State ex Inf. Shartel v. Mo. Utilities Co.

Citation53 S.W.2d 394
Decision Date05 October 1932
Docket NumberNo. 31441.,31441.
PartiesSTATE OF MISSOURI upon the Information of Stratton Shartel, Attorney-General, ex rel. the CITY OF SIKESTON, Relator, v. MISSOURI UTILITIES COMPANY, a Corporation.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Roger A. Bailey for relator.

(1) The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction of a proceeding in quo warranto to determine by what right or authority a corporation exercises the privilege of using the public streets, avenues and alleys of a municipality. Art. VI. Sec. 3, Constitution of Missouri; Sec. 1618, R.S. 1929. (2) Notwithstanding Rule 32 of the Supreme Court, where the questions involved are of public concern or of a public nature, it has consistently granted original remedial writs in the nature of an information in quo warranto. State ex inf. McAllister, Atty.-Gen., ex rel. Manion v. Albany Drainage District, 290 Mo. 33; State ex inf. Hadley v. Standard Oil Co., 218 Mo. 1; State ex rel. Atty.-Gen. v. First Natl. Bank of St. Louis, 297 Mo. 397; State ex inf. Otto. Atty.-Gen., ex rel. Goldberg v. United Hebrew Congregation, 309 Mo. 587; State ex inf. Otto, Atty.-Gen., ex rel. Harrington v. School District, 314 Mo. 315; State ex inf. Attorney-General v. American Can Co., 4 S.W. (2d) 448. (3) Local consent is a condition precedent to the granting of a certificate of public convenience and necessity by the Public Service Commission. Secs. 5174, 5193 and 5195, R.S. 1929; 51 C.J. 45. (4) The Public Service Commission Law was intended to supplement, not to repeal, existing law, unless in direct conflict therewith. Clark v. Ry. Co., 23 S.W. (2d) 174. (5) A judicial ouster order after the expiration of a franchise is not depriving any person of property without due process of law. Detroit United Railway v. Detroit, 229 U.S. 39. (6) The right to grant the use of the streets is in the city. At the expiration of a period fixed by agreement or franchise the city may order the company off the streets. Detroit United Ry. Co. v. Detroit, 229 U.S. 39; Louisville Tr. Co. v. Cincinnati, 76 Fed. 296; Cedar Rapids Water Co. v. Cedar Rapids, 118 Iowa, 234; Scott Co. Rd. Co. v. Hines, 215 U.S. 336; Turnpike Co. v. Illinois, 96 U.S. 63. When the term is fixed the rights of the grantee will cease at the expiration of the term, 26 C.J. 1040; Owensboro v. Cumberland Tel. Co., 230 U.S. 58, 33 S. Ct. 988, 57 L. Ed. 1389; Detroit United Ry. Co. v. Detroit, 229 U.S. 39; Postal Tel. Cable Co. v. Ingraham, 228 Fed. 392; People v. Lawley, 17 Cal. App. 331, 119 Pac. 1089; Smith v. Osceola, 178 Iowa. 200, 159 N.W. 648; Cedar Rapids Water Co. v. Cedar Rapids, 118 Iowa, 234; Grand Rapids Bridge Co. v. Prange, 35 Mich. 400, 24 Am. St. Rep. 585; State v. Northern Ohio Traction Co., 34 Ohio Cir. Ct. 262. (7) Continued service by a public service corporation after the expiration of its franchise or contract does not operate as a renewal of the contract; and such continued service may be terminated by either party, providing such termination is not inconsistent with the duty both owe to the inhabitants of the city. 44 C.J. 979; Hill v. Elizabeth City, 291 Fed. 194, 298 Fed. 67; Elizabeth City Water, etc., Co. v. Elizabeth City, 188 N.C. 278, 124 S.E. 611; Selkirk v. Selkirk Electric Light Co., 20 Man. 461, 15 West L.R. 703. (8) It is the duty of the city officers to collect taxes upon all the taxable property within the limits of the city. Sec. 3, Art. 10, Const. of Mo.: Sec. 10, Art. 10, Const of Mo.: Sec. 6783, R.S. 1929. (9) Grounds for the forfeiture of a franchise to use city streets cannot be barred by estoppel in pais by the municipality, unless the franchise was granted in its proprietary capacity. A franchise is in effect a grant from the State and it follows that the right of the State to recall the grant upon sufficient grounds cannot be waived by acts of the city officers. State ex rel. St. Louis v. Light & Development Co., 152 S.W. 67. 246 Mo. 618; Wright v. Doniphan, 169 Mo. 601, 70 S.W. 146; State ex rel. v. Railway Co., 140 Mo. 539, 41 S.W. 955.

