Lyman v. Adorno

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation133 Conn. 511,52 A.2d 702
Decision Date10 April 1947
PartiesLYMAN v. ADORNO, Treasurer.



Case reserved from Superior Court, Middlesex County; Inglis, Judge.

Action by Charles E. Lyman, Jr., against Joseph A. Adorno, Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, for a declaratory judgment as to the constitutionality of a statute providing for payment of a bonus to veterans of World War II. Reserved by the Superior Court for advice of Supreme Court of Errors.

Statute held constitutional.

Paul W. Adams, of Hartford, and William L. Beers, of New Haven, for plaintiff.

Bernard A. Kosicki, Asst. Atty. Gen., and William L. Hadden, Atty. Gen., for defendant.

William J. Galvin, Jr., of Hartford, amicus curiae.


MALTBIE, Chief Justice.

This action seeks a declaratory judgment as to the constitutionality of an act recently passed by the General Assembly granting a so-called ‘bonus' to veterans of the late war. In brief, the act makes a grant of money to each man or woman who at the time he or she entered the armed service of the nation had been domiciled in this state for at least one year, who had served for at least ninety days between December 7, 1941, and December 3, 1945, and who had not been dishonorably discharged; the amount to be paid is $10 for each month or major part thereof during which he or she was in active service, the total of the grant to any person not to exceed $300; the act appropriates $50,000,000 to carry out its provisions; and it authorizes the issuance of bonds not exceeding that amount to provide the necessary funds.

We should point out at the beginning of our discussion that we are not concerned with the question whether this legislation is wise, economically or otherwise; that is a matter for legislative determination. Trustees of Bishop's Fund v. Rider, 13 Conn. 87, 103; Beach v. Bradstreet, 85 Conn. 344, 350, 82 A. 1030, Ann.Cas.1913B, 946; State v. Darazzo, 97 Conn. 728, 732, 118 A. 81; State v. Bassett, 100 Conn. 430, 432, 123 A. 842, 37 A.L.R. 131. ‘The Legislature is the arbiter of public policy.’ State v. Gilletto, 98 Conn. 702, 714, 120 A. 567, 571. Nor can the magnitude of the sum involved enter into our consideration; the same issue of constitutionality would be presented if only a relatively small amount of the public funds of the state would be necessary to meet the requirements of the act. If the General Assembly has transgressed no limitation expressly or impliedly contained in the constitution, the responsibility for the use of public funds for the purpose specified in the act rests wholly upon it. State ex rel. Brush v. Sixth Taxing District, 104 Conn. 192, 198, 132 A. 561.

Moreover, a proper regard for the very limited authority of the judicial department to interfere with the determination by the General Assembly as to those provisions of law which will serve to further the welfare of the citizens of this state requires that we make every intendment in favor of the validity of the act, and we can hold it unconstitutional only if there is no reasonable ground upon which it can be sustained. ‘It is our duty to approach the question with great caution, examine it with infinite care, make every presumption and intendment in its favor, and sustain the act, unless its invalidity is, in our judgment, beyond reasonable doubt.’ Beach v. Bradstreet, supra, 85 Conn. 349, 82 A. 1032, Ann.Cas.1913B, 946; State v. Bassett, supra, 100 Conn. 433, 123 A. 842, 37 A.L.R. 131. On the other hand, we are bound not to permit our judgment to be swayed by the deep feeling of gratitude which we, as well as the other citizens of this state, entertain for those men and women who served so splendidly and made such sacrifices in the late war for the protection of our country and the people of this state and nation.

The plaintiff relies largely upon the provision of § 1 of article first of our constitution which states that ‘no man, or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.’ In State ex rel. Brush v. Sixth Taxing District, supra, 104 Conn. 195, 132 A. 561, we pointed out that this provision has a like meaning to that in the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution of the United States which prohibits the states from denying to any person the equal protection of the laws. See State v. Conlon, 65 Conn. 478, 488, 33 A. 519, 31 L.R.A. 55, 48 Am.St.Rep. 227; New Haven Metal & Heating Supply Co. v. Danaher, 128 Conn. 213, 219, 21 A.2d 383. The contention of the plaintiff in reality is that public funds shall not be granted to any individual or individuals where they would clearly serve only private gain or advantage. It is a fundamental principle of American democracy that this cannot be done. Brodhead v. Milwaukee, 19 Wis. 624, 652, 88 Am.Dec. 711; Bush v. Board of Supervisors, 159 N.Y. 212, 216, 53 N.E. 1121, 45 L.R.A. 556, 70 Am.St.Rep. 538; Opinion of the Justices, 175 Mass. 599, 600, 57 N.E. 675, 49 L.R.A. 564; 2 Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th Ed., p. 1033. It was upon this principle that in Beach v. Bradstreet, supra, we held unconstitutional an act of the General Assembly making grants of public money to certain veterans of the Civil War, a decision to which we shall refer later at some length. The broad provision in § 1 of article third of our constitution which vests the legislative power in the General Assembly is subject to the limitation that an act which serves no other purpose than individual gain or profit goes beyond the power of that body to enact and is necessarily void. See Tyson v. School Directors of Halifax, 51 Pa. 9, 22.

