Semones v. Needles

Decision Date11 February 1908
Citation114 N.W. 904,137 Iowa 177
PartiesWILLIAM M. SEMONES and A. G. BEECH v. CHARLES W. NEEDLES, Census Enumerator for the CITY OF ATLANTIC, IOWA, for the year 1905, Appellant, and the EXECUTIVE COUNCIL OF THE STATE OF IOWA, and ALBERT B. CUMMINS, WM. B. MARTIN, B. F. CARROLL and GILBERT S. GILBERTSON, members of said EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, and WILLIAM B. MARTIN, Secretary of State of the STATE OF IOWA
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Appeal from Cass District Court.-- HON. A. B. THORNELL, Judge.

Affirmed.

J. B Rockafellow, for appellant.

James B. Bruff and Julian Phelps, for appellees Semones and Beech.

OPINION

THE opinion states the case.-- Affirmed.

SHERWIN J.

The original petition was filed in August, 1905. It was alleged therein that James Stier was the duly elected assessor of the city of Atlantic, but that he refused to take the census thereof, and that the defendant was duly appointed to take said census for the year 1905. That the other defendants constitute the executive council of the State of Iowa and that Wm. B. Martin was the Secretary of State. It was further alleged in the petition and in the amendments thereto that the plaintiffs were resident taxpayers and voters within said city of Atlantic; that Wm M. Semones was the president of the Anti-Saloon League of Cass County, and that said action was brought in behalf of said league as well as in their own behalf, and in behalf and at the request of many other citizens, residents and taxpayers in said city. That there were ten saloons in Atlantic, operating under a petition of consent effective only in case the city of Atlantic had five thousand or more population, and that, unless the population was shown to be five thousand or more, there was no probability that said saloons could operate or that a petition of consent could be obtained therefor. That the plaintiffs and those whom they represented were opposed to the sale of intoxicating liquors in aid city; and that said Needles, for the purpose of making the population of Atlantic appear to be more than five thousand in the census for the year 1905, and in order that said saloons might continue to operate in said city, willfully and fraudulently added to and included in said enumeration the names of many persons who were not residents of said city and who could not properly be enumerated in the population thereof. That he willfully and fraudulently failed to follow and observe the laws and rules made for said census enumeration, and improperly enumerated and returned in said census enumeration the names of five hundred persons. That the census returned by him to the Secretary of State showed the city of Atlantic to have a population of five thousand, one hundred and eighty-one, but that said number included the names of the persons who had been fraudulently enumerated as aforesaid. It was still further alleged that, before commencing the action, the plaintiffs had demanded of the county attorney of Cass county and of the Attorney General of the State that they bring an action to correct said census, but that both had refused to do so. The plaintiffs prayed that they be permitted to introduce evidence to show the fraud in the enumeration; that the census be set aside or corrected as the court should determine; that the executive council be enjoined from publishing any of the names improperly enumerated, and that a mandatory writ issue directing said council to have a new census taken.

Needles demurred to these pleadings, and upon the overruling thereof he answered, alleging that the census returned by him was honestly taken, and that any errors therein were mistakes or errors in judgment. He denied any intent to illegally pad the census, and alleged that the same was completed and returned before June 1, 1905, and before this suit was brought, and that the suit could not be maintained against him because he was not then in office. He challenged the right of the plaintiffs to maintain the action and the jurisdiction of the court. The executive council and Secretary of State answered, denying any knowledge of illegality in taking the census, and alleging want of jurisdiction to enjoin them from compiling and publishing the same as returned by the defendant Needles. Needles' motion to transfer the case to the law docket was overruled, and thereafter the case was tried to the court, and a final decree entered for the plaintiffs finding that the census was fraudulent and ordering certain names stricken therefrom. The decree also enjoined the executive council and the Secretary of State from publishing a list containing such names as a part of the census of Atlantic. The costs were taxed to Needles, and he alone appeals.

That the defendant Needles deliberately and fraudulently padded the census of Atlantic does not admit of doubt, and the only serious question in the case, as we view it, is whether the plaintiffs may maintain this action. The appellant contends that the act complained of was a public wrong, and that an action for the redress thereof rests alone in the public and can only be brought and maintained by the authorities who by statute are given authority to represent the people. On the other hand, the appellees take the position that in a matter of public right any resident citizen or taxpayer may bring the action or be the relator that the interest necessary to maintain the action is essentially the same as in mandamus or certiorari. It is undoubtedly the general rule that, where the right claimed to be in danger is not different from that enjoyed by the public generally, and the dangers which may be suffered are only those shared by the public, an action of injunction will not lie in favor of an individual. Brady v. Shinkle, 40 Iowa 576. But while this is true, it does not necessarily follow that the rule should be applied to all classes of cases, or that it is controlling in this case. The general trend of modern authority is to the effect that courts of equity will grant injunctions to restrain an attempted wrong whenever it clearly appears that in no other proceeding can public or private interests be fully protected, and that the writ will issue at the instance of a private individual who shows he may suffer financial injury if the contemplated wrong be not enjoined, even though it may be made to appear that a part of the public may suffer in the same way or to the same extent. No absolute rule can be adopted for all cases, but each case must be determined very largely on its own peculiar facts and in the light of the general policy of the courts and of the State, as the latter is expressed in its statutory enactments. Thus prohibition...

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