Petition of Highway US-24, in Bloomfield Tp., Oakland County, US--24

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Citation220 N.W.2d 416,392 Mich. 159
Docket NumberUS--24,No. 6,IN,6
Parties, 6 ERC 2006, 4 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,694 Petition of the Michigan State Highway Commission for condemnation of private property for HIGHWAYBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, OAKLAND COUNTY, Michigan. MICHIGAN STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSION, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Robert C. VANDERKLOOT and Clara A. Vanderkloot, Defendants and Appellants. ,
Decision Date01 October 1973

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Robert A. Derengoski, Sol. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Stanley D. Stenborn, Janis Meija, Asst. Attys. Gen., Lansing, for plaintiff and appellee.

Surridge, Vanderkloot, Afton, Young & Reid, L. Bennett Young, Birmingham, for defendants and appellants.

Before the Entire Bench.

WILLIAMS, Justice.

This case involves two substantial constitutional questions. The first relates to highway condemnation and the second to environmental law.

The first constitutional question concerns the Highway Condemnation Act, M.C.L.A. § 213.361 et seq.; M.S.A. § 8.261(1) et seq., and is whether the standard 'necessity' is a sufficiently precise legislative delegation.

The second constitutional question is whether the Highway Condemnation Act is unconstitutional due to a failure to write into that act provisions to respond to Const.1963, art. 4, § 52, the constitutional provision concerning protection of Michigan's natural resources.

We hold that the standard 'necessity' in the context of the Highway Condemnation Act is a sufficient standard and a constitutional delegation of authority. We hold that Const.1963, art. 4, § 52 is an environmental mandate to the Legislature, but that the Legislature need not specifically incorporate environment provisions in each and every pertinent act but may properly respond to the Constitution with general legislation, and has done so in the Environmental Protection Act of 1970, 1970 P.A. 127; M.C.L.A. § 691.1201 et seq.; M.S.A. § 14.528(201) et seq. (herein referred to as 'EPA').

We further hold that because of EPA there is an environmental element in judicial review for 'fraud or abuse of discretion' in condemnation matters.


Appellee, the Michigan State Highway Commission (herein referred to as 'the Commission'), acting under authority of the Highway Condemnation Act, commenced condemnation proceedings on May 12, 1971, in Oakland County Circuit Court for the purpose of acquiring 11.04 acres of land owned by appellants, Robert and Clara Vanderkloot. The Commission sought this land to improve and replace portions of Highway US--24 (Telegraph Road) in and through Broomfield Township. Acting in accordance with M.C.L.A. § 213.366; M.S.A. § 8.261(6) and M.C.L.A. § 213.367; M.S.A. § 8.261(7), the Commission filed a Petition and Demand for Jury Trial, a Declaration of Taking a Statement of Necessity, and a Notice of Taking and Statement of Estimated Compensation. An Order for Hearing on Petition was entered by the trial court on May 12, 1971, setting the matter for hearing on July 14, 1971 solely on the issue of date of possession and amount of compensation.

On May 26, 1971, appellant landowners filed a Motion for Review of Necessity of Taking property pursuant to M.C.L.A. § 213.368; M.S.A. § 8.261(8), alleging that the Commission had abused its discretion in its determination of the necessity for taking their property '. . . for the reasons that the existing line of said Telgraph Road (Highway US--24) abutting the subject property adequately serves the necessity and interest of the traveling public and that the property Petitioner seeks to take under these proceedings is a swamp area having increasingly rare or even unique ecological characteristics of benefit to the public and presenting construction problems unnecessarily and unreasonably increasing the cost of the proposed improvement to the public.'

Simultaneously, on May 26, 1971, appellant landowners filed a Motion for Accelerated Judgment alleging that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction in this matter on the grounds that the Highway Condemnation Act was unconstitutional 'for the reasons that said statute prescribes no reasonably defined standards for the exercise of the discretion required of the Commission under said Act and the duties of the Commission are in conflict with the provision of Article IV, Section 52, of the Michigan Constitution of 1963' relating to protection of natural resources (19a).

