor for the hire of convicts, that the said contract was subsequently assigned to plaintiff and amended in writing, and also was subsequently amended by a verbal promise and undertaking of the Board of Penitentiary Commissioners, which was duly entered in writing on the minutes of the board, to the effect that the deficit in the number of convicts called for in the, contract to be furnished to the plaintiff should be made good, so that the plaintiff should receive the aggregate amount of convict labor specified in the contract. In other words, the complaint sets forth an alleged contract entered into with the Penitentiary Board, evidenced partly by the original and'amended writings, and partly by the *535minutes of the board, to furnish the aggregate amount of convict labor provided for in the written contract. These allegations can only be construed to mean that the board agreed to continue to furnish convict labor to plaintiff until the aggregate amount specified in the contract should be supplied. The only difference between this case and that of McConnell v. Ark. Brick & Mfg. Co., supra, is that the latter was a suit to prevent an attempted rescission and breach of the written contract of February 3, 1899, as amended in writing on July 31, 1899, while the present suit is one to restrain an attempted breach of said amended contract as further amended subsequently by the alleged additional agreement of the Penitentiary Board, entered on the minutes thereof, to make good the deficit in the aggregate amount of convict labor agreed to be furnished. The contract and each of the alleged amendments thereto were based on the same character of consideration, viz: the mutual undertakings of the contracting parties. The present suit, as was the McConnell case, is plainly one to restrain an attempted breach by the Penitentiary Board of a contract alleged to have been entered into by that board for the State of Arkansas whereby convict labor should be furnished to the plaintiff; the question at issue in each of the cases being whether or not the contract was a valid and subsisting one, and whether such suit was one against the State.
The first and only question necessary for us to determine in this case is whether or not this is a suit against the State; for, if it is, then the chancery court was wholly without jurisdiction to proceed, and all orders and judgments attempted to be rendered therein were void. In the matter of Ayres, 123 U. S. 443. A sovereign State cannot be sued except by its own consent; and such consent is expressly withheld by the Constitution of this State. Art. 5, § 19.
The question whether a suit is one against a State is not necessarily determined by reference to the parties to the record. If the State is the real party in interest, though only its officers and agents are parties, then it is in effect a suit against the State, and falls within the rule of prohibition. Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 270; Hagood v. Southern, 117 U. S. 52; In the matter of Ayres, 123 U. S. 443; Pennoyer v. McConnaughy, 140 U. S. 1; Fitts v. McGehee, 172 U. S. 516; Farmers *536National Bank of Hudson v. Jones, 105 Fed. 459; Louisiana v. Jumel, 107 U. S. 711.
In Fitts v. McGhee, supra, Mr. Justice Harlan, speaking for the court, said: “As a State can .act only by its officers, an order restraining those officers from taking any steps, by means of judicial proceedings, in execution of the statute of February 9, 1895, is one which restrains the State itself, and the suit is consequently as much .against the State .as if the State were named as a party defendant on the record. If the individual defendants held possession of, or were about to take possession of, or to commit any trespass upon, any property belonging to or under the control of the plaintiffs, in violation of the latter’s constitutional rights, they could not resist the judicial determination, in a suit against them, of the question of the right to such a possession by simply asserting that they held or were entiled to hold the property in their capacity as officers of the State.”
In Farmers Nat. Bank v. Jones, supra, Judge Caldwell said: “As a State can perform its functions through officers and agents only, it was soon perceived that, if these officers and agents of the State were liable to be sued and coerced to comply with the judgments and decrees of a Federal court, the whole scope and purpose of the amendment would be nullified. * * * It is now settled that the jurisdiction in such cases is dependent upon the real, and not the nominal, parties to the suit, and it is now clear, both upon principle and authority, that a suit against the officers of a State to compel them to do acts which would impose a contractual pecuniary liability upon the State, or to issue any evidence of debt, in the name of the State, which would have that result, is in fact and legal effect a suit against the State, though the State itself is not named a party on the record.”
In the Ayres case, supra, Mr. Justice Matthews, speaking for the Supreme Court of the United States, said: “A bill, the object of which is, by injunction, indirectly to compel the specific performance of the contract by forbidding all these acts and doings which constitute breaches of the contract, must also, necessarily, be a suit against the State. In such a case, though the State be not nominally a party on the record, if the defendants are its officers and agents, through whom alone it can act in doing and refusing to do the things which constitute a breach of *537its contract, the suit is still, in substance, though not in form, a suit against the State.”
And again, in the same case, it is said: “Where the contract is between the individual and the State, no action will lie against the State, and any action founded upon it against defendants who are officers of the State, the object of which is to enforce its specific performance by compelling those things to be done by the defendant which, when done, would constitute a performance by the State, or to forbid the doing of those things which, if done, would be merely breaches of the contract by the State, is in substance a suit against the State itself, and equally within the prohibition of the Constitution.”