I.R. Kelso, R.D. Abbott and D.C. Chastain for respondent.

(1) The respondent is lawfully operating in the city of Sikeston under orders of the Public Service Commission granting to it a statutory certificate of convenience and necessity. Chap. 33, R.S. 1929; State ex inf. v. K.C. Gas Co., 254 Mo. 515, 163 S.W. 854; State ex rel Public Service Comm. v. Railway Co., 279 Mo. 455, 214 S.W. 381; Public Service Comm. v. K.C.P. & L. Co., 31 S.W. (2d) 67; Ex Parte Packman, 317 Mo. 732, P.U.R. 1927E, 861, 296 S.W. 366; State ex rel. K.C.P.S. Co. v. Latshaw, 30 S.W. (2d) 105. P.U.R. 1930D, 348; State ex rel. St. Louis v. Pub. Serv. Comm. and Laclede Gas Light Co. 329 Mo. 918; State ex rel. Sedalia v. Public Serv. Comm., 215 Mo. 201; State ex rel. Laundry, Inc., v. Public Serv. Comm., 34 S.W. (2d) 37; State ex rel. Rhodes v. Public Serv. Comm., 194 S.W. 287; Mo. Southern Ry. Co. v. Public Serv. Comm., 259 Mo. l.c. 728, 168 S.W. 1164; Washington University v. Public Serv. Comm., 272 S.W. 971; R.S. 1929, chap. 33; R.S. 1929, secs. 4962, 7683. (See cases cited above in support of this point 1.) It was not necessary for respondent to secure franchise rights by a vote of the people of the city of Sikeston as a condition precedent to the granting of a certificate of convenience and necessity by the Public Service Commission. R.S. 1929, chap. 33; R.S. 1929. secs. 4962, 7683; R.S. 1929, secs. 5174, 5193, 5195. (See cases cited above in support of this point 1.) (2) Respondent invokes the doctrine of estoppel and laches, and also contends that not matters of public, but merely private and competitive interests, are involved in the present proceedings. (a) The relator is barred by laches from maintaining this action. State ex inf. Otto v. School Dist., 284 S.W. 135; State ex rel. v. Town of Westport, 116 Mo. 582; State ex rel. v. Town of Mansfield, 99 Mo. App. 146. (b) The State is barred by laches or by waiver from investigating matters occurring five, eight, ten or more years prior to the bringing of the quo warranto proceeding, and the State is estopped by its acquiescence and acts on the part of respondent in reliance upon rights in good faith claimed by it with the acquiescence of the public officials and by the expenditure of large sums of money. Simpson v. Stoddard Co., 173 Mo. 463; State ex rel. v. Town of Westport, 116 Mo. 595; Town of Montevallo v. School District, 268 Mo. 224; State ex rel. v. Town of Mansfield, 99 Mo. App. 153; State ex rel. v. Huff, 105 Mo. App. 364; St. Joseph v. Railroad Co., 268 Mo. 56; State ex rel. v. Bailey, 19 Ind. 454; Iowa v. Carr, 191 Fed. 266; Santa Rosa Railroad Co. v. Cent. St. Railroad Co., 38 Pac. 990; State ex rel. Atty.-Genl. v. Janesville Water Co., 32 L.R.A. 391, 92 Wis. 496; State ex rel. v. Lincoln Street Ry. Co., 80 Neb. 333; Commonwealth ex rel. Atty.