Anderson v. Peterson

Decision Date11 July 1952
Docket NumberNo. 7309,7309
Citation54 N.W.2d 542,78 N.D. 949
PartiesANDERSON et al. v. PETERSON et al.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. A general law providing for the reorganization of school districts empowering an agency to administer such a law in accordance with the policies and standards laid down in the law is not violative of the constitutional inhibition against the delegation of legislative power to administrative officers.

2. A special law is one which applies to a part of a class and excludes others of the same class. The act to provide for the reorganization of school districts, sec. 15-5301, 1949 Supplement NDRC 1943, applies alike to all reorganized school districts and is therefore not a special law within the constitutional provision prohibiting special laws providing for the management of common schools.

3. The constitution delegates to the legislature the power to establish a general system of education in the state. The act to provide for the reorganization of school districts comes within that power. The establishment of a reorganized school district changing boundaries, including all or parts of old school districts and providing for the maintenance of schools in such reorganized district, is not violative of the constitutional provision against taking property without 'due process of law.'

4. In the construction of the language of a statute the words and phrases shall be considered in their relation to each other and according to the rules of grammar. The statute must be construed as a whole and with a view of arriving at the intent of the legislature.

5. In the detailed administration of a law, such as the act to provide for the reorganization of school districts, an honest and substantial compliance therewith is sufficient if there is compliance with its essential requirements and the object of the law is attained.

6. The evidence in the instant case is examined and it is held that there has been substantial compliance with the provisions of the act to provide for the reorganization of school districts in the reorganization of Inkster School District.

Lyche & Lyche, Grand Forks, for plaintiffs and respondents.

Robert A. Alphson, Grand Forks, for defendants and appellants.

Roy K. Redetzke and Ralph F. Croal, Fargo, amici curiae.

GRIMSON, Judge.

This is a suit brought by the plaintiffs as property owners, electors, school patrons, and taxpayers of Wheatfield School District No. 52 Grand Forks County, North Dakota, against the County Superintendents of Schools of Grand Forks and Walsh Counties, and the state committee and the county committees of Grand Forks and Walsh Counties for reorganization of school districts under the "Act to provide for the reorganization of school districts", Chapter 15-53, 1949 Supplement, NDRC 1943. The plaintiffs allege many irregularities in the reorganization of Inkster School District lying in Grand Forks and Walsh Counties, particularly the inclusion therein of Wheatfield School District No. 52. They also allege that the law is unconstitutional. They pray that all proceedings leading up to said reorganization be declared null and void, and that the defendant be enjoined from proceeding further with said reorganization.

The defendants deny all irregularities and claim that all acts in connection with this special school reorganization were done pursuant to the Reorganization Act, which they claim is constitutional and pray for a dismissal of the action.

At the commencement of the action an application was duly made for an injunction to restrain the defendants from holding a special election and from proceeding any further with the formation of the new school district. Upon the hearing on an order to show cause an injunction was granted restraining the defendants from doing any act in furtherance of the reorganization except the holding of the election and, in the event of the results of the election being favorable to the reorganization, the holding of an election of school district officers for the district. The election was held and the reorganization approved but all matters since then have been held in abeyance.

Upon a hearing of the matter on its merits the district court found for the plaintiffs, declared the proceedings void and enjoined any further action in connection therewith.

Thereupon the defendants took an appeal from the judgment and the whole thereof. They assigned as errors:

'1. That the District Court erred in holding that the various steps, proceedings and acts taken by the defendants, their agents, servants and others acting with and for them in the proposed reorganization, including the plan Wheatfield School District No. 52, including the entire proposed Inkster reorganization plan, the approval thereof, that the calling of the election, certification and recording of the results thereof and all other acts in that connection, done and performed, are in all things null and void, and of no force and effect, and that all such acts, steps and proceedings be quashed, dissolved and dismissed.

'2. That the Court erred in holding as a matter of law that the plaintiffs are entitled to a Judgment and Decree permanently restraining and enjoining the defendants and each of them and their agents, appointees and servants and all persons acting for or in concert with them, from doing any act in furtherance of the reorganization and formation of the proposed Inkster School District and from conducting any business by or in behalf of the said proposed Inkster School District.

'3. That the Court erred in finding as a fact that the County Committees of Grand Forks County and Walsh County have not held and conducted informative and explanatory meetings; that the District Court erred in holding that exact compliance with Section 15-5310 of the 1949 Supplement to the North Dakota Revised Code of 1943 was mandatory upon the County Committees and failure to hold such public hearings pursuant to notice, leaves the County Committees without authority to proceed with the organization of the proposed new district.'

Upon this appeal and these specifications the alleged errors in the whole proceeding and the constitutionality of the law were briefed and argued by both sides and placed before this court for decision. The matters raised are important and of public concern. They affect the reorganization of school districts under the new Reorganization Act. Several such districts have been or are about to be reorganized. A decision on these matters now is urgent.

The plaintiffs list their objections to the procedure under sixteen points as follows:

'1. No meetings with notice were had prior to preparing the plan as required by Section 15-5310, 1949 Supplement.

'2. No comprehensive study was made within such months as required by Section 15-5311 1949 Supplement.

'3. There was no public hearing on the proposal after the notice for the April 9, 1951 meeting including District No. 73, and thus set forth a different territory than is included in the proposal involved. Thus no hearing on proposal as required by Section 15-5313 of the 1949 Supplement was held.

'4. The comprehensive plan was not timely submitted and not given timely attention as required by Section 15-5314 1949 Supplement.

'5. There was no joint committee action as required by Section 15-5315.

'6. The proposal was submitted after the comprehensive plan was filed and did not fit into it, contrary to the requirements of Section 15-5316 1949 Supplement.

'7. The election was called before receipt of the approval of the plan from the State Committee, contrary to Section 15-5318 of the 1949 Supplement.

'8. Notice of the election was not posted at each school house door as required by Section 15-5318 of the 1949 Supplement.

'9. The notice did not state that the election was being called for the purpose of affording the voters and opportunity to approve or reject the plan as required by Section 15-5318, 1949 Supplement.

'10. The plan says 'all of' in describing an entire school district in the proposal, but the notice of election omits 'all of' contrary to the requirements of Paragraph 30 of Section 15-5318, 1949 Supplement.

'11. The State Committee made no findings and conclusions, and failed to submit any to the County Committee of the approved plan sa provided in Paragraph 6 of Section 15-5317, 1949 Supplement.

'12. The Committee did not keep proper records as required by Section 15-5313 Supplement of 1949.

'13. The Grand Forks County Committee violated the policy they had previously adopted and the proposal violated the public policy as set forth in the 1949 Amendment, Senate Bill 106, Chapter 146 of the Laws of North Dakota for 1951.

'14. That the action of the Committee was arbitrary, discriminatory, unreasonable, unfair, capricious and even fraudulent.

'15. The Statute, Chapter 15-53 of the 1949 Supplement the Reorganization Law is unconstitutional.

'16. The Judgment of the District Court is correct and for the foregoing reasons must be upheld.'

Chapter 15-53, providing for the reorganization of school districts, was enacted by the 1947 Session of the Legislature, Chapter 147, Session Laws 1947.

The declared purpose of the act was 'the formation of new school districts and the alteration of the boundaries of established school districts in order to provide a more nearly equalized educational opportunity for pupils of the common schools, a higher degree of uniformity of school tax rate among districts, and a wiser use of public funds expended for the support of common school systems.' The law provides that such reorganization could include the formation of new school districts by the alteration of the boundaries of established school districts and a dissolution or disorganization of established school districts. This might be done by uniting two or more established districts or transferring to an established district a part or...

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