State v. Imhoff, No. 22988.

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWalker
Citation291 Mo. 603,238 S.W. 122
PartiesSTATE et inf. BARRETT, Atty. Gen., v. IMHOFF et al.
Docket NumberNo. 22988.
Decision Date09 February 1922
238 S.W. 122
291 Mo. 603
STATE et inf. BARRETT, Atty. Gen.,
v.
IMHOFF et al.
No. 22988.
Supreme Court of Missouri, in Banc.
February 9, 1922.

[238 S.W. 123]

Original action in the nature of an application for a writ of quo warranto by the State, on the information of Jesse W. Barrett, Attorney General, against Robert Imhoff and others. Writ of ouster denied.

Jesse W. Barrett, of Jefferson City (A. M. Curtis, of Hartville, and Robert Lamar, of Houston, of counsel), for informant.

John T. Sturgis, of Springfield, for respondents.

WALKER, J.


This is an original action in the nature of an application for a writ of quo warranto, brought in this court to oust from office certain township officers of Wright county. The alleged invalidity in the proceedings of the county court which resulted in the adoption by the people of township organization in said county is the basis of the action. Two grounds of invalidity are alleged: One, that the order of the court submitting the question to the people is insufficient in failing to show that the court found that a petition signed by more than 100 legal voters of Wright county had been filed asking the court to submit the proposition to the people for their adoption or rejection. The order as entered is as follows:

"Township organization petition, granted, The petition for township organization examined, the same found to contain over 100 names of voters of Wright county. Therefore the court orders that the clerk of this court submit this to voters by ballot. Vote to be submitted at the general election in November, 1920."

The specific defect complained of is that the order, instead of stating that the petition was signed by more than 100 legal voters, states that "it was found to contain more than 100 names of voters." The second contention is that the question was not submitted on the constitutional ballot as provided by section 4944, R. S. 1919, but was printed at the bottom of the tickets containing the names of candidates for the various offices to be voted for at said election, in the words following:

"For township organization.

"Against township organization."

I. Jurisdiction is entertained by this court under the authority of section 12, art. 6, Const. Mo., and our ruling in State ex rel. School District v. Harter, 188 Mo. 516, 87 S. W. 941, cited with approval in State v. Con. School District, 277 Mo. 28, 209 S. W. loc. cit. 99, upon the theory that "the title to an office under the state" is involved. This, although the persons sought to be ousted are not state officers within the meaning of the Constitution, and despite the fact that a 0 township is not a political subdivision of the state so as to confer appellate jurisdiction upon this court in a case where the township is a party. The rulings referred to were, it is true, in regard to the validity of the organization of school districts. There does not seem to be any convincing reason why the rule in regard to such subdivisions, as indicated by the cases cited, is not equally applicable to the taking of jurisdiction by this court of cases involving the validity of the creation of townships; especially when, as in the cases in regard to school districts, the Attorney General, as the chief law officer of the state, has deemed the question to be determined of sufficient public importance to cause him to institute the action in this court solely in his official capacity. As persuasive of the propriety of our entertaining jurisdiction here, we have in contested election cases involving the titles of township officers and justices of the peace exercised the right to determine same. Macrae v. Coles (Mo. Supp.) 183 S. W. 578; Ramsey v. Huck, 267 Mo. 333, 184 S. W. 966.

II. To sustain the first contention, relator relies upon the rule that a county court, in a direct proceeding to question the validity of its action, being of statutory creation and of inferior jurisdiction, does not proceed according to the course of the common law, and that all of the jurisdictional facts necessary to authorize its action in a given case must appear in the face of the record before the court can acquire jurisdiction of the subject-matter. State ex inf. Attorney General v. Woods, 233 Mo. loc. cit. 380, 135 S. W. 932; State ex rel. Am. Auto. Co. v. Schramm, 271 Mo. 223, 196 S. W. 21. That this is a correct statement of the law there can be no reasonable grounds of controversy. While tug action is brought against the officers of a township, it is in fact a proceeding to determine the legality of the creation by the county court of the township as a body corporate, or such a legal entity as is recognized by our law. Instituted by the Attorney General by an information ex officio, it constitutes a direct attack, and must be so considered. State ex inf. Attorney General v. Colbert, 273 Mo. loc. cit.

238 S.W. 124

209, 201 S. W. 52, and cases; State ex inf. Attorney General v. Woods, 233 Mo. 337, 135 S. W. 932. It is to the language of the order above set forth to which we win look, therefore, to determine whether it is sufficient to disclose the jurisdiction of the county court.

In the determination of this question it is not required that the exact language of the statute or grant of power be employed in the order, but it will be sufficient if words of such definitive meaning be used as to convey the information that the court was acting within the purview of its powers. The question is: Did the order contain every essential requirement of the statute? If so, it is sufficient. Hadley v. Russell, 197 Mo. 633, 95 S. W. 870. Any other conclusion would result in a "sticking in the bark," so to speak, or a literal reliance upon the letter rather than the evident purpose and meaning of the words employed. Especially should this well-recognized rule of interpretation as to a resort to the context rather than the letter be made when, as here, jurisdiction of the subject-matter of the submission of the adoption of township organization is expressly vested in the county court. Section 13165, R. S. 1919; Rousey v. Wood, 63 Mo. App. 460; Fanning v. Krapfi, 68 Iowa, 244, 26 N. W. 133; Adams v. Saratoga, 10 N. Y. 332; Ferguson v. Crawford, 70 N. Y. 253, 26 Am. Rep. 589.

