Sears v. City of Akron, No. 105

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRANDEIS
Citation62 L.Ed. 688,246 U.S. 242,38 S.Ct. 245
PartiesSEARS v. CITY OF AKRON
Docket NumberNo. 105
Decision Date04 March 1918

246 U.S. 242
38 S.Ct. 245
62 L.Ed. 688
SEARS

v.

CITY OF AKRON.

No. 105.
Argued Jan. 21 and 22, 1918.
Decided March 4, 1918.

Page 243

Mr. George W. Wickersham, of New York City, for appellant.

Mr. John E. Morley, of Cleveland, Ohio, for appellee.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Akron, Ohio, lies on Little Cuyahoga river a short distance above its confluence with the Big Cuyahoga. In May, 1911, the Legislature of Ohio granted to the city, by special act 'the right to divert and use forever' for

Page 244

the purposes of its water supply 'the Tuscarawas river, the Big Cuyahoga and Little Cuyahoga rivers and the tributaries thereto, now wholly or partly owned or controlled by the State.'1 The city already possessed, under the general laws of Ohio, power to appropriate for this purpose, by condemnation proceedings, the property of any private corporation.2 Acting specifically in exercise of the power conferred by the special act and of every other power thereunto enabling, the city, by resolution of its council, passed May 27, 1912, declared its intention to appropriate all the waters, above a point fixed, of the Cuyahoga river and tributaries; and by an ordinance, passed August 26, 1912, it appropriated the same, directed its solicitor to apply to the courts to assess the compensation to be paid, and provided for the payment of 'the costs and expenses of said appropriation' out of an issue of bonds theretofore authorized. The city then con-

Page 245

structed a dam and reservoir at the place specified and announced its intention of diverting the water before or by August 1, 1915.

On July 24, 1915, John H. Sears, a citizen of New York, filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Ohio this suit, praying that the further construction of dam and reservoir and the diversion of the water of the river be enjoined, and alleged, in substance, the following facts: The Cuyahoga River Power Company, a hydro-electric corporation was organized under the general laws of Ohio,3 in 1908. The character of the company's enterprise is described in Cuyahoga River Power Co. v. Northern Realty Co., 244 U. S. 300, 37 Sup. Ct. 643, 61 L. Ed. 1153; and its possible rights were considered in Cuyahoga River Power Co. v. Akron, 240 U. S. 462, 36 Sup. Ct. 402, 60 L. Ed. 743. On July 15, 1915, the company de-

Page 246

livered to him as trustee a deed of trust of all its property to secure an issue of $150,000 of bonds. The property rights or interests which it is alleged the city was about to appropriate and for which it had not paid and proposed not to pay, arose from these transactions of the company:

It caused to be made and had, on or about June 3, 1908, adopted by resolution of its board of directors, surveys, maps and plans known as the 'Roberts-Abbot Plan.' Later it caused to be made and, about April 23, 1909, adopted by resolution of its board of directors, supplemental surveys, maps and a plan, known as the 'Von Schon Plan,' together with description of the several parcels of land required for carrying it out. The first plan provided for development, on the Big Cuyahoga, above the confluence of the Big and Little Cuyahoga rivers, within the limits of the location and plan of development set forth in its certificate of incorporation; and the papers also described the various parcels of land which the company would require for the purpose. The supplemental plan called for the extensive development including most of the rivers of northeastern Ohio, and provided, among other things, for a dam on the Big Cuyahoga above that of the city. It was confessedly beyond the powers conferred by the original certificate of incorporation. That certificate was not amended to include the necessary additional powers until after the passage of the Act of 1911. No public record or filing was made of either of those plans; and the law of Ohio makes no provision for such filing or for any record except that involved in condemnation proceedings. No condemnation proceeding was taken except that instituted June 5, 1908, under the original plan. It does nor appear that any property was acquired under these proceedings. Shortly before the commencement of this suit, the company acquired, at a point some distance below the city's dam, a small parcel of

Page 247

land, which however, extended only to high-water mark. It also acquired at another place below defendant's dam from another riparian owner, a contract for a portion of the river bed and the right to regulate, as to this land, the flow of the river; and acquired options for certain other properties. But the company has not commenced anywhere on the river any part of the proposed water-power development.

The right or property which the bill seeks to protect is mainly, if not wholly, the alleged right to construct and operate in places designated in the certificate of incorporation, the power system described, without danger of impairment by any act of defendants. The bill alleges that the company 'became possessed of and vested with the right to exercise the State's power of eminent domain in order to appropriate and acquire for its own corporate purposes such private property as it deemed necessary for carrying out and performing the matters and things set forth in its said articles of incorporation'; and that the city's proposed action would impair contract rights of the company and also take its property without compensation in violation of the Federal Constitution. The city moved to dismiss the bill, contending that it did not appear from plaintiff's allegations that any contract rights of the company had been impaired or that the city had taken or used, or threatened or proposed to take or use any property of the company; that, on the contrary, the bill showed that the company had no property right which the city's action taken or proposed would involve appropriating; and that, for this reason, it had refrained from including in the condemnation proceedings instituted by it, any alleged property rights of the company, and had not given to it any notice of the city's takings.

