193 S.E. 549 (W.Va. 1937), 579, Nulter v. State Road Commission of West Virginia

Docket Nº579.
Citation193 S.E. 549, 119 W.Va. 312
Opinion JudgeHATCHER, Judge.
Party NameNULTER v. STATE ROAD COMMISSION OF WEST VIRGINIA et al.
AttorneyWyatt & Randolph, of Clarksburg, for plaintiff. Clarence W. Meadows, Atty. Gen., and Forrest B. Poling, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendants.
Judge PanelRILEY, J., dissenting. RILEY, J., dissents. For dissenting opinion, see 194 S.E. 270.
Case DateOctober 26, 1937
CourtSupreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

Page 549

193 S.E. 549 (W.Va. 1937)

119 W.Va. 312

NULTER

v.

STATE ROAD COMMISSION OF WEST VIRGINIA et al.

No. 579.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

October 26, 1937

Submitted September 21, 1937.

Syllabus by the Court.

1. The test of valid legislation is legislative power, not inducement.

2. [119 W.Va. 313] The police power of a state is the power of government inherent in every sovereignty to enact laws, within constitutional limits, to promote the general welfare of its citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution does not impair the police power of a state.

3. Due process of law may be afforded administratively as well as judicially. Lawful administrative process is due process equally as much as lawful judicial process. Notice and hearing-"a day in court"-are matters of right in judicial proceedings; but not so, necessarily, in administrative proceedings, which from their character may not require such procedure, or from "imperative necessity" cannot await it. A valid exercise of the police power is due process of law.

4. Equality under the Constitution is that of right, not enjoyment.

5. A state highway is the property of the state, and use of the highway is subject to the control of the state.

6. A state, in the public interest, may regulate vehicular operation on the highways. The lawful enforcement of such regulations is not the taking of property without due process of law.

7. The operation of a motor vehicle on the public highways is not a natural right, nor is license to do so a contract, or property right, in a constitutional sense. The license is merely a conditional privilege.

8. Motor vehicular operation on the public highways by a careless or incompetent person is potentially dangerous to the public. Wherefore his license may be suspended, summarily, under the police power of the state. Such suspension because of nonpayment of a judgment, resulting from negligent operation in this or another state, is a reasonable police regulation which infringes no constitutional limitation.

[119 W.Va. 314] Certified from Circuit Court, Kanawha County.

Suit by Wirt Nulter against the State Road Commission of West Virginia and others, wherein a ruling of the circuit court was certified to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Ruling affirmed.

RILEY, J., dissenting.

Wyatt & Randolph, of Clarksburg, for plaintiff.

Clarence W. Meadows, Atty. Gen., and Forrest B. Poling, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendants.

HATCHER, Judge.

This certification refers to us the constitutionality of the "Financial Responsibility" statute, Acts 1935, c. 61, § 3. It provides that upon the failure of a person for thirty days to satisfy a final judgment against him of more than $50, rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction within the United States or Canada, for damages on account of personal or property injury resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, his license shall be forthwith suspended by the state road commissioner upon receiving from the court of entry a certified copy of the judgment, together with a certificate of its finality and nonpayment, etc. The commissioner imposed the suspension authorized by this statute upon plaintiff for his failure to satisfy a New York judgment against him of $159.70, admittedly resulting from his operation of an automobile. He seeks in this suit to have the order of suspension set aside. The circuit court was of opinion to sustain a demurrer to his bill.

The validity of the New York judgment is not questioned, and its finality is admitted. Plaintiff's counsel attack only the statute. They contend that it was fathered by insurance companies, is discriminative, denies plaintiff due process of law, and is accordingly unconstitutional.

The act itself gives no intimation of a mercenery paternity, and no decision or other authority is cited in support [119 W.Va. 315] of that charge. Even so, when a state is legally empowered to enact a law, "the reason by which it is influenced in doing it cannot be inquired into." Doyle v. Ins. Co., 94 U.S. 535, at page 541, 24 L.Ed. 148. Accord, Pence v. Bryant, 54 W.Va. 263, 46 S.E. 275. The question is one of power, not inducement.

