Public Service Co of Northern Illinois v. Corboy

Citation63 L.Ed. 905,39 S.Ct. 440,250 U.S. 153
Decision Date02 June 1919
Docket NumberNo. 258,258
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Messrs. Buell McKeever, William G. Beale, and Gilbert E. Porter, all of Chicago, Ill., and Charles W. Smith, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 153-155 intentionally omitted] Messrs. John H. Gillett, of Hammond, Ind., Frank B. Pattee, of Crown Point, Ind., and Randall W. Burns, of Chicago, Ill., for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 155-157 intentionally omitted] Mr. Chief Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

An 'act concerning drainage,' passed in Indiana in 1907 (Laws 1907, c. 252), briefly outlined is as follows: (1) It authorized the appointment by the county commissioners of each county of an officer called a drainage commissioner and made the county surveyor also ex officio such an officer. (2) It empowered a defined circuit court, on the petition of private landowners or of municipal or other public bodies representing public ownership, to establish a drainage district and to authorize the carrying out in such district of the work petitioned for, and gave the court authority to appoint an additional drainage commissioner, the three being directed to aid the court to the extent by it desired in securing data concerning the questions required to be passed upon in disposing of the petition. (3) To accomplish the purposes of the statute, personal notice to known property holders and notice by publication to those unknown was exacted, and the court was empowered to reject the whole suggested scheme or to authorize such part of it as might be deemed best, or to devise and sanction a new plan. (4) As to any plan which it authorized, the court was empowered to provide for the cost of the work by distributing the amount upon the basis of the benefits to be received and the burdens to result to each landowner. (5) It authorized the designation by the court of one of the drainage commissioners, or, if it deemed best, of any other resident of the district, to carry into execution under the general supervision of the court any work authorized, with power to contract and subject to accountability to the court as the work progressed and at its conclusion.

The Little Calumet river, rising in the state of Indiana, flows in a westerly direction across Porter and Lake counties in that state into Cook county, Ill., within whose boundaries it commingles with the Grand Calumet, which empties into Lake Michigan.

After proceedings under the statute, the circuit court of Porter county, in May, 1911, established a drainage district in Porter and Lake counties and authorized the construction of a ditch to proceed from the Little Calumet river in a northerly direction to Lake Michigan. This action of the court was taken to the Supreme Court of Indiana and there affirmed (Lake Shore & M. S. R. Co. v. Clough, 182 Ind. 178, 104 N. E. 975, 105 N. E. 905), and on error from this court was also affirmed (242 U. S. 375, 37 Sup. Ct. 144, 61 L. Ed. 374).

Before work on the ditch was commenced, however, the appellant, an Illinois corporation which was not a party to the proceedings to establish the district, brought this suit against Corboy, the drainage commissioner appointed by the court to do the work, to enjoin the execution of the same. The relief prayed was based on the ground that the effect of the ditch would be to draw off from the Little Calument river, an interstate stream, such a quantity of water as to seriously diminish the flow in that river and thereby practically cripple, if not destroy the capacity of petitioner to continue to operate a plant for the production of electrical energy established and owned by it on the banks of the Little Calument in Cook county, Ill. It was alleged that the right to have the river flow in its normal volume was a property right enjoyed by petitioner under the law of Illinois, protected by the Constitutions both of the state and of the United States, and which therefore could not be impaired or taken away without depriving the petitioner of property in violation of due process of law as afforded by both Constitutions. The court, being of opinion that the relief prayed was prohibited by section 265 of the Judicial Code (Act March 3, 1911, c. 231, 36 Stat. 1162 [Comp. St. § 1242]), dismissed the bill for want of jurisdiction. The case is here by direct appeal on that question alone.

Although a state may not be sued without its consent, nevertheless a state officer acting under color of his official authority may be enjoined from carrying into effect a state law asserted to be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, even though such injunction may cause the state law to remain inoperative until the constitutional question is judicially determined. The doctrine is elementary, but we refer to a few of the leading cases by which it is sustained: Pennoyer v. McConnaughty, 140 U. S. 1, 9, 11 Sup. Ct. 699, 35 L. Ed. 363; Regan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 154 U. S. 362, 392, 14 Sup. Ct. 1047, 38 L. Ed. 1014; Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123, 152, 28 Sup. Ct. 441, 52 L. Ed. 714, 13 L. R. A. (N. S.) 932, 14 Ann. Cas. 764; Prentis v. Atlantic Coast Line, 211 U. S. 210, 230, 29 Sup. Ct. 67, 53 L. Ed. 150; Home Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Los Angeles, 227 U. S. 278, 33 Sup. Ct. 312, 57 L. Ed. 510; Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R. R. Co., 244 U. S. 499, 506, 37 Sup. Ct. 673, 61 L. Ed. 1280, Ann. Cas. 1917E. 88.

There was jurisdiction therefore in the court below as a federal court to afford appropriate relief unless the want of power resulted from the prohibition of section 265 of the Judicial Code, which is as follows:

'The writ of injunction shall not be granted by any court of the United States to stay proceedings in any court of a state, except in cases where such injunction may be...

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