In actions against officers of the United States, the same principle has been announced. Belknap v. Schild, 161 U. S. 10; Minnesota v. Hitchcock, 185 U. S. 373; International Postal Supply Co. v. Bruce, 194 U. S. 601; Naganab v. Hitchcock, 202 U. S. 473.
In Belknap v. Schild, supra, which was a suit filed against Belknap, a commodore in the United State Navy and commandant of the United States Navy Yard at Mare Island, California, to restrain him from using caisson gates which, it is charged, were an infringement of letters patent granted by the United States to the plaintiff, the court held that it was a suit against the United States, and could not be maintained. In discussing the question, the court said: “No injunction can be issued against the officers of a State to restrain or control the use of property already in the possesion of the State, or money in its treasury when the suit is commenced; or to compel the State to perform its obligations; or where the State has otherwise such an interest in the object of the suit as to be a necessary party.”
The doctrine of these cases is reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in the recent case of Murray v. Wilson Distilling Co., 213 U. S. 151.
The only distinction found in these cases is that where the suit is against an officer to prevent him from doing an unlawful act to the injury of the complaining party, such as the taking or trespass upon the property belonging to the latter, the former cannot shield himself behind the fact that he is an officer of the State; and also where the officer refuses to perform *538a purely ministerial act, the doing of which is imposed upon him by statute. In either of such cases a suit against such an officer is not a suit against the State.
In determining whether a suit is against the State, it is unimportant whether the contract sought to be enforced, or t'he breach of which is sought to be enjoined, is or is not a valid one. The fact that it is a'valid contract does not justify the suit against the State, and that question has no place in an inquiry as to whether or not a suit is against the State. “An injunction restraining the breach of a contract is a negative specific enforcement of the contract. The jurisdiction of equity to grant such injunction is substantially coincident with its jurisdiction to compel a specific performance. Both are governed by the same doctrines and rules; and it may be stated as-a general proposition that wherever the contract is one of the class which will be affirmatively specifically enforced, a court of equity will restrain its breach by injunction, if this is the only practical mode of enforcement which its terms permit.” 4 Pomeroy, Eq. Jur. § 1341; McDaniel v. Orner, ante p. 171.
This court in the McConnell case, supra, held that that was not a suit against the State because the Penitentiary Board had executed a valid and then subsisting contract with the plaintiff, but was attempting without legal authority to break it by a refusal to perform it. That distinction is untenable. The Penitentiary Board is created by statute as the agent of the State to manage and provide for working the convicts of the State. That board has the power to make contracts for the State, and it is the sole agent of the State in the performance of such contracts. The board does not perform merely ministerial acts; what it does involves judgment and discretion, and all that it does for the State. The State can, under the present statute, make and perform contracts with reference to the management of convicts only through t'he agency of this board. Therefore, an injunction against the board restraining it from violating a contract necessarily results in requiring the board, and through it the State, to specifically perform its contract.
The alleged contract was one merely to furnish the labor of convicts. The board, acting for -the State, retained custody and control of the convicts, and were to permit them to labor *539for the plaintiff for a stipulated price. A withdrawal of the convicts from the premises of the plaintiff was not a taking or trespass upon the latter’s property. It was only a refusal to perform the alleged contract which plaintiff seeks to restrain.
It is with great reluctance that we have concluded to review the McConnell case and overrule the doctrine therein announced, but a majority of the judges are of the opinion that the decision was wrong, and contrary to the great weight of authority. The overruling of a decision has the unfortunate tendency of rendering the laws of the State less certain. Decisions which become rules of property should never be overruled, whether they are right or wrong. But where, as in this instance, no rule of property is disturbed, and the dignity and sovereignty of the State is involved, we conceive it to be our duty to correct the mistake of the court as speedily as possible by overruling a former decision which we have become thoroughly satisfied is erroneous and contrary to the recognized rules established by the other courts of the country. No one can have a vested right to sue the State. The State can either extend or withhold the right. All who contract with the State must do so with full knowledge that they must rely solely upon the legislative branch for performance of the contract and for satisfaction of the State’s just obligations. Even the privilege of suing the State, when once extended, does not afford the basis of a vested right to sue or to prosecute to termination a suit once commenced; and such privilege may be withdrawn without disturbing any vested right, even after suit has been commenced. Beers v. State, 20 Howard, 572.
The plaintiff cannot complain because the court overrules its former decision, even though that decision permitted the plaintiff to maintain its suit similar to the one now before us.
The judgment of the chancery court, adjudging the petitioner to be in contempt of that court, is therefore quashed, and said proceedings against the petitioner are dismissed.