State Ex Rel. Caldwell v. Wilson

Citation28 S.E. 554, 121 N.C. 480, 121 N.C. 425
Case DateDecember 23, 1897
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

28 S.E. 554
121 N.C. 425
121 N.C. 480

STATE ex rel. CALDWELL
v.
WILSON.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Dec. 23, 1897.


Railroad Commissioners — Removal prom Office— Quo Warranto — Pleading — Trial by Jury—Judgment—Appeal— Supersedeas —Due Process of Law—Equal Protection of Laws.

1. Where, under Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, the governor wrote a railroad commissioner informing him of his alleged violation of the act in becoming interested in a railway, and commanding him to appear on a certain day, and show cause why he should not be suspended, and the commissioner appeared and made his defense, the letter and the hearing thereon were "process of law, " within Const. U. S. Amend. 14, § 1.

2. By Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, it is provided that the governor shall suspend a railroad commissioner who becomes interested in a railroad. Held that, if such commissioner would otherwise have been entitled to a jury trial to determine whether he were interested in a railroad, he waived it by accepting the office under a law which denied such jury trial.

3. Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, providing that the governor shall, without judicial proceeding, suspend any railroad commissioner who becomes interested in a railroad, does not deny to such commissioner the "equal protection of the law, " in violation of Const. U. S. Amend. 14, § 1.

4. Where the governor, as provided by Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, suspends a railroad commissioner for becoming interested in a railway, such commissioner is not deprived of his property "without due process of law, " in violation of Const. U. S. Amend. 14, § 1, even though an office be considered property, and the suspension be made by the governor without swearing witnesses or listening to testimony for the commissioner.

5. Where, in a quo warranto proceeding, the facts determinable by the court are all conceded, there is nothing for a jury to try, and a judgment on the pleadings is proper.

6. The finding of the governor that a railroad commissioner has become interested in a railroad contrary to Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, and should be suspended, is final, until settled by the general assembly, and cannot be reviewed nor tried by a jury in the quo warranto proceeding instituted by the commissioner's successor to obtain possession of the office.

7. Under Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, providing that the governor shall suspend a railroad commissioner who becomes interested in a railroad, in the action by the governor to suspend such commissioner, he has no power to direct an issue like a chancellor; and his failure to do so does not deprive the commissioner of his office "without due process of law."

8. The provision of Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, for the suspension of the railroad commissioner by the governor in certain cases, being a part of the act originally creating the office, it interferes with no vested right of the incumbent of the office, but prescribes a rule of property to which the incumbent assented by taking the office under the act.

9. The office of railroad commissioner being purely of legislative origin and administrative duties, the action of the legislature in reserving the right of removal (Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1) was not beyond its constitutional power.

10. The provision of Laws 1891, c. 320, § 1, requiring that no railroad commissioner shall be interested in any railroad, is not unconstitutional, as requiring qualifications in addition to those prescribed in the constitution, as the provision was not intended to restrict the rights of the individual, but to secure the faithful and efficient performance of public duties.

11. Though the railroad commission was made a court of record to give authenticity to its proceedings, it is an administrative, and not a judicial, court, and hence is not a branch of government co-ordinate with the executive, but is a part of the executive.

12. Where important public interests are involved, the supreme court will not remand a case on affirming it, but will enter final judgment, under Code, § 957, authorizing the court to render such judgment, on an inspection of the whole record, as it shall appear to them ought in law to be rendered thereon.

13. The supreme court of North Carolina has no power to set aside or pass upon the regularity of a writ of error to the supreme court of the United States to review a judgment of the former court.

14. Where a final judgment of ouster is entered in the supreme court in a quo warranto proceeding, and relator has already qualified, the judgment places him in immediate possession of the office, and hence process is unnecessary.

15. The allowance by the chief justice of the supreme court of North Carolina of a writ of error to the supreme court of the United States, and the filing of a supersedeas bond approved by such chief justice, will not supersede said judgment; and hence any attempt by defendant to exercise the functions of the office, and any interference by any one with the relator's exercise thereof, will be a contempt of the state court.

Faircloth, C. J., dissenting.

Appeal from superior court, Iredell county; Coble, Judge.

Quo warranto, on the relation of L. C. Caldwell, against James W. Wilson, railroad commissioner. From a judgment for relator, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

R. O. Burton, J. D. Shaw, T. N. Hill, J. C. L. Harris, Armistead Burwell, and John G. Bynum, for appellant.

A. C. Avery, Armfield, Turner & Cowles, and W. J. Montgomery, for appellee.

DOUGLAS, J. This is an action in the nature of quo warranto, brought to try the title to the office of railroad commissioner. The defendant was suspended by the governor under the provisions of section 1 of chapter 320 of the Laws of 1891, known as the "Railroad Commission Act, " and the plaintiff appointed to fill the vacancy so created. The part of the act now under consideration is as follows: "Said commissioners shall not be jointly, or severally, or in any way be the holder of any stock or bonds, or be the agent or attorney or

