CITY OF DES MOINES v. DES MOINES CITY R CO(1909)
Messrs. William H. Baily, William H. Bremner, Howard J. Clark, and R. O. Brennan for appellant.
[214 U.S. 179, 182] Messrs. Nathaniel T. Guernsey, William L. Read, George H. Carr, Alonzo C. Parker, and William E. Miller for appellee.
Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:
This is a bill brought in the circuit court by an Iowa corporation against a city of Iowa. The ground of jurisdiction is that a resolution of the city council of that city is a law impairing the obligation of contracts within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, and, if carried out, will take the property of the corporation without due process of law, contrary to the 14th Amendment. The circuit court granted an injunction against the enforcement of the resolution, and the defendant appealed to this court.
The plaintiff, the appellee, sets up, under a certain ordinance, a right, unlimited as to time, to construct, maintain, and operate an electric street railway in and over the streets, alleys, and bridges of Des Moines. The resolution alleged to impair these rights is as follows:
We are of opinion that this is not a law impairing the rights alleged by the appellee, and therefore that the jurisdiction of the circuit court cannot be maintained. Leaving on one side all questions as to what can be done by resolution, as distinguished from ordinance, under Iowa laws, we read this resolution as simply a denial of the appellee's claim, and a direction to the city solicitor to resort to the courts if the appellee shall not accept the city's views. The resolution begins with a recital that questions as to the railway company's rights have been raised, and ends with a direction to the city solicitor to take action to enforce the city's position. The only action to be expected from a city solicitor is a suit in court. We cannot take it to have been within the meaning of the direction to him that he should take a posse and begin to pull up the tracks. The order addressed to the companies to remove their tracks was simply to put them in the position of disobedience, as ground for a suit, if the city was right.
Decree reversed, with direction to dismiss the bill.