That is not to say that, if an act serves a proper public purpose, the fact that it incidently confers a direct benefit upon some individual or individuals renders it invalid. Allydonn Realty Corporation v. Holyoke Housing Authority, 304 Mass. 288, 292, 23 N.E.2d 665; 3 Willoughby, Constitution of the United States, § 1150. The exemption of individuals from the burden of taxation stands on a ground similar to that of an appropriation of public funds. See Corbin v. Baldwin, 92 Conn. 99, 101 A. 834, Ann.Cas.1918E, 932. A good illustration of private gain under a law sustained by us as constitutional because it served a legitimate public purpose is afforded by the case of Baker v. West Hartford, 89 Conn. 394, 94 A. 283, where we upheld the granting of an exemption from taxation for a limited period of time of lands which were planted with forest trees in accordance with certain stated requirements. Among other instances which might be cited is the almost immemorial exemption of educational institutions from taxation including private schools which meet certain requirements and universities such as Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity and Harvard; while the direct benefit from the existence of these institutions is conferred upon those who are students within them, the basis of the exemption is the great, indeed essential, service which education performs in a government such as ours. Blodgett v. Bridgeport City Trust Co., 115 Conn. 127, 135, 161 A. 83; Stamford Jewish Center, Inc., v. Stamford, 117 Conn. 379, 383, 168 A. 5; Masonic Building Ass'n v. Stamford, 119 Conn. 53, 61, 174 A. 301. It should also be remembered that the public purposes which justify expenditures of public funds go far beyond the relief of the needy. The exemption of educational institutions and of property devoted to the furtherance of religion is sufficient illustration of that fact. If the expenditure of public funds will promote the welfare of the community, it is for a public purpose. Beach v. Bradstreet, supra, 85 Conn. 350, 82 A. 1030, Ann.Cas.1913B, 946.

The act before us begins with a section in which is recited the circumstances under which men and women were inducted into the armed forces of the United States; it briefly summarizes the honorable and courageous nature of their services; and it states that these services have resulted in perserving to all the people of this country ‘the heritage of our institutions and ideals and the peaceful continuation of our government.’ While legislative findings of fact are persuasive, the question whether an expenditure of public money is for a public purpose is a subject of judicial inquiry, and they are not controlling upon the courts when required to determine such a question; Opinion of the Justices, Mass., 67 N.E.2d 588, 592, 165 A.L.R. 807; but the statement of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Allydonn Realty Corporation v. Holyoke Housing Authority, supra, 304 Mass. 294, 23 N.E.2d 668, is applicable to the situation before us: ‘In any event we should be blind to the obvious, if we did not know that they are true.’ The act goes on to state: ‘Public interest and welfare will be wisely served by due and prompt recognition of an obligation of the state of Connecticut to those persons who served with credit in the armed forces during the period of world war II, in the form of money payments as provided herein; by such payments will be manifested a public will to incite patriotism, promote devotion to state and country, and encourage a readiness to sacrifice life, health and treasure for the common good; and such payments will be for the direct benefit of all the people of this state, will stimulate and strengthen the support of our government and will directly promote the welfare of the people of the state in equal measure.’ We must accord to the General Assembly as a co-ordinate branch of our government the utmost confidence that it has made this statement of the purpose of the act honestly and in good faith. Allyn's Appeal, 81 Conn. 534, 537, 71 A. 794, 23 L.R.A.,N.S., 630, 129 Am.St.Rep. 225; Opinion of the Justices, 211 Mass. 608, 611, 98 N.E. 338. Nor is it necessary to argue that that purpose falls fully within the field of the promotion of the public...

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