Railroad Commission of Alabama v. Alabama Great Southern R. Co.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation64 So. 13,185 Ala. 354
Decision Date30 June 1913

Rehearing Denied Dec. 18, 1913

Appeal from City Court of Birmingham; H.A. Sharpe, Judge.

Mandamus by the Railroad Commission of Alabama against the Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company and others. From a judgment denying the writ, relator appeals. Reversed and remanded.

R.C Brickell, Atty. Gen., W.L. Martin, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Estes, Jones & Welch, of Bessemer, for appellant.

Tillman Bradley & Morrow, E.L. All, J.T. Stokeley, and A.G. & E.D Smith, all of Birmingham, for appellees.


We quote the following propositions which in our opinion exert a controlling influence upon the questions presented by this record:

A. "Whenever the validity of an act is challenged upon the ground that it is unconstitutional, the objector assumes the burden of showing that it is an exercise of authority not legislative in its nature, or that it is inconsistent with some other provision of the Constitution. In cases of doubtful construction, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of the act." State v. McCarty, 5 Ala.App. 212, 59 So. 543; Ingram v. State, 39 Ala. 247, 84 Am.Dec. 782; Dorman v. State, 34 Ala. 216; Whaley v. State, 168 Ala. 152, 52 So. 941, 30 L.R.A. (N.S.) 499; Railroad Commission of Ala. v. Northern Ala. Ry. Co., 62 So. 749, present term; Nos. 291, 292, and 293, October term, 1912, being the cases of George T. Simpson et al. v. David C. Shepard, George T. Simpson v. Emma B. Kennedy et al., and George T. Simpson v. William Shillaber, 230 U.S. 352, 33 Sup.Ct. 729, 57 L.Ed. 1511, present term.

B. "Constitutions were made for practical purposes, and not for the exercise of critical gymnastics; they should be construed so as to carry out the intention of the lawmakers, which should be reasonable rather than absurd." State v. Thompson, 142 Ala. 98, 38 So. 679; State v. McCarty, supra.

C. "All laws are carried into execution by means of officers appointed for that purpose; some with more, others with less, but all must be clothed with power sufficient for the effectual execution of the laws to be enforced." Georgia R.R. Co. v. Smith, 70 Ga. 694; Georgia Banking Co. v. Smith, 128 U.S. 174, 9 Sup.Ct. 47, 32 L.Ed. 377; Railroad Commission of Ala. v. Northern Ala. Ry., present term, supra; State v. McCarty, supra; Spraggins v. Jefferson County, 63 So. 83, present term.

D. The appointment of a receiver for a corporation does not dissolve the corporation. Cook on Corporations (6th Ed.) § 871; Green v. Walkill Nat. Bank, 7 Hun (N.Y.) 63.

E. When a board is created for the purpose of carrying a law into execution, all legal intendments are with the orders of such board, and such orders will be upheld unless their invalidity is shown by those who complain of such orders. The legal presumption is that such orders are reasonable; that they were made upon proper evidence; and that they are valid. It is only when such orders were unauthorized by the law or were made by such board without or in excess of legal authority, or were unreasonable, that they are void. Railroad Commission of Ala. v. Northern Ala. Ry. Co., supra; State Highway Commission v. Jefferson County, supra; State v. McCarty, supra; Whaley v. State, supra.

1. In this case the Railroad Commission made an order requiring the Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company, and the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad Company, and S.L. Schoonmaker and H.M. Atkinson, receivers of said Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic Railroad Company, to procure sufficient grounds within a certain specified territory in the city of Bessemer for a union passenger station for said railroads and upon such ground to erect, within a given period, for the use of said roads, at said city, a union passenger station. The order was made on February 5, 1912, and required said parties to "proceed to the procurement of sufficient grounds within the boundaries above set out, and proceed with the construction of an adequate passenger station thereon, to be used jointly by the above set out railroad companies, and that work on the construction of said building shall commence within ninety (90) days, and shall be completed within six (6) months."

