Marcus Brown Holding Co v. Feldman

Decision Date18 April 1921
Docket NumberNo. 731,731
Citation256 U.S. 170,65 L.Ed. 877,41 S.Ct. 465
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 170-171 intentionally omitted] Mr. Joseph A. Seidman, of New York City. for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 173-181 intentionally omitted]

Page 181

Mr. David L. Podell, of New York City, for appellees.

Mr. William D. Guthrie, of New York City, for the Attorney General of New York, amicus curiae.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 181-196 intentionally omitted]

Page 196

Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a bill in equity brought by the Marcus Brown Holding Company, the appellant, owner of a large apartment house in the city of New York, against the tenants of an apartment in the house and the District Attorney of the County of New York. The tenants are holding over after their lease has expired, which it did on September 30, 1920, claiming the right to do so under Chapters 942 and 947 of the Laws of New York of 1920. The object of the bill is to have these and other connected laws declared unconstitutional. The District Attorney is joined in order to prevent his enforcing by criminal proceedings Chapters 131 and 951 of the acts of the same year, which make it a misdemeanor for the lessor or any agent

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or janitor intentionally to fail to furnish such water, heat, light, elevator, telephone, or other service as may be required by the terms of the lease and necessary to the proper or customary use of the building. The case was heard in the District Court by three judges upon the bill, answer, affidavits and some public documents, all of which may be summed up in a few works. The bill alleges at length the rights given to a lessor by the common law and statutes of New York before the enactment of the statutes relied upon by the tenants, a covenant by the latter to surrender possession at the termination of their lease, and due demand, and claims protection under Article 1, Section 10 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. An affidavit alleges that before the passage of the new statutes another lease of the premises had been made, to go into effect on October 1, 1920. The answer of the tenants relies upon the new statutes and alleges a willingness to pay a reasonable rent and any reasonable increase as the same may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. It also alleges that they made efforts to obtain another suitable apartment but failed. The District Attorney moved to dismiss the bill. The judged considered the case upon the merits, upheld the laws and ordered the bill to be dismissed.

By the above mentioned Chapters 942 and 947, a public emergency is declared to exist and it is provided by Chapter 947 that no action 'shall be maintained to recover possession of real property in a city of a population of one million or more or in a city in a county adjoining such city, occupied for dwelling purposes, except an action to recover such possession upon the ground that the person is holding over and is objectionable, * * * or an action where the owner of record of the building, being a natural person, seeks in good faith to recover possession of the same or a room or rooms therein for the im mediate-

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and personal occupancy by himself and his family as a dwelling; or an action to recover premises for the purpose of demolishing the same with the intention of constructing a new building. * * *' The earlier Chapter 942 is similar with some further details. Both acts are to be in effect only until November 1, 1922. It is unnecessary to state the provisions of Chapter 944 for disputes as to what is a reasonable rent. They are dealt with in the decisions of the Court of Appeals cited below and in Edgar A. Levy Leasing Co., Inc., v. Siegel, 130 N. E. 923, March 8, 1921, by the same Court. In this as in the previous case of Block v. Hirsh, 256 U. S. 135, 41 Sup. Ct. 458, 65 L. Ed. ——, we shall assume in accordance with the statutes, the finding of the Court below and of the Court of Appeals of the State, in People ex rel. Durham Realty Corporation v. La Feltra, 230 N. Y. 429, 130 N. E. 601, March 8, 1921, and Guttag v. Shatzkin, 130 N. E. 929, March 8, 1921, that the emergency declared exists. Hebe Co. v. Shaw, 248 U. S. 297, 303, 39 Sup. Ct. 125, 63 L. Ed. 255; Hairston v. Danville & Western Ry. Co., 208 U. S. 598, 607, 28 Sup. Ct. 331, 52 L. Ed. 637, 13 Ann. Cas. 1008.

The chief objections to these acts have been dealt with in Block v. Hirsh. In the present case more emphasis is laid upon the impairment of the obligation of the contract of the lessees to surrender possession and of the new lease which was to have gone into effect upon October 1, last year. But contracts are made subject to this exercise of the power of the State when otherwise justified, as we have held this to be. Manigault v. Springs, 199 U. S. 473, 480, 26 Sup. Ct. 127, 50 L. Ed. 274; Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co. v. Mottley, 219 U. S. 467, 482, 31 Sup. Ct. 265, 55 L. Ed. 297, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 671; Chicago & Alton R. R. Co. v. Tranbarger, 238 U. S. 67, 76, 77, 35 Sup. Ct. 678, 59 L. Ed. 1204; Union Dry Goods Co. v. Georgia Public Service Corporation, 248 U. S. 372, 375, 39 Sup. Ct. 117, 63 L. Ed. 309, 9 A. L. R. 1420; Producers Transportation Co. v. Railroad Commission of California, 251 U. S. 228, 232, 40 Sup. Ct. 131, 64 L. Ed. 239. It is said too that the laws are discriminating, in respect of the cities affected and the character of the buildings, the laws not extending to buildings occupied for business purposes, hotel property or buildings now in course of erection, etc.

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But as the evil to be met was a very pressing want of shelter in certain crowded centers...

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214 cases
  • Nash v. City of Santa Monica
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • October 25, 1984
    ...analogous to the services that in the old law might issue out of or be attached to the land." (Marcus Brown Holding Co., Inc. v. Feldman (1921) 256 U.S. 170, 199, 41 S.Ct. 465, 466, 65 L.Ed. 877; accord, Marquam Investment Corp. v. Beers (1980) 47 Or.App. 711, 615 P.2d Finally, insofar as N......
  • Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • June 16, 1976
    ...since ceased to exist. [550 P.2d 1019] state' (or in this case the city). The Levy Leasing decision and Marcus Brown Co. v. Feldman (1921) 256 U.S. 170, 41 S.Ct. 465, 65 L.Ed. 877, rejected due process objections under the Fourteenth Amendment to New York State statutes enacted in 1920 to d......
  • Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • June 27, 1975
    ...State Housing Rent Com'n. of N.Y. (1962) 11 N.Y.2d 469, 230 N.Y.S.2d 977, 184 N.E.2d 569; see also Marcus Brown Co. v. Feldman (1921) 256 U.S. 170, 41 S.Ct. 465, 65 L.Ed. 877, and Levy Leasing Co. v. Siegel (1922) 258 U.S. 242, 42 S.Ct. 289, 66 L.Ed. 595, involving constitutionality of New ......
  • Spahn v. Stewart
    • United States
    • Kentucky Court of Appeals
    • February 19, 1937
    ... ... in holding the act invalid. As we observe (and shall treat) ... them jointly and ... 233, 40 S.Ct. 499. 64 ... L.Ed. 878; Block v. Hirsh, supra; Marcus Brown Holding ... Co. v. Feldman, 256 U.S. 170, 41 S.Ct. 465, 65 L.Ed ... ...
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  • The Limitations of 'Sic Utere Tuo...': Planning by Private Law Devices
    • United States
    • Land use planning and the environment: a casebook
    • January 23, 2010
    ...went to the verge of the law but fell far short of the present act. Block v. Hirsh, 256 U.S. 135. Marcus Brown Holding Co. v. Feldman, 256 U.S. 170. Levy Leasing Co. v. Siegel, 258 U.S. 242. We assume, of course, that the statute was passed upon the conviction that an exigency existed that ......

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