As we understand relator's contention, jurisdiction of the subject-matter as conferred by law is not questioned, but the sufficiency of the order of the court in the exercise of that jurisdiction. Is it, therefore, by its terms sufficient? If it be found that this requisite is present, then this contention must be ruled adversely to the relator. The part of the order complained of reads as follows:

"The petition for township organization examined, and the same found to contain over 100 names of the voters of Wright county," etc.

A petition in the most general acceptation of the word means a formal request, written or printed, and signed by one or many, to be submitted to a person in authority, or to an administrative, a judicial, or a legislative body for the bestowal of some benefit or privilege, the concession or restoration of a right, the redress of a grievance, the establishment of a status, or the exercise of any power within the purview of the person or body to which it is submitted. In law its meaning is in no wise different, in that it is a formal application in writing, made by the signers thereto to a court requesting judicial action concerning some matters therein set forth. The use of the word "petition," therefore, means such an application or request as is contemplated by these definitions, and it cannot, under any reasonable interpretation, be otherwise understood by any one familiar with the use of ordinary English words. State v. Tullock, 108 Mo. App. Ioc. cit. 34, 82 S. W. 645; Lawrey v. Sterling, 41 Or. loc. cit. 525, 69 Pac. 460; 30 Cyc. p. 1534, and note 99. Being a petition, it must likewise be understood that it was signed, and that it had been signed as required by the requisite number to entitle it to consideration is...

To continue reading

Request your trial
41 practice notes
  • Hammett v. Kansas City, No. 38363.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 4, 1943
    ...Breckenridge v. Thompson, 320 Mo. 323, 15 S.W. (2d) 340; St. Louis v. Wortman, 213 Mo. 131, 112 S.W. 520; State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603, 238 S.W. 122; Berry v. Majestic Milling Co., 284 Mo. 182, 223 S.W. 738; Vice v. Kirksville, 280 Mo. 348, 217 S.W. 77; Woodward Hardware Co.......
  • State ex rel. Penal Institutions v. Becker, No. 31674.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 15, 1932
    ...and the title of an act should be construed so as to prevent trickery, surprise, or fraud on the legislators. State ex inf. v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603; State ex rel. v. Hedrick, 294 Mo. 21; Asel v. City, 287 Mo. 195; Booth v. Scott, 276 Mo. 1; State ex rel. v. Guinotte, 275 Mo. 298; State ex re......
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...Scott, 276 Mo. 1, 205 S. W. 633; Asel v. Jefferson City (Mo. Sup.) 229 S. W. 1046, 1048; and State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff (Mo. Sup.) 238 S. W. 122, decided at the present term. In the Asel Case, the rule is clearly stated by Judge Elder (229 S. W. "Furthermore, so long as the title does ......
  • Edwards v. Business Men's Assurance Co., No. 38104.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • December 15, 1942
    ...of the law, it will not be violative of the Constitution. State v. Sloan, 258 Mo. 305, 313, 167 S.W. 500; State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603, 238 S.W. 122, We hold that the exclusion of a further defense in case of suits on life insurance policies, to wit, the defense of suicide b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Hammett v. Kansas City, No. 38363.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 4, 1943
    ...Breckenridge v. Thompson, 320 Mo. 323, 15 S.W. (2d) 340; St. Louis v. Wortman, 213 Mo. 131, 112 S.W. 520; State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603, 238 S.W. 122; Berry v. Majestic Milling Co., 284 Mo. 182, 223 S.W. 738; Vice v. Kirksville, 280 Mo. 348, 217 S.W. 77; Woodward Hardware Co.......
  • State ex rel. Penal Institutions v. Becker, No. 31674.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 15, 1932
    ...and the title of an act should be construed so as to prevent trickery, surprise, or fraud on the legislators. State ex inf. v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603; State ex rel. v. Hedrick, 294 Mo. 21; Asel v. City, 287 Mo. 195; Booth v. Scott, 276 Mo. 1; State ex rel. v. Guinotte, 275 Mo. 298; State ex re......
  • State v. Hedrick, No. 23106.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 3, 1922
    ...Scott, 276 Mo. 1, 205 S. W. 633; Asel v. Jefferson City (Mo. Sup.) 229 S. W. 1046, 1048; and State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff (Mo. Sup.) 238 S. W. 122, decided at the present term. In the Asel Case, the rule is clearly stated by Judge Elder (229 S. W. "Furthermore, so long as the title does ......
  • Edwards v. Business Men's Assurance Co., No. 38104.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • December 15, 1942
    ...of the law, it will not be violative of the Constitution. State v. Sloan, 258 Mo. 305, 313, 167 S.W. 500; State ex inf. Barrett v. Imhoff, 291 Mo. 603, 238 S.W. 122, We hold that the exclusion of a further defense in case of suits on life insurance policies, to wit, the defense of suicide b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT