House v. Creveling

Decision Date31 March 1923
Citation250 S.W. 357,147 Tenn. 589
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Appeal from Chancery Court, Davidson County; John R. Aust Chancellor.

Suits by W. W. House and others against J. G. Creveling, Jr., by A V. Louthan and others against J. D. Senter, and by J. T. Lynn against L. S. Pope. The cases were consolidated, and from a decree dismissing the three bills, complainants appeal. Affirmed.

Joe V Williams, of Chattanooga, Nelson Fisher, of Carthage, and J. O. Phillips, of Rogersville, for appellants.

Chas. C. Trabue, of Nashville, H. N. Leech, of Clarksville, and Frank M. Thompson, Atty. Gen., for appellees.


The above-styled cases were consolidated by consent of the parties, and were heard together in the lower court and in this court.

The three suits were brought by state officials to enjoin interference with the possession of the offices they held. It was alleged that the defendants were claiming to be entitled to exercise the functions of the offices held by complainants by reason of the provisions of an act of the Legislature known as House Bill No. 183, approved by the Governor January 31, 1923. It was averred that said act was unconstitutional and void. A temporary restraining order was issued by the chancellor, and answers were filed by the defendants. The chancellor sustained the validity of the act and dismissed the three bills, from which decree the complainants have appealed to this court.

The discussion here has been confined to the question of the constitutionality of the act.

The first assault made upon the act is that it violates section 17 of article 2 of the Constitution, in that: (1) It contains more than one subject; (2) that the body of the act is broader than the caption; and (3) that it undertakes to repeal former laws without reciting in its caption or otherwise the title or substance of such laws.

It is first contended that the caption of the act expresses no subject of legislation whatever. We think this is a mistake.

The title of the act is as follows:

"An act to reorganize the administration of the state in order to secure better service and through co-ordination and consolidation to promote economy and efficiency in the work of the government, creating and establishing certain departments and offices and prescribing their powers and duties, fixing certain salaries, abolishing certain offices, boards, commissions and other agencies, and repealing conflicting acts and parts of acts."

The subject of the act seems rather plain from an inspection of the title. It proposes "to reorganize the administration of the state" in the manner indicated.

As here used, the word "administration" means the executive part of government. This is the primary meaning of the word as defined by Noah Webster. It is so used by such authorities as Lord Macaulay and Dr. Johnson. It is so used by all counsel in this case who refer to this act sponsored by the chief executive as the "administration bill."

"The administration of government means the practical management and direction of the executive department. * * *" Black's Law Dictionary.

The word is sometimes used to express a broader meaning, but commonly indicates the executive machinery of government.

It is argued, if this be the subject of the act, the body of it is too broad, because it is said to regulate matters of a judicial and legislative nature. The argument is that the act contains provisions with reference to the state board of law examiners, which is said to be a judicial body; that it confers judicial powers on the state equalization board created by the act, and that it undertakes to abolish the office of the fire prevention commissioner, who is said to be quasi a judicial functionary; that it undertakes to regulate the expenses of the Supreme Court; and that it gives legislative power to certain commissioners.

The board of law examiners is only affected in this, that by section 39 of the act the registrar of professions and trades is made a sort of secretary and treasurer for the board to receive all applications for licenses, and to collect all fees fixed by law in connection with the work of that board. His other duties, in so far as this board is concerned, must be performed with the consent of the board, and no judicial function of the board is conferred upon this official, if it be conceded that the board of law examiners is a judicial body.

The extent to which the act touches the Supreme Court is that by section 16, section 12, subsec. 7, and section 21 the department of finance and taxation and the commissioner of finance and taxation are given certain authority over the expenditures of the court. This authority so given does not, we think, infringe upon any judicial prerogative of the court. Whether it touches upon the court's inherent and statutory power of administration with reference to its own business is another question, but a question not at all material in determining whether the act undertakes to regulate the exercise of the judicial powers of the court.

The state equalization board and the fire prevention commissioner are not judicial officers. They are executive officers or administrative officers, and a statute designed to deal with the executive part of the government may properly legislate concerning these officials.

It is true that quasi judicial powers are conferred on such officers, but that does not make them judicial officers. In Richardson v. Young, 122 Tenn. 471, 125 S.W. 664, it is shown that as a matter of practice it has been found impossible to entirely preserve the theoretical lines between the three departments of government. In Woods v. State, 130 Tenn. 100, 169 S.W. 558, L. R. A. 1915F, 531, it is noted that judicial powers are commonly conferred on sheriffs, clerks of courts, notaries public, registers of deeds, district attorneys general, and other administrative officers.