The declared purpose of this statute is to protect the public on the highways against the operation of motor vehicles by "reckless and irresponsible persons," and thus is referable to the police power of the state. This is the power of government inherent in every sovereignty to enact laws, within constitutional limits, to promote the general welfare of its citizens. The License Cases, 5 How. 504, 583, 12 L.Ed. 256; Hinebaugh v. James (W.Va.) 192 S.E. 177; Willoughby, Constitution (2d Ed.) § 1176. A homily on this power is not requisite; two quotations from our highest legal authority will evince that the state may lawfully legislate on the instant subject: (1) "There are certain fundamental principles which * * * are not open to dispute. * * * Briefly stated, those principles are:

* * * that such a power in the State generally referred to as its police power, is not granted by or derived from

Page 551

the Federal Constitution, but exists independently of it, by reason of its never having been surrendered by the state to the general government; that among the powers of the state, not surrendered,-which power therefore remains with the state,-is the power to so regulate the relative rights and duties of all within its jurisdiction as to guard * * * the public safety." House v. Mayes, 219 U.S. 270, on pages 281, 282, 31 S.Ct. 234, 236, 55 L.Ed. 213. Accord: In re Rahrer, 140 U.S. 545, 554, 555, 11 S.Ct. 865, 35 L.Ed. 572; L'Hote v. New Orleans, 177 U.S. 587, 596, 20 S.Ct. 788, 44 L.Ed. 899; Atlantic C. L. R. Co. v. Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548, 558, 34 S.Ct. 364, 58 L.Ed. 721. (2) "In the public interest the state may make and enforce regulations reasonably calculated to promote care on the part of all * * * who use its highways." Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352, 356, 47 S.Ct. 632, 633, 71 L.Ed. 1091. Accord: Kane v. New Jersey, 242 U.S. 160, 167, 37 S.Ct. 30, 61 L.Ed. 222; [119 W.Va. 316] Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 U.S. 610, 622, 35 S.Ct. 140, 59 L.Ed. 385; Wheeling R. Co. v. Triadelphia, 58 W.Va. 487, 501, 52 S.E. 499, 4 L.R. A. (N.S.) 321; Carson v. Woodram, 95 W.Va. 197, 201, 120 S.E. 512. That same high authority has said this is "one of the most essential powers of government,-one of the least limitable," and that "the imperative necessity for its existence precludes any limitation upon it when not exerted arbitrarily." Hadacheck v. Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394, 36 S.Ct. 143, 145, 60 L.Ed. 348, Ann.Cas.1917B, 927. Its exercise is arbitrary when it disregards, without justification, fundamental rights. However, the Fourteenth Amendment, forbidding a state to pass a law abridging the privileges of a citizen, or depriving him of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying him the equal protection of the laws, does not impair the police power. Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 31, 5 S.Ct. 357, 28 L.Ed. 923; Minneapolis Ry. Co. v. Beckwith, 129 U.S. 26, 9 S.Ct. 207, 32 L.Ed. 585; Jones v. Brim, 165 U.S. 180, 182, 17 S.Ct. 282, 41 L.Ed. 677; State v. Strauder, 11 W.Va. 745, 817, 27 Am.Rep. 606; Peerce v. Kitzmiller, 19 W.Va. 564, 573; Woods v. Cottrell, 55 W.Va. 476, 489, 47 S.E. 275, 65 L.R.A. 616, 104 Am.St.Rep. 1004, 2 Ann.Cas. 933; State v. Fleming, 129 Wash. 646, 225 P. 647, 34 A.L.R. 500; Frazer v. Shelton, 320 Ill. 253, 150 N.E. 696, 43 A.L.R. 1086; 12 C.J., subject Constitutional Law, §§ 440, 894, and 962, and the many cases cited in the notes. Due process of law may be afforded administratively as well as judicially. Lawful administrative process is due process equally as much as lawful judicial process. Notice and hearing-"a day in court"-are matters of right in judicial proceedings; but not so, necessarily, in administrative...