-Genl. v. Bala etc., T.P. Co., 153 Pa. 47; High on Extraordinary Remedies, sec. 621. The expenditure of money in good faith and the exercise of rights under a franchise are recognized in all cases as persuasive elements to be considered by the court in cases involving forfeiture of franchises. State ex rel. Subway Co. v. St. Louis, 145 Mo. 590. (c) In any event, the right to maintain quo warranto in this case has been lost by estoppel. St. Joseph v. Railroad Co., 268 Mo. 56; Town of Montevallo v. School Dist., 268 Mo. 224; Simpson v. Stoddard County, 173 Mo. 421; Peterson v. Kansas City, 23 S.W. (2d) 1045; State ex rel. McAllister v. Cupples Station L.H. & P. Co., 283 Mo. 115; State ex inf. Otto v. School Dist., 284 S.W. 135; Mountain View v. Farmers Tel. Exch. Co., 294 Mo. 623, 243 S.W. 153; State v. Oconto Elec. Co., 165 Wis. 467, 161 N.W. 789; People v. City of Le Roy, 293 Ill. 278, 127 N.E. 695; People v. Jackson, 305 Ill. 385, 137 N.E. 237; People v. Arnett, 317 Ill. 425, 148 N.E. 306; State ex rel. School Dist. v. Kinkade, 192 Iowa, 1362, 186 N.W. 662; Chicago v. Union Stock Yards and Transit Co., 164 Ill. 224, 45 N.E. 430; Atlanta v. Gate City Gas Co., 71 Ga. 106; Bradford v. N.Y. & P.T. Co., 206 Pa. 582, 56 Atl. 41; Spokane St. Ry. Co. v. Spokane Falls, 6 Wash. 521, 33 Pac. 1072; Railroad Co. v. People, 91 Ill. 251; Mo. River Tel. Co. v. City of Mitchell, 22 S.D. 191, 116 N.W. 67; Hagerstown v. Railroad Co., 123 Md. 183, A.L.R. 1239; State ex rel. Caldwell v. Railway Co. et al., 114 N.W. 422, 14 L.R.A. 336; C.R.I. & P. Ry. Co. v. Joliet, 79 Ill. 25; Attorney-General v. Cambridge Consumers Gas Co., L.R. 4, ch. 71, 19 Eng. Rul. Cases 289. (3) The practical construction of statutes and ordinances by the departments and officials charged with the duty of acting under them is of great persuasive force and efficacy. Sedalia v. Smith, 206 Mo. 365; Construction Co. v. Ice Rink Co., 242 Mo. 262; State ex rel. v. Railroad, 135 Mo. 648; Orthwein v. St. Louis, 265 Mo. 577; Ross v. Railroad, 111 Mo. 25; State ex rel. v. Sevrance, 49 Mo. 404; Ewing v. Vernon Co., 216 Mo. 689; State v. Gordon, 266 Mo. 412; Folk v. St. Louis. 250 Mo. 141; Smoot v. Bankers Life Assn., 138 Mo. App. 466; Bloxan v. Railway Co., 36 Fla. 519, 29 L.R.A. 509; United States v. Hammers, 221 U.S. 228; Laroque v. United States, 239 U.S. 64; Kindred v. Railroad, 225 U.S. 596: Logan v. Davis, 233 U.S. 627; United States v. Finnell, 185 U.S. 244; Bank v. United States, 206 Fed. 374; Ah Kow v. Neuman, 5 Sawyer, 561; Smith v. Bryan, 100 Va. 204; Railroad v. Lyons, 101 Va. 10; Daniel v. Simms, 49 W. Va. 566. Long continued interpretation of a contract or written instrument by the parties dealing therewith is a persuasive influence upon courts to give that interpretation. State ex rel. v. Sevrance, 49 Mo. 404; Laclede etc., Co. v. Moss Tie Co., 185 Mo. 73; Meyer v. Christopher, 176 Mo. 595; St. Louis v. Laclede Gas Light Co., 155 Mo. 19; Attorney-General v. Lumber Co., 164 Mich. 637; People v. Mich. Cent. Ry. Co., 145 Mich. 174. In construing an ordinance or statute,...

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