We know, too, that the power to make rules is commonly given to boards and commissions. 12 C.J. 847; Woods v. State, supra. These rules have the force of statutes, and their formulation is really the exercise of a legislative power.

So the fact that certain limited judicial and legislative powers are conferred upon executive officers does not change their status as such officers, nor is it inappropriate or beyond the scope of a statute dealing with executive officers to confer such powers.

Since it is the customary and usual thing to endow executive officers with some legislative and judicial authority, we do not think such matter in this act made it broader than its caption.

The statute before us undertakes to deal, it is said, with about 60 commissions, boards, departments, and officers prosecuting the greater part of the various activities of the state government. It is urged that all these functionaries cannot be grouped and their duties regulated in one statute, and that an act affecting them all is omnibus legislation and in violation of the constitutional provision against more than one subject in one act.

It has been held in Tennessee since Cannon v. Mathes, 55 Tenn. (8 Heisk.) 504, that the generality of a title is not objectionable if not made a cover for legislation incongruous in itself, and that the Legislature must determine for itself how broad and comprehensive the object of the statute shall be. Our cases are very numerous. The last review of them is contained in State v. Cumberland Club, 136 Tenn. 84, 188 S.W. 583.

We would hesitate to say what is the limit, if any to the scope of an act of the Legislature suitably entitled. We have many acts covering very wide fields.

For instance, chapter 142 of the Acts of 1875 is entitled "An act to provide for the organization of corporations." In this statute and the amendments thereto is contained most of the corporation law of Tennessee, and its validity has not been seriously questioned. Railroad v. Transportation Co., 128 Tenn. 277, 160 S.W. 522.

In State v. McCann, 72 Tenn. (4 Lea) 17, the court held an act to contain but one subject that dealt with the fees of the clerks of all the courts in this state, the county trustees, registers of deeds, the district attorneys, and the secretary of state.

In Carroll v. Alsup, 107 Tenn. 257, 64 S.W. 193, a revenue bill with all its many provisions was held to contain but one subject.

Our uniform statutes, the Negotiable Instruments Law, the Sales Law, the Partnership Law, and others are of the widest range, and cover a multitude of matters, and yet their validity is not doubted.

We cannot say that an act which undertakes to reorganize the administration of the state is omnibus legislation, although it may affect 60 officials, so long as unity of purpose is preserved.

The question as to whether the various provisions of an act are congruous and germane is largely a question of fact to be determined upon our knowledge of affairs. Frazier v. Railroad, 88 Tenn. 138, 12 S.W. 537.

Upon careful examination of the statute before us, we think its object or purpose is sufficiently expressed in the title, and that its provisions are germane to the title, and not incongruous with each other.

Some reference is made to authorities in other states upon the limits of a legislative enactment. We cannot go into these, since we have so many cases of our own.

The authorities generally are considered in Lewis' Sutherland on Statutory Construction, § 117, and the author states that "there is no constitutional restriction as to the scope or magnitude of the single subject of a legislative act." It may be noted that the Supreme Court of Kansas held that "An act to establish a code of laws;" embraced but a single...

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28 cases
  • Troutman v. Crippen
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • May 10, 1937
    ...of commissioners, and which act was upheld by this Court in Prescott v. Duncan, 126 Tenn. 106, 148 S.W. 229. House v. Creveling, 147 Tenn. 589, 250 S.W. 357. This latter provided for the reorganization of the administration of the state. In both of these cases it was held that the legislati......
  • State v. Collier
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • February 1, 1930
    ... ... assume for the present that, in the disposition of this ... question, we may refer to the bills as originally introduced ... in the House and in the Senate, as well as to the Journals of ... those bodies, in order to get the history of this ... legislation. From such sources, we find ... sustained unless the Journals affirmatively show the absence ... of some constitutional requirements. House v ... Creveling, 147 Tenn. 589, 250 S.W. 357; Wilson v ... State, 143 Tenn. 55, 224 S.W. 168, 171; Jackson v ... Manufacturing Co., 124 Tenn. 421, 137 S.W ... ...
  • State Board of Medical Examiners v. Friedman
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1924
    ... ... as was done in the amended bill. Gilbreath v ... Willett (Tenn. 1923), 251 S.W. 910, 28 A. L. R. 1147; ... House v. Creveling (1923) 147 Tenn. 589, 250 S.W ... 357; State v. Bratton (Tenn. 1923) 253 S.W. 705 ...          And, ... even though the ... ...
  • Rushing v. Tennessee Crime Com'n
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • May 27, 1938
    ... ... contrary to Article 2, Section 2. There is quite a full ... discussion of this proposition in House v ... Creveling, 147 Tenn. 589, 596, 250 S.W. 357, to which ... reference is made without repeating the discussion ...          The ... ...
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