The Board of Commissioners of Vigo County v. Stout

Decision Date28 November 1893
Docket Number16,376
Citation35 N.E. 683,136 Ind. 53
PartiesThe Board of Commissioners of Vigo County v. Stout et al
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

From the Vigo Superior Court.

The judgment is affirmed.

G. W Faris and S. R. Hamill, for appellant.

C McNutt, J. G. McNutt, M. C. Hamill and L. D. Levique, for appellees.


Howard, C. J.

This was a suit brought by the appellant board of county commissioners to enjoin the appellees from operating or interfering with the passenger elevator in the Vigo county court house.

A demurrer to the complaint having been overruled, the appellees answered in three paragraphs, the first being in general denial and the second and third setting up affirmative matter.

It is assigned as error that the court overruled appellant's demurrer to the affirmative paragraphs of the answer; and the sufficiency of these paragraphs is the only question presented for our decision.

In the second paragraph of the answer, it is averred, amongst other things, that the Vigo county court house is an iron and stone structure, two hundred and seven feet long by one hundred and fifty feet wide, and three stories high above the basement that it cost four hundred and thirty thousand dollars, is built upon a public square in the city of Terre Haute, and fronts on four streets, with a public entrance from each street; that there are two stairways at the ends of the building, but no public stairway at or near the center; that in the original plan of the court house provision was made, at a cost of ten thousand dollars, for an elevator in the center, to reach the several floors from the basement up; that the elevator is in keeping with the style, finish and fixtures of said building; that it is customary to use elevators in public buildings of the dimensions and use of said court house; that the offices of the clerk, sheriff, recorder, treasurer, auditor, and the board of county commissioners, are upon the first floor. The second floor is occupied by the circuit and superior courts, the office of the prosecuting attorney, and the law library. The main entrances to the circuit and superior courts are at the center of the building, near the elevator, but about sixty feet from the end stairways. The third floor is occupied by the grand jury, the petit jury, the court reporter, and the superintendent of the county schools; that the elevator is a great convenience to grand jurors and persons subpoenaed before them as witnesses, also to petit jurors; that it is a great convenience to judges, jurors, parties, attorneys, and witnesses, who are compelled to attend the sittings of the courts, and to those who, as a part of the public, choose to do so; that said elevator is a great convenience in carrying the records to and from the offices of the court on other floors; that in the ways aforesaid, and in many other ways, the operation of the elevator facilitates the carrying on of the business of the courts, and is the principal means of access to the Vigo Circuit Court room; that the board of commissioners, from the time the court house was opened for use, in April, 1887, ran and operated the elevator; that the person last employed by the board to operate the elevator did not run the same to suit the convenience or necessities of the circuit and superior courts; that it was frequently shut down before the courts adjourned, or so soon thereafter that persons in attendance on the courts were compelled to go down on foot, and the records used in the courts and belonging to offices on other floors had to be carried; that the elevator frequently remained shut down after the courts had convened, so that persons attending court were compelled to use the stairways, while the records had to be carried up; that such neglect to properly operate the elevator caused those attending the courts great inconvenience and annoyance; that the Honorable David N. Taylor, judge of the Vigo Circuit Court, having frequent complaints made to him of such neglect and malfeasance of the elevator man, and himself observing the inefficiency in the operation of the elevator, and being duly advised in the premises, issued the following order:

"It is hereby ordered that the elevator running from the basement to the court room floor be run and operated in accordance with the following schedule: During all terms of court from eight a. m. until ten minutes past twelve, noon, and thereafter so long as court shall be in session, and from a quarter past one until half past five during any term of court, and at all times during court, giving persons attending thereon a reasonable time to pass down therefrom after the adjournment of same, Sundays excepted. And the clerk is ordered to certify a copy hereof to the sheriff, and the sheriff is ordered to serve the same on the person or persons in charge of and running said elevator, and upon the board of county commissioners, and make return of such service into court."

That, after the service of said order, the person in charge of the elevator failed to obey the same, and failed and neglected to operate the elevator at times when the circuit and superior courts were in session; wherefore, the circuit court directed the defendant, James W. Stout, who was then and is now the duly elected, qualified and acting sheriff of Vigo county, to take charge of the elevator and run the same according to the aforesaid schedule; that the defendant, Stout, is operating the elevator under the direction and by the order of the Vigo Circuit Court; and the defendant, Lynch, is the deputy of said Stout, and is acting as such in running said elevator.

The board of commissioners also entered an order upon their records that the interests of the people of the county and a due regard for an economical administration of the affairs of the county do not require the further running of the elevator, and therefore ordered it closed.

This paragraph of the answer concludes by averring that the Vigo Circuit Court did thereupon cause the said sheriff, by himself and his said deputy, to operate the elevator for the purpose of expediting and facilitating the business of the said circuit and superior courts; that the said circuit court so continued the operation of said elevator because, in the exercise of its best judgment, it deemed it necessary and expedient in carrying on the business of the said courts, and a great public convenience; that the operation and running of said elevator is necessary in carrying on the business of the said circuit court.

The third paragraph of the answer is substantially the same as the second.

It is not seemly that a dispute such as this should have arisen between the parties concerned; we have, however, to consider the case as it comes to us. The controversy must seem trivial, but the questions involved are important.

The control of county property, and the management of county business generally, is confided by law to the commissioners of the county. In contemplation of law, in so far as the financial affairs of the county are concerned, the board of county commissioners is the county. The construction, maintenance, and custody of all county buildings, not excepting the court house, are in the hands of the board. They provide and care for all the offices necessary for the conduct of county affairs, including court rooms, offices for the clerk and sheriff of the court, jury rooms, jail and other rooms and buildings convenient and necessary for the conduct of the business of the courts. This, of course, includes the means of access to the court, whether by doors, halls, corridors, stairways, or elevators.


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2 cases
  • Peltzer v. Gilbert
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • July 14, 1914
    ... ... HUGH C. GILBERT et al., Judges of County" Court Supreme Court of Missouri July 14, 1914 ...    \xC2" ... Schmelzel v ... Board of Commissioners, 16 Idaho 32, 21 L. R. A. (N. S.) ... St. 462; ... State ex rel. v. Davis, 26 Nev. 373; Vigo County ... v. Stout, 136 Ind. 53; Re Supreme Court ... ...
  • Bd. of Com'rs of Vigo County v. Stout
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • November 28, 1893
    ... ... 28, 1893 ... Appeal from superior court, Vigo county; C. F. McNutt, Judge.Suit by the board of commissioners of the county of Vigo to enjoin James W. Stout and others from operating or interfering with the elevator in the courthouse ... ...

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