Skip to main content


United States Supreme Court


No. 684

Decided: May 17, 1920

Mr. James H. Bridgers, of Henderson, N. C., for appellants.

Messrs. Charles W. Tillett, of Charlotte, N. C., and William P. Bynum, of Greensboro, N. C., for appellees. [253 U.S. 193, 194]  

Memorandum opinion by direction of the Court by Mr. Justice CLARKE.

These are appeals direct from decrees of the District Court sustaining motions to dismiss complaints for the reason that they did not state facts suffient to constitute a valid cause of action in equity. The cases involve the same facts differently stated by different complainants. The asserted warrant for the appeals in that action taken by the officials of the town of Graham, North Carolina, if allowed to become effective, would result in violation of appellants' contract with that town and in depriving them of their property without due process of law, in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

Since the bill in No. 684 contains all of the elements of strength which the bill in No. 685 contains and lacks some of its elements of weakness, the disposition of the former will rule the latter.

In No. 684 the appellant, a corporation, averring that it is the owner of a franchise to use the streets of the town of Graham for the distribution of electric current, prays that the officals of the town be restrained from certifying as lawfully passed an ordinance granting a like franchise to the defendant the Mutual Power & Light Company, and that the company be enjoined from using the streets for such purpose.

The grant to the appellant is set out in full in the bill and plainly it is not one of exclusive rights in the streets. The attempt to derive an exclusive grant from the declaration, in the paragraph of the ordinance relating to the trimming of trees, that 'said town of Graham hereby warrants that it will, by its proper authorities, provide for the full and free use of its streets, lanes,' etc., is fatuous and futile. Grants of rights and privileges by a state or municipality are strictly construed and whatever is NOT UNEQUIVOCALLY GRANTED IS WITHHELD; NOTHING PASSES [253 U.S. 193, 195]   BY IMPLICATION. knoxville Water Co. v. Knoxville, 200 U.S. 22, 34 , 26 S. Sup. Ct. 224; Blair v. Chicago, 201 U.S. 400, 471 , 26 S. Sup. Ct. 427; City of Mitchell v. Dakota Central Telephone Co., 246 U.S. 396, 412 , 38 S. Sup. Ct. 362. The grant to appellant not being an exclusive one, the contention that competition in business, likely to result from a similar grant to another company, would be a violation of appellant's contract, or a taking of its property in violation of the Constitution of the United States is so plainly frivolous that the motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction, filed in each case, must be sustained. David Kanuffman Sons Co. v. Smith, Collector, 216 U.S. 610 , 30 Sup. Ct. 419; Toop v. Ulysses Land Co., 237 U.S. 580 , 35 Sup. Ct. 739; Sugarman v. United States, 249 U.S. 182 , 39 Sup. Ct. 191.


Was this helpful?

Thank you. Your response has been sent.

Welcome to FindLaw's Cases & Codes

A free source of state and federal court opinions, state laws, and the United States Code. For more information about the legal concepts addressed by these cases and statutes visit FindLaw's Learn About the Law.

Go to Learn About the Law

Citation: 253 U.S. 193

Docket No: No. 684

Decided: May 17, 1920

Court: United States Supreme Court

Get a profile on the #1 online legal directory

Harness the power of our directory with your own profile. Select the button below to sign up.

Sign up

Learn About the Law

Get help with your legal needs

FindLaw’s Learn About the Law features thousands of informational articles to help you understand your options. And if you’re ready to hire an attorney, find one in your area who can help.

Learn more about the law
Copied to clipboard