Troutman v. Crippen

Decision Date10 May 1937
Citation212 S.W.2d 33,186 Tenn. 459
PartiesTROUTMAN et al. v. CRIPPEN et al.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Appeal from Chancery Court, Knox County; A. E. Mitchell, Chancellor.

Suit by Mel Troutman and others against J. D. (Val) Crippen and others attacking validity of chapter 183, Private Acts of 1937, general purpose of which is to create a commission form of government for Knox county. From decree overruling demurrer to bill of complaint, the defendants appeal.

Decree reversed, demurrer to bill sustained, and bill dismissed.

Jennings & O'Neil, Lee, Cox & Hier, and Fowler & Fowler, all of Knoxville, for complainants.

Cates Smith & Long, of Knoxville, for defendants.

McKINNEY Justice.

By the bill complainants attack the validity of chapter 183, Private Acts of 1937, the general purpose of which is to create a commission form of government for Knox County, so that its affairs shall be administered by three commissioners instead of by the quarterly county court, composed of twenty-five members. Such duties as are conferred upon said county court by the constitution are unaffected by the act.

Under the provisions of the act such road duties as were being performed by complainants were transferred to the board of commissioners. They were legislated out of office, and no question is made as to their right to maintain this suit.

The bill was demurred to upon the ground that the involved act was valid. The chancellor overruled the demurrer, being of the opinion that the act was unconstitutional for the reason that the body of the act was broader than the caption, in violation of article 2, section 17, of the State constitution, but in his discretion permitted defendants to appeal to this Court, which appeal they have perfected. The cause has been fully argued and briefed.

The act, in its essential provisions, appears to have been patterned after chapter 237, Private Acts of 1911, by which the administration of the affairs of Shelby County were transferred from the county court to a board of commissioners, and which act was upheld by this Court in Prescott v. Duncan, 126 Tenn. 106, 148 S.W. 229. House v Creveling, 147 Tenn. 589, 250 S.W. 357. This latter act provided for the reorganization of the administration of the state. In both of these cases it was held that the legislation was congruous and germane to the subject expressed in the caption; that such legislation did not deprive officials of any property rights; and that these acts brought about a change in the form of government, and were not colorable. In the former case (Prescott v. Duncan) it was expressly held that the legislature may deprive the county court of all power not conferred upon it by the constitution and vest it in such agencies as it deems proper to create for the purpose of administering the affairs of the county. The purpose of the legislature in the passage of the act under consideration was manifestly to transfer certain clearly expressed administrative duties from the county court, and certain other agencies, to the newly created board of commissioners, and this, upon the authorities cited, it had the power to do.

The caption of the Act of 1937 is as follows:

'An Act entitled An Act to centralize, consolidate and reorganize county administrative affairs in all counties of this State having a population of not less than 154,000 or more than 157,000 inhabitants according to the Federal Census of 1930 or any subsequent Federal Census; to create a Board of County Commissioners for said counties; provide for their appointment, election and qualification; to prescribe their duties and fix their compensation; to anticipate revenues and borrow money on the pledge thereof; to authorize the employment by said Board of all subordinate officials and provide for their compensation; to divest the County Court of certain administrative and appointive powers and vest the same in the Board of County Commissioners and the departments created hereunder; to abolish certain offices and agencies, including the Board of Highway Commissioners and office of Superintendent of Roads created by Chapter 343 of the Private Acts of the General Assembly for the year 1925, as amended, and the transfer of certain of their powers, duties and functions as therein defined to the Board of County Commissioners; to repeal Chapter 192 of the Private Acts of the General Assembly for the year 1931, creating the office of Purchasing Agent in certain counties, and vesting all details of purchasing in the Department of Purchasing and Finance as created by this Act; and to repeal all laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act.'

The title of the act considered in House v. Creveling is in this language:

'An Act to reorganize the administration of the State in order to secure better service, and through co-ordination and consolidation to promote economy and efficiency in the work of the government; creating and establishing certain department[s] and offices, and prescribing their powers and duties; fixing certain salaries; abolishing certain offices, boards, commissions, and other agencies, and repealing conflicting Acts and parts of Acts.'

The caption of the act involved in Prescott v. Duncan is as follows:

'An Act to create a Board of County Commissioners in Counties having a population of one hundred and ninety thousand or more according to the Federal census of 1910 or any subsequent Federal census; to provide for their election, qualification, and removal; and to prescribe their duties and fix their compensation.'

