Commonwealth v. Slocum

Decision Date24 May 1918
Citation230 Mass. 180,119 N.E. 687
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court


Report from Superior Court, Hampden County; Wm. Hamilton, Judge.

Mark A. Slocum was convicted of having operated a motor vehicle as a business for the transportation of passengers for hire in the City of Springfield without a license. On report to the Supreme Judicial Court. Verdict ordered to stand.

Jos. B. Ely, Dist. Atty., of Westfield (Chas. H. Beckwith, City Sol., of Springfield, of counsel), for the Commonwealth.

Clinton Gowdy, of Springfield, for defendant.


This indictment charges the defendant with having operated a motor vehicle as a business for the transportation of passengers for hire in Springfield without a license, contrary to statute and ordinance. The defendant does not contend that he did not violate the terms of an ordinance of the city of Springfield; but he urges that the ordinance does not conform to the enabling statute and is unconstitutional on several grounds.

General power is conferred by St. 1916, c. 293,1 upon such cities and towns as accept its provisions to license and regulate transportation of passengers for hire by motor vehicles, subject to the requirement of a bond from the licensee for the benefit of those injured through his negligence or that of his employés in the use of the motor vehicle. That statute has been accepted by the city council of Springfield. The authority conferred by it naturally would be exercised by the city council of Springfield. But it is provided by St. 1913, c. 429, that:

‘The mayor and aldermen, and the city council of the city of Springfield, may delegate to commissions or commissioners, boards or heads of departments, the power respectively vested in them by the laws of the commonwealth to grant and issue licenses and permits, and may respectively regulate the granting and issuing of licenses or premits which the mayor and aldermen or which the city concil are authorized to grant and issue by the statutes of the commonwealth. * * *’

[1] The Legislature may delegate to general or local boards the right to enact ordinances and to require permits from an administrative officer or officers as a prerequisite to the exercise of different kinds of business affecting the public safety. Com. v. Maletsky, 203 Mass. 241, 247, 89 N. E. 245,24 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1168. In this respect the statute is valid under the authority of many decisions. Brodbine v. Revere, 182 Mass. 598, 66 N. E. 607;Com. v. Sisson, 189 Mass. 247, 75 N. E. 619,1 L. R. A. (N. S.) 752, 109 Am. St. Rep. 630;Welch v. Swasey, 193 Mass. 364, 375, 79 N. E. 745,23 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1160, 118 Am. St. Rep. 523;Lyman v. Commissioners on Fisheries & Game, 211 Mass. 10, 97 N. E. 66;Com. v. Fox. 218 Mass. 498, 500, 106 N. E. 137, Ann. Cas. 1916A, 1236;Com. v. Feeney, 221 Mass. 323, 108 N. E. 1068;Com. v. Kinghsbury, 199 Mass. 542, 546, 85 N. E. 848, L. R. A. 1915E, 264,127 Am. St. Rep. 513;Opinion of Justices, 208 Mass. 625, 630, 95 N. E. 930;Com. v. Hyde, 230 Mass. 6, 8, 118 N. E. 643. It is not open to the objections held fatal in Day v. Green, 4 Cush. 438,Coffin v. Nantucket, 5 Cush. 269,Newton v. Belger, 143 Mass. 598, 10 N. E. 464, and Com. v. Staples, 191 Mass. 384, 77 N. E. 712, where delegation of such power without legislative sancetion was held illegal.

[2] Regulation of the operation of vehicles used for the conveyance of passengers was an early and is a well-recognized subject for local by-law or ordinance. Com. v. Stodder, 2 Cush. 562, 48 Am. Dec. 679;Com. v. Matthews, 122 Mass. 60;Com. v. Page, 155 Mass. 227, 29 N. E. 512. The police power extends to the reasonable control of travel upon highways in the interest of the public. Com. v. Morrison, 197 Mass. 199, 83 N. E. 415,14 L. R. A. (N. S.) 194, 125 Am. St. Rep. 338. That this power includes automobiles is not open to question. Com. v. Boyd, 188 Mass. 79, 74 N. E. 255,108 Am. St. Rep. 464;Dudley v. Northampton St. Ry., 202 Mass. 443, 446, 89 N. E. 25,23 L. R. A. (N. S.) 561;Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 U. S. 610, 622, 35 Sup. Ct. 140, 59 L. Ed. 385.

The authority vested by St. 1913, c. 429, in the city council of Springfield to delegate its authority to issue permits and licenses to executive or administrative boards or officers includes powers conferred in the future as well as those already conferred, A general law which contains no restrictive phrases operates upon all matters within its scope arising after its enactment. Hanscom v. Malden & Melrose Gas Lt. Co., 220 Mass. 1, 3, 107 N. E. 426, 1 Ann. Cas. 1917A, 145. This statute does not, either by grammatical construction or rational interpretation, narrow the authority to delegate to subjects already vested to the exclusion of subjects bereafter to be vested in the city council. The power to grant, when not made imperative, implies the discretion to refuse. The right to delegate the one includes the other.

An ordinance passed in 1916 by the city council, under the authority assumed to be conferred by the statute, was amended in some particulars in 1917. It is contended that the original enactment was void because in several particulars in contravention of rights secured by the Constitution and that hence it cannot be rendered valid by amendment. See Schwartz v. Oshkosh, 55 Wis. 490, 13 N. W. 450, and Cowley v. Rushville, 60 Ind. 327. Without pausing to consider the soundness, scope and limitations of that principle, it is not applicable to the case at bar. There were numerous provisions of the original ordinance, unchanged by any amendment, which are not and could not with any show of reason be assailed as unconstitutional. Even if it be assumed, but without so deciding, that one or more sections of the original ordinance may have been void, it is plain, without extended analysis of its provisions, that such sections were so distinct and severable in their nature from other sections that the remainder of the ordinance might have stood as valid. Ashley v. Three Justices of Superior Court, 228 Mass. 63, 81, 116 N. E. 961. The ordinance of 1916, as amended in 1917, constitutes a single statutory entity and is to be construed as a whole, Merrill v. Paige, 229 Mass. 511, 118 N. E. 862, 863.

[9] The ordinance regulates in considerable detail the method of applying for licenses and the information to be set forth in the application. It prescribes the fee to be paid, the amount of the bond required, the qualification of the...

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