Hearings were held on the Motion for Accelerated Judgment on June 15, 18, and 21, 1971. On June 21, 1971, the trial court granted appellant landowners' Motion for Accelerated Judgment holding in its subsequent order of July 14, 1971 that the Highway Condemnation Act was unconstitutional both one due process:

'. . . said Act denies due process to Respondents in that there are no standards stated within the Act, either specifically or by reference, to define the authority of the Petitioner to determine the necessity of taking private property for highway purpose pursuant to said Act, so that Respondents may exercise the right of review for abuse of discretion granted under Section 8 of said Act.' (28a)

and on environmental grounds:

'The Court further finds that Act 295 of PA of 1966 is unconstitutional for the reason that the Act fails to provide for the protection of the natural resources of the State from pollution, impairment and destruction as required under Article IV, Section 52 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963.' (28a)

The Court of Appeals reversed (2--1) on September 27, 1972. 43 Mich.App. 56, 204 N.W.2d 22 (1972). We granted leave to appeal on December 26, 1972. 389 Mich. 752 (1972).


The constitutionality of the right of the Legislature to delegate to an administrative body the authority to exercise eminent domain power is not in question on this appeal. What is under attack is the nature of this particular delegation of eminent domain powers in the Highway Condemnation Act. Specifically, does the Act contain adequate 'standards' to guide the Commission in its discretionary determination of condemnation necessity and to guide the courts in their determination whether that discretion was abused?

The question of 'standards' and their adequacy in this context presents us then, analytically, with two related due process questions:

(1) Is the bare standard, 'necessity,' in a legislative delegation of eminent domain powers to an administrative body sufficient to satisfy the demands of substantive due process?

(2) Is the bare standard, 'necessity,' sufficient to satisfy due process in determining whether there was '. . . fraud or abuse of discretion, or both, in the necessity of the taking . . .' (M.C.L.A. § 213.368; M.S.A. § 8.261(8))?

We will deal with these two questions separately.

A. Standards for Legislative Delegation of Eminent Domain Power

Under U.S.Const., Am. XIV, § 1, and Const.1963, art. 1, § 17, no one may be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. One of the requirements of substantive due process is the existence of reasonably precise standards to be utilized by administrative agencies in the performance of delegated legisltive tasks. Milford v. People's Community Hospital Authority, 380 Mich. 49, 57--63, 155 N.W.2d 835 (1968).

The standard in question in the instant case is the bare term, 'necessity,' contained in M.C.L.A. § 213.368; M.S.A. § 8.261(8) which, in relevant part, reads as follows:

'Sec. 8. Within ten days after the notice required by section 6 has been given, a person claiming fraud or abuse of discretion, or both, in the necessity of the taking of all or any part of the property for the purposes stated in the petition, and having a justiciable interest in the property involved, may file a motion in the same court and cause, asking that such necessity be reviewed. . . .

At the hearing the court shall determine whether or not there has been either fraud or abuse of discretion in regard to such necessity. . . .'

We hold that this standard, 'necessity,' is sufficient in the context of the Highway Condemnation Act and the history of highway condemnation to satisfy the demands of due process with respect to delegation of legislative authority.

It is significant to note in reaching this conclusion that use of the term, 'necessity,' governing the legitimacy of administrative condemnation determinations is far from being either a new or unique approach. While Const.1963, art. 10, § 2 1 does not require a 'necessity' conclusion prior to condemnation decisions, the previous 1850 2 and 1908 3 constitutions did in fact require precisely such a determination. Under both the 1850 and 1908 procedures, condemnation 'necessity' was reviewed prior to the taking either by a jury of 12 freeholders or by court-appointed commissioners. These fact-finders had no difficulty ascertaining the meaning of 'necessity' as applied in this context; nor did this Court in numerous decisions reviewing, Inter alia, 'necessity' determinations, have reservations about these fact-finders' ability to evaluate 'necessity' in differing fact situations. In re Petition of Detroit Edison Co., 365 Mich. 35, 112 N.W.2d 109 (1961); In re Acquisition of Land for Recreational Purposes, 319 Mich. 212, 29 N.W.2d 146 (1947); Kalamazoo v. Balkema, 252 Mich. 308, 233 N.W. 325 (1930); In re Board of Education of City of Grand Rapids, 249 Mich. 550, 229 N.W. 470 (1930); In re Widening of Fulton Street, 248 Mich. 13, 226 N.W. 690, 64 A.L.R. 1507 (1929); Village of Hamtramck v. Simons, 201 Mich. 458, 167 N.W. 973 (1918); Commissioners of Parks & Boulevards of City of Detroit v. Moesta, 91 Mich. 149, 51 N.W. 903 (1892); Detroit v. Beecher, 75 Mich. 454, 42 N.W. 986, 4 L.R.A. 813 (1889); Paul v. Detroit, 32 Mich. 108 (1875). The fact that in Michigan the term, 'necessity,' is now of statutory rather than constitutional dimension in this context, does not abrogate its traditional sufficiency under the Michigan or United States...

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