The above order of the Railroad Commission was made pursuant to section 5545 of the Code of 1907, which is as follows: "Any two or more railroads which enter any city or town may be required, when practicable, or when the necessities of the case in the judgment of the Railroad Commission demand it, to have and maintain one common or union passenger station for the security, accommodation, and convenience of the traveling public, and to unite in the joint undertaking and expense of erecting, constructing, and maintaining such union passenger station commensurate with the business and revenue of such railroad companies or corporations, on such terms, regulations, provisions, and conditions as the Railroad Commission may prescribe; and any company failing to comply with the orders of the Railroad Commission shall be liable to a penalty of not less than one thousand nor more than ten thousand dollars, for every six months in default, to be recovered by the state."

Under the above provision of the Code we presume that the Railroad Commission, before making the above order, informed itself as to the necessities of the situation, and we accept the order as tantamount to a declaration that the reasonable necessities of the traveling public demand a conveniently located union passenger station in the city of Bessemer, to be used by the named railroad companies for the reception and discharge of their passengers at that point, and that the building of such station will not amount to an unreasonable burden upon the railroad companies, taking into consideration the volume of their passenger business at that point and the cost, to the railroads, of such union passenger station. In other words, we accept, in the present state of the record, the making of the order by the Railroad Commission, as a finding by the Railroad Commission, that the situation at Bessemer is such as to justify the making of the order. See above subdivision E of this opinion, and the authorities there cited.

2. It is argued by the railroad companies that the above order is void because it does not appear from the order or the petition for mandamus that the companies have it within their power to comply with the order, in that it does not appear that they own or can obtain at reasonable figures sufficient land within the prescribed limits upon which to build the union passenger station.

Unless the contrary is clearly shown, we will presume not only that the place prescribed is suitable, but that sufficient ground can be obtained, either by private purchase, or by condemnation proceedings, at reasonable figures, for such station. Through the power of eminent domain which the law has conferred upon the railroad companies, they possess all the power which is necessary to acquire the needed lands at their fair value, and, under the present state of the record, we must presume that the Railroad Commission has placed no unreasonable burden upon the railroad companies in so far as the acquisition of the needed ground for the station is concerned. See above subdivision E of this opinion, and authorities cited.

3. It is also contended by the railroad companies that "the order of the Railroad Commission is void in that the order of the Railroad Commission requires each railroad company to abandon presently occupied depot facilities in the city of Bessemer, and to build, in conjunction with others, a union depot, whereas the act authorizing the Railroad Commission to require the construction of a union depot does not authorize the Commission to compel the abandonment of depot and depot facilities already erected and in use." This argument was, of course, applicable to the facts presented by the record in Railroad Commission of Alabama v. Northern Alabama Railway Company, supra, but in that case this court held that it is competent, when the reasonable necessities of the public require it, and the needed improvement will not place an unreasonable burden upon the railroads, for the Railroad Commission to order two or more railroads maintaining separate passenger stations in the same city or town to unite in one passenger station. Conditions which a few years ago were amply sufficient to meet the public needs are now found to be altogether inadequate, and in this day, when quick transportation is a necessity, the public demands better and more convenient passenger stations than were formerly needed, and the statute which we have above quoted was passed to meet this new necessity of the public. It is out of respect to the reasonable public needs, and the power of the state to require those who serve the public to meet such reasonable needs, that statutes similar to the one now under consideration have in other states been held to be violative of no principle of constitutional law. Mayor and Aldermen of Worcester et al. v. Norwich & Worcester Railroad Company et al., 109 Mass. 103; Corporation Commission v. Railroad, 139 N.C. 126, 51 S.E. 793; Industrial Siding Case, 140 N.C. 239, 52 S.E. 941; Dewey v. R.R. Co., 142 N.C. 392, 55 S.E. 292; Griffin v. R.R. Co., 150 N.C. 312, 64 S.E. 16.

4. Authorized as we are, in this state of the record, to presume that the Railroad Commission, when it made the order complained of, had by personal investigation on the part of its members, and by other proper evidence, arrived at the just conclusion that the city...

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