[28 S.E. 555]

employs of any such company, or have any interest in any way in such company, and shall so continue during the term of his office; and in case any commissioner shall, as distributee or legatee or in any other way, have or become entitled to any stock or bonds or interest therein of any such company, he shall at once dispose of the same; and in case any commissioner shall fail In this, or in case any one of them shall become disqualified to act, then it shall be the duty of the governor to suspend him from office and to report the fact of his suspension, together with the reason therefor, to the next general assembly; and the question of his removal from office shall be determined by a majority of the general assembly in joint session. In any case of suspension the governor shall fill the vacancy, and If the general assembly shall determine that the commissioner suspended shall be removed, then the appointee of the governor shall hold until his successor is elected and qualified as hereinbefore provided, but if the general assembly shall determine that the suspended commissioner shall not be removed from his office, then the effect shall be to reinstate him in said office. The person discharging the duties of said office shall be entitled to the salary for the time he is so engaged, but the commissioner who is suspended shall be allowed the salary during his suspension in case he should be reinstated by the next general assembly." The following facts appear from the record: On the 24th day of August, 1807, the governor wrote to the defendant, calling his attention to the said act, reciting certain allegations as to the defendant's connection with the Southern Railway Company, and requiring the defendant to show cause in writing, on or before the 1st day of September, 1897, why he should not be suspended from office, and a report thereof made to the next general assembly. On the 30th day of August, 1897, the defendant filed with the governor his written answer; among other defenses, denying the power of the governor to suspend him, and alleging the unconstitutionality of that portion of the railroad commission act authorizing such suspension. On the 23d day of September, 1897, the governor notified the defendant, in writing, that, after due investigation and consideration, he was convinced that the defendant had violated the railroad commission law in some of the particulars mentioned in his letter of August 24th; and that the defendant had not only violated said act in the specifications set out in said act, but that the defendant had otherwise, within the meaning and intent and words of said act, become disqualified to act; and that, therefore, he (the governor) did suspend the defendant from the office of railroad commissioner and chairman of said commission, and did appoint thereto the relator, Caldwell. The defendant, on September 24th, replied to the governor, as follows: "Sir: Yours of the 23rd inst. is hereby acknowledged. In reply, I will say that I shall disregard your order to suspend, but will continue to do business at the old stand until removed by a tribunal other than a self-constituted 'Star Chamber.' " 'The relator qualified at once, and demanded of the defendant the possession of the said office, together with all its records, which was refused by the defendant. Thereupon the relator brought this action to recover said office, and filed his complaint, fully setting out his cause of action. The defendant answered, alleging that the governor had no power to suspend him; that, if such power existed, the governor had attempted to exercise It in an arbitrary and unlawful manner, without giving him the fair hearing to which he was entitled by law; that the part of the railroad commission act authorizing such suspension was unconstitutional, inasmuch as it imposed additional and unusual qualifications for said office, and interfered with the independent tenure of a judicial officer, and deprived him of his...

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51 practice notes
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...It may establish any rational means of removal from such office for any just cause." In Caldwell v. Wilson, 121 N. C. loc. cit. 470, 28 S. E. 554, it was held that the Legislature in creating the office of railroad commissioner had authority to reserve to itself the power to remove, and to ......
  • Aetna Casualty Co. v. Supervisors
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 30, 1933
    ...218, 57 N.W. 115; Fylpaa Brown County, 6 S.D. 634, 62 N.W. 962; State ex rel. Craig Woodson, 128 Mo. 497, 31 S.W. 105; State Wilson,10 121 N.C. 480, 28 S.E. 554, 61 Am.St.Rep. 672; Mayor, etc., of City of Macon Shaw, 14 Ga. 162; 46 C.J. 1013. See, also, State Johnson, 40 Ga. It has been hel......
  • Fugate v. Weston
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 19, 1931
    ...commissioner of that State, for causes authorized by the statute. The action of the Governor was upheld in State ex rel. Caldwell Wilson, 121 N.C. 425, 28 S.E. 554. A writ of error in the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of the United States, Wilson North Carolina, No. 559. 169 U.S. ......
  • Mial v. Ellington
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 2, 1903
    ...and, while admitting that it had been recognized in this state, it was held that Ward was not protected by it In Caldwell v. Wilson, 121 N. C. 425, 28 S. E. 554, in a very able opinion, it was again shown (at pages 467, 468, 121 N. C, pages 560, 561, 28 S. E.), that Hoke v. Henderson was co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
51 cases
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...It may establish any rational means of removal from such office for any just cause." In Caldwell v. Wilson, 121 N. C. loc. cit. 470, 28 S. E. 554, it was held that the Legislature in creating the office of railroad commissioner had authority to reserve to itself the power to remove, and to ......
  • Aetna Casualty Co. v. Supervisors
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 30, 1933
    ...218, 57 N.W. 115; Fylpaa Brown County, 6 S.D. 634, 62 N.W. 962; State ex rel. Craig Woodson, 128 Mo. 497, 31 S.W. 105; State Wilson,10 121 N.C. 480, 28 S.E. 554, 61 Am.St.Rep. 672; Mayor, etc., of City of Macon Shaw, 14 Ga. 162; 46 C.J. 1013. See, also, State Johnson, 40 Ga. It has been hel......
  • Fugate v. Weston
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • March 19, 1931
    ...commissioner of that State, for causes authorized by the statute. The action of the Governor was upheld in State ex rel. Caldwell Wilson, 121 N.C. 425, 28 S.E. 554. A writ of error in the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of the United States, Wilson North Carolina, No. 559. 169 U.S. ......
  • Mial v. Ellington
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 2, 1903
    ...and, while admitting that it had been recognized in this state, it was held that Ward was not protected by it In Caldwell v. Wilson, 121 N. C. 425, 28 S. E. 554, in a very able opinion, it was again shown (at pages 467, 468, 121 N. C, pages 560, 561, 28 S. E.), that Hoke v. Henderson was co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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