166 U.S. 226 (1897), 129, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago

Docket Nº:No. 129
Citation:166 U.S. 226, 17 S.Ct. 581, 41 L.Ed. 979
Party Name:Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago
Case Date:March 01, 1897
Court:United States Supreme Court

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166 U.S. 226 (1897)

17 S.Ct. 581, 41 L.Ed. 979

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co.



No. 129

United States Supreme Court

March 1, 1897

Argued November 6, 9, 1896


This court has authority to reexamine the final judgment of the highest court of a State, rendered in a proceeding to condemn private property for public use, in which, after verdict, a defendant assigned as a ground for new trial that the statute under which the case was instituted and the proceedings under it were in violation of the clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbidding a State to deprive any person of property without due process of law, and which ground of objection was repeated in the highest court of the State, provided the judgment of the court, by its necessary operation, was adverse to the claim of Federal right and could not rest upon any independent ground of local law.

The prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment refer to all the instrumentalities of the State, to its legislative, executive aud judicial authorities, and, therefore, whoever, by virtue of public position under a state government deprives another of any right protected by that amendment against deprivation by the State violates the constitutional inhibition; and, as he acts in the name and for the State, and is clothed with the State's power, his act is that of the State.

The contention that the defendant has been deprived of property without due process of law is not entirely met by the suggestion that he had due notice of the proceedings for condemnation, appeared, and was admitted to make defence. The judicial authorities of a State may keep within the letter of the statute prescribing forms of procedure in the courts and give the parties interested the fullest opportunity to be heard, and yet it might be that its action would be inconsistent with that amendment.

A judgment of a state court, even if authorized by statute, whereby private property is taken for public use, without compensation made or secured to the owner, is, upon principle and authority, wanting in the due process of law required by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The clause of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States declaring that "no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law" applies to cases coming to this Court from the highest courts of the States in which facts have been found by a jury.

In a proceeding in a state court for the condemnation of private property for public use, the court having jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the parties, the judgment ought not to be held in violation of the due

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process of law enjoined by the Fourteenth Amendment unless some rule of law was prescribed for the jury that was in absolute disregard of the right to just compensation.

In a proceeding in a state court in Illinois to ascertain the compensation due to a railroad company arising from the opening of a street across its tracks -- the land as such not being taken, and the railroad not being prevented from using it for its ordinary railroad purposes, and being interfered with only so far as the right to its exclusive enjoyment for purposes of railroad tracks was diminished in value by subjecting the land within the crossing to public use as a street -- the measure of compensation is the amount of decrease in the value of its use for railroad purposes caused by its use for purposes of a street, the use for the purposes of a street being exercised jointly with the company for railroad purposes.

While the general rule is that compensation is to be estimated by reference to the uses for which the property is suitable, having regard to the existing business and wants of the community, or such as may be reasonably expected in the immediate future, mere possible or imaginary uses, or the speculative schemes of its proprietor, are to be excluded.

The railroad, having laid its tracks within the limits of the city, must be deemed to have done so subject to the condition -- not, it is true, expressed, but necessarily implied -- that new streets of the city might be opened and extended from time to time across its tracks as the public convenience required, and under such restrictions as might be prescribed by statute.

When a city seeks by condemnation proceedings to open a street across the tracks of a railroad within its corporate limits, it is not bound to obtain and pay for the fee in the land over which the street is opened, leaving untouched the right of the company to cross the street with its tracks, nor is it bound to pay the expenses that will be incurred by the railroad company in the way of constructing gates, placing flagmen, etc., caused by the opening of the street across its tracks.

All property, whether owned by private persons or by corporations, is held subject to the power of the State to regulate its use in such manner as not to unnecessarily endanger the lives and the personal safety of the people. The requirement that compensation be made for private property taken for public use imposes no restriction upon the inherent power of the State by reasonable regulations to protect the lives and secure the safety of the people.

The expenses that will be incurred by the railroad company in erecting gates, planking the crossing, and maintaining flagmen, in order that its road may be safely operated -- if all that should be required -- necessarily result from the maintenance of a public highway, under legislative sanction, and must be deemed to have been taken by the company into account when it accepted the privileges and franchises granted by the State. Such expenses must be regarded as incidental to the exercise of the police powers of the State, and must be borne by the company.

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The case is stated in the opinion.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

The questions presented on this writ of error relate to the jurisdiction of this court to reexamine the final judgment of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and to certain rulings of the state court, which, it is alleged, were in disregard of that part of the Fourteenth Amendment declaring that no State shall deprive any person of his property without due process of law, or deny the equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction.

The Constitution of Illinois provides that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law." Article 2, § 2. It also provides:

Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation. Such compensation, when not made by the State, shall be ascertained by a jury, as shall be prescribed by law. The fee of land taken for railroad tracks, without consent of the owners thereof, shall remain in such owners, subject to the use for which it is taken.

Article 2, § 13.

By the fifth article of the general statute of Illinois, approved April 10, 1872, and relating to the incorporation of cities and villages, it was provided that

[t]he city council shall have power, by condemnation or otherwise, to extend any street, alley or highway over or across, or to construct any sewer under or through any railroad track, right of way or land of any railroad company (within the corporate limits); but where no compensation is made to such railroad company, the city shall restore such railroad track, right of way or land

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to its former state, or in a sufficient manner not to have impaired its usefulness.

1 Starr & Curtis' Anno. Stat. pp. 452, 472, art. V, § 89.

The ninth article of the same statute declared [17 S.Ct. 582] that, when the corporate authorities of a city or village provided by ordinance for the making of any local improvement authorized to be made, the making of which would require that private property be taken or damaged for public use, the city or village should file in its name a petition in some court of record of the county praying "that the just compensation to be made for private property to be taken or damaged" for the improvement or purpose specified in the ordinance be ascertained by a jury.

That statute further provided:

§ 14. Any final judgment or judgments, rendered by said court, upon any finding or findings of any jury or juries, shall be a lawful and sufficient condemnation of the land or property to be taken upon the payment of the amount of such finding as hereinafter provided. It shall be final and conclusive as to the damages caused by such improvement, unless such judgment or judgments shall be appealed from; but no appeal or writ of error upon the same shall delay proceedings under said ordinance, if such city or village shall deposit, as directed by the court, the amount of the judgment and costs, and shall file a bond in the court in which such judgment was rendered, in a sum to be fixed, and with security to be approved by the judge of said court, which shall secure the payment of any future compensation which may at any time be finally awarded to such party so appealing or suing out such writ of error, and his or her costs.

§ 15. The court, upon proof that said just compensation so found by the jury has been paid to the person entitled thereto, or has been deposited as directed by the court (and bond given, in case of any appeal or writ of error), shall enter an order that the city or village shall have the right, at any time thereafter, to take possession of or damage the property, in respect to which such compensation shall have been so paid or deposited, as aforesaid.


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