181 U.S. 33 (1901), 160, Lombard v. West Chicago Park Commissioners

Docket Nº:No. 160
Citation:181 U.S. 33, 21 S.Ct. 507, 45 L.Ed. 731
Party Name:Lombard v. West Chicago Park Commissioners
Case Date:April 08, 1901
Court:United States Supreme Court

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181 U.S. 33 (1901)

21 S.Ct. 507, 45 L.Ed. 731



West Chicago Park Commissioners

No. 160

United States Supreme Court

April 8, 1901

Argued January 31, 1901




The question whether the benefit accruing to each particular tract of real estate assessed by the park commissioners for the payment of the Douglas Boulevard equalled the sum of the assessment placed thereon was foreclosed by the findings of fact of the trial court, to which the case was submitted without the intervention of a jury.

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The power of the Illinois to levy a special assessment in proportion to benefits for the execution of a local work, and the authority to confer on a municipality the attribute of providing for such an assessment, is not denied.

Where a special municipal assessment to pay for a particular work has been held to be illegal, no violation of the Constitution of the United States arises from a subsequent authority given to make a new special assessment to pay for the complete work.

The Supreme Court of Illinois decided a local, and not a federal, question when it held that it was competent on a new assessment to determine the questions of benefit from the proof, even though, in so doing, a different result was reached from that which had been arrived at when the former assessment, which had been set aside, was made.

The West Chicago Park Commissioners, in virtue of authority vested in them by the laws of the State of Illinois, proposing to improve Douglas Boulevard and requiring a special assessment to enable them to pay for the work, applied, as the law directed in such case, to the municipal authorities of West Chicago to cause such special assessment to be levied and collected according to law. In March, 1893, the town, acting on this request, adopted an ordinance providing for executing the work and for a special assessment on the abutting property to pay for the same. The only provision of this ordinance which it is essential to note for the purposes of the issues which are now before us is the second section thereof, which provided that the sum of the assessment, when made, should be payable in installments, the first being twenty percent of the whole, and the deferred portions to bear interest at a rate fixed in the ordinance. Following the requirements of the state laws, after the passage of this ordinance, application was made to the County Court of Cook County to take the necessary steps to execute the provisions of the ordinance. Pursuant to the directions of the Illinois statutes, the court appointed commissioners, who examined and made a full report on the work and exhibited an assessment roll stating the sum due by the abutting property, the amount assessed on each piece being stated to have been fixed in accordance with the benefits which it was ascertained would result to each piece from the performance of the contemplated work. After notice to those concerned to appear and urge objections, if any they had, to the assessment roll, and after due proceedings in which ample

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opportunity was afforded to resist the assessment, the court passed a decree of confirmation fixing the amount due by each piece of property in accordance with the report of the commissioners and declaring that the sum assessed against each piece of property did not exceed the benefit conferred on the property. This decree, however, did not in all respects uphold the assessments made by the commissioners, as it sustained the objections of certain propertyholders on the ground that the sum assessed against them exceeded the benefits, and, as to these objecting property holders, the amount assessed was reduced to correspond with what the court concluded was the actual benefit shown to result. J. L. Lombard was the owner of a piece of property within the assessment district which had, it seems, been omitted from the roll returned by the commissioners. The decree recited that this property (describing it) had been by consent found to be within the district, and would be benefited to a certain amount, and the sum of this benefit was by consent awarded against the property as described. The assessment, the decree of confirmation provided, was to be paid in installments as specified.

The collection of the assessment proceeded according to the roll, and the execution of the proposed improvement was undertaken. Some of those who were assessed paid; others did not, and on proceedings' being taken as authorized by the laws of Illinois to enforce payment, a controversy arose which, in its final stage, was considered by the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois, and the court decided that the assessment was void, and could not be enforced. The reasoning by which the court so decided was this -- that, under the statutes of Illinois, there was no authority to provide for a payment of a special assessment in installments, and therefore, as the ordinance had fixed that method of payment, it was void. Culver v. The People, 161 Ill. 89. And the principle of this case was applied in subsequent cases. Farrell v. West Chicago, 162 Ill. 280; Connor v. West Chicago, 162 Ill. 287; White v. West Chicago, 164 Ill.196. The improvement had, in the meanwhile, been constructed. The West Chicago Park Commissioners, after the decisions in question,

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dismissed the previous proceedings which had taken place in relation to the assessment. In July, 1895, an act was passed by the Legislature of Illinois which authorized park authorities, whenever a special assessment had been declared void by a court of competent jurisdiction, to

collect a new special assessment on property benefited by sad improvement, or completed portion thereof, in the same manner as in other cases, and the lots, blocks, tracts, or parcels of land found benefited by said improvements, or the completed portion thereof, shall each severally be liable to pay for said benefits to the same extent and the same proportion as in other cases.

Hurd's Statutes of Illinois, 1899, c. 105, sec. 20, p. 1244.


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