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33 practice notes
  • 143 S.E.2d 351 (W.Va. 1965), 12446, State ex rel. Appalachian Power Co. v. Gainer
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • July 13, 1965
    ...of its citizens. Farley v. Graney, 146 W.Va. 22, pt. 5 syl., 119 S.E.2d 833; Nulter v. State Road Commission, pt. 2 syl., 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549 (194 S.E. 270); City of Huntington v. State Water Commission, 137 W.Va. 786, pt. 3 syl., 73 S.E.2d 833. The police power is difficult to defi......
  • 176 A.2d 470 (N.J. 1961), A--23, Bechler v. Parsekian
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court of New Jersey
    • December 11, 1961
    ...Trucking, Inc. v. Hoffman, 114 N.J.L. 522, 531, 177 A. 882 (Sup.Ct.1935); Nulter v. State Road Commission of West Virginia, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 552, 194 S.E. 270 (Sup.Ct.App.1937); La Plante v. State Board of Public Roads, 47 R.I. 258, 131 A. 641, 642 (Sup.Ct.1926). They distinguis......
  • 30 S.E.2d 726 (W.Va. 1944), 688, Hayes v. Town of Cedar Grove
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • May 30, 1944
    ...192 S.E. 177, 178, 112 A.L.R. 59. For further and recent discussions of the doctrine see Nulter v. State Road Commission, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 194 S.E. 270; Prager v. W. H. Chapman & Sons Co., 122 W.Va. 428, 9 S.E.2d 880, 129 A.L.R. 1114. In Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Illino......
  • 95 S.E.2d 832 (W.Va. 1956), 10827, Quesenberry v. Estep
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • December 22, 1956
    ...See also The City of Huntington v. State Water Commission, 137 W.Va. 786, 73 S.E.2d 833; Nulter v. State Road Commission, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 194 S.E. 270; Prager v. W. H. Chapman and Sons Company, 122 W.Va. 428, 9 S.E.2d 880, 129 A.L.R. 1114; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway......
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33 cases
  • 143 S.E.2d 351 (W.Va. 1965), 12446, State ex rel. Appalachian Power Co. v. Gainer
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • July 13, 1965
    ...of its citizens. Farley v. Graney, 146 W.Va. 22, pt. 5 syl., 119 S.E.2d 833; Nulter v. State Road Commission, pt. 2 syl., 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549 (194 S.E. 270); City of Huntington v. State Water Commission, 137 W.Va. 786, pt. 3 syl., 73 S.E.2d 833. The police power is difficult to defi......
  • 176 A.2d 470 (N.J. 1961), A--23, Bechler v. Parsekian
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court of New Jersey
    • December 11, 1961
    ...Trucking, Inc. v. Hoffman, 114 N.J.L. 522, 531, 177 A. 882 (Sup.Ct.1935); Nulter v. State Road Commission of West Virginia, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 552, 194 S.E. 270 (Sup.Ct.App.1937); La Plante v. State Board of Public Roads, 47 R.I. 258, 131 A. 641, 642 (Sup.Ct.1926). They distinguis......
  • 30 S.E.2d 726 (W.Va. 1944), 688, Hayes v. Town of Cedar Grove
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • May 30, 1944
    ...192 S.E. 177, 178, 112 A.L.R. 59. For further and recent discussions of the doctrine see Nulter v. State Road Commission, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 194 S.E. 270; Prager v. W. H. Chapman & Sons Co., 122 W.Va. 428, 9 S.E.2d 880, 129 A.L.R. 1114. In Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Illino......
  • 95 S.E.2d 832 (W.Va. 1956), 10827, Quesenberry v. Estep
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
    • December 22, 1956
    ...See also The City of Huntington v. State Water Commission, 137 W.Va. 786, 73 S.E.2d 833; Nulter v. State Road Commission, 119 W.Va. 312, 193 S.E. 549, 194 S.E. 270; Prager v. W. H. Chapman and Sons Company, 122 W.Va. 428, 9 S.E.2d 880, 129 A.L.R. 1114; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway......
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