The motion to dismiss the bill was sustained by the District Court, on the ground that the company did not possess any such contract right or property as the city

Page 248

was alleged to have impaired or invaded or threatened to appropriate; and also on the ground that the bill did not set forth facts entitling plaintiff to seek relief in equity and did disclose laches. A decree was entered dismissing the bill; and a direct appeal to this court was taken under section 238 of the Judicial Code (Act March 3, 1911, c. 231, 36 Stat. 1157 [Comp. St. 1916, § 1215]).

First. As to the alleged impairment of contract: Plaintiff contends that the incorporation of the company in 1908 under the general laws constituted a contract by which the State granted it the right to construct and operate a power system in the places designated in the certificate and the right to take property for that purpose and to have the water flow past that property uninterrupted and undiminished; and that the ordinance of 1912 is a law which impairs that contract in violation of article 1, § 10, of the Federal...

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59 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Visa U.S.A., Inc., No. 98 CIV. 7076(BSJ).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 9, 2001
    ...but because knowledge of intent may help the court to interpret facts and to predict consequences. (City of Chicago, 246 U.S. at 234, 38 S.Ct. at 245; see also North American Soccer League v. National Football League, 670 F.2d 1249, 1259 (2d Importantly, the broad sweep of the rule of reaso......
  • United States v. Meyer, No. 7148
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 23, 1940
    ...689, 67 L.Ed. 1186; Joslin Manufacturing Co. v. City of Providence, 262 U.S. 668, 43 S.Ct. 684, 67 L.Ed. 1167; Sears v. City of Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 S.Ct. 245, 62 L. Ed. 688; Bragg v. Weaver, 251 U.S. 57, 40 S.Ct. 62, 64 L.Ed. 135. Determination of the extent, amount or title of property......
  • Alabama Power Co. v. Gulf Power Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • March 15, 1922
    ...17 Sup.Ct. 56, 41 L.Ed. 369; Hairston v. D. & W. Ry. Co., 208 U.S. 598, 28 Sup.Ct. 331, 52 L.Ed. 637, 13 Ann.Cas. 1008; Sears v. Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 Sup.Ct. 245, 62 L.Ed. 688. However, that is not the case here. Ever since Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, it has been uniformly held that the pow......
  • Joiner v. City of Dallas, No. CA 3-4322-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • August 16, 1974
    ...safeguards proposed by plaintiffs. Many of the arguments in favor of intervention were expressly rejected in Sears v. City of Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 S.Ct. 245, 62 L.Ed. 688 (1918). Based on a project report by a private corporation, the City of Akron announced its intention to appropriate ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • U.S. v. Visa U.S.A., Inc., No. 98 CIV. 7076(BSJ).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 9, 2001
    ...but because knowledge of intent may help the court to interpret facts and to predict consequences. (City of Chicago, 246 U.S. at 234, 38 S.Ct. at 245; see also North American Soccer League v. National Football League, 670 F.2d 1249, 1259 (2d Importantly, the broad sweep of the rule of reaso......
  • United States v. Meyer, No. 7148
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 23, 1940
    ...689, 67 L.Ed. 1186; Joslin Manufacturing Co. v. City of Providence, 262 U.S. 668, 43 S.Ct. 684, 67 L.Ed. 1167; Sears v. City of Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 S.Ct. 245, 62 L. Ed. 688; Bragg v. Weaver, 251 U.S. 57, 40 S.Ct. 62, 64 L.Ed. 135. Determination of the extent, amount or title of property......
  • Alabama Power Co. v. Gulf Power Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • March 15, 1922
    ...17 Sup.Ct. 56, 41 L.Ed. 369; Hairston v. D. & W. Ry. Co., 208 U.S. 598, 28 Sup.Ct. 331, 52 L.Ed. 637, 13 Ann.Cas. 1008; Sears v. Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 Sup.Ct. 245, 62 L.Ed. 688. However, that is not the case here. Ever since Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, it has been uniformly held that the pow......
  • Joiner v. City of Dallas, No. CA 3-4322-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • August 16, 1974
    ...safeguards proposed by plaintiffs. Many of the arguments in favor of intervention were expressly rejected in Sears v. City of Akron, 246 U.S. 242, 38 S.Ct. 245, 62 L.Ed. 688 (1918). Based on a project report by a private corporation, the City of Akron announced its intention to appropriate ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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