It will be observed that there is a similarity in all three captions. All are general and not restrictive. The 1937 act is broader and more comprehensive than the others, which, however, does not render it objectionable. A restrictive title to an act is one where a particular part or branch of a subject is carved out and selected as the subject of the legislation, and under such a title, the body of the act must be confined to the particular subject expressed in the limited title. Memphis St. Railroad v. Byrne, 119 Tenn. 278, 104 S.W. 460.

In House v. Creveling the title is 'An Act to reorganize the administration of the State'; in Prescott v. Duncan the title is 'An Act to create a Board of County Commissioners'; in the instant cause the title is 'An Act entitled An Act to centralize, consolidate and reorganize county administrative affairs.' The remainder of the title is merely an amplification of the subject stated. There is no basis whatever for holding that this title is restrictive, and a careful reading of the act convinces us that every part thereof is congruous and related to the title.

Counsel for complainants assert that the act in question is far more drastic, omnibus and ruthless in seizure of power than was contained in the act involved in Prescott v. Duncan. From the statement appearing in the opinion in that case on page 113 of 126 Tenn., on page 230 of 148 S.W., it will be noted that this criticism is without merit. By that act the county court was divested of all of its duties and functions, except the levying of taxes, electing a coroner and ranger, and filling the vacancies in county offices in certain contingencies provided by the constitution and not covered by the act. While the 1937 act may abolish certain offices and confer certain duties on the board not contained in the 1911 act, the principle involved in both is the same, and all of the provisions of the act are germane to the title.

Both acts of 1911 and 1937 require the board of commissioners to submit annual budgets to the county court covering the amount of money necessary to defray the operating expenses of the county for the ensuing year in order that the court may determine the amount of taxes necessary to raise. The only difference in the two acts as to this matter is that the latter act makes the levying of a tax sufficient to take care of the budget mandatory. Because of this provision it is insisted that the legislature has, in effect, delegated to the board of commissioners the authority to levy taxes, a legislative function not covered by the title of the act, which only confers administrative powers upon said board. This contention is predicated upon the recital in the caption 'to centralize, consolidate and reorganize county administrative affairs.' (Italics ours) In law the word 'administration' is thus defined in Webster's New International Dictionary: 'In its broadest sense, the activity of the state in the exercise of its political powers, including the action of the legislative, judicial, and executive departments.' It was in this sense that the term 'administrative affairs' was used in the caption of the act. In Shields v. Williams, 159 Tenn. 349, 370, 19 S.W.2d 261, 268, it is said:

'When tested by constitutional provisions such as section 17 of article 2 of our Constitution, just as when tested by other constitutional provisions, every doubt is to be resolved in favor of the validity of an act of the Legislature. The rule is well settled that:

"If the words in a title, taken in any sense or meaning which they will bear, are sufficient to cover the provisions of the Act, the Act will be sustained though the meaning so given the words may not be the most obvious or common.' Lewis' Sutherland, Statutory Construction, § 127, citing Meul v. People, 198 Ill. 258, 64 N.E. 1106; In re Pinkney, 47 Kan. 89, 27 P. 179; Stewart v. Thomas, 64 Kan. 511, 68 P. 70; State v. Northampton Tp., 52 N.J.L. 496, 19 A. 975.'

Upon the assumption, therefore, that the legislature intended to confer upon the board the power to levy taxes, we think the caption is broad enough, under the authorities cited, to cover that subject.

It may well be doubted, however, whether ...

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2 cases
  • State ex rel. Maynard v. Armstrong
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1956
    ...expressly conferred upon the County Court by the Constitution of Tennessee.' We think it was settled in our case of Troutman v. Crippen, 186 Tenn. 459, 463, 212 S.W.2d 33, that the Acts of 1937 require the Board of Commissioners to submit annual budgets to the County Court covering the amou......
  • Ruckhart v. Schubert
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • March 2, 1970
    ...upon it by the Constitution expressly or by necessary implication.' The Court declared the Knox County act valid in Troutman v. Crippen, 186 Tenn. 459, 212 S.W.2d 33 (1937), and 'It is further insisted that the statute violates article 1, section 8, and article 11, section 8, of the constit......

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