Ward v. State

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation139 So. 416,224 Ala. 242
Docket Number6 Div. 16.
Decision Date28 January 1932

139 So. 416

224 Ala. 242


6 Div. 16.

Supreme Court of Alabama

January 28, 1932

Appeal from Circuit Court, Jefferson County; J. Russell McElroy, Judge.

Quo warranto by the State of Alabama, on the relation of Thomas R. Lea, against Herbert J. Ward. From a judgment for relator, respondent appeals.

Affirmed. [139 So. 417]

Cabaniss & Johnston, Herbert J. Ward, and R. B. Evins, all of Birmingham, for appellant.

Thomas J. Judge, of Birmingham, for appellee.


This proceeding presents for review the constitutionality of the act approved July 17, 1931, purporting to establish "an inferior court in each city of the State of Alabama now or hereafter having, according to the last or any subsequent Federal census, a population of over 150,000." General Acts 1931, page 528.

There was no advertisement of this proposed act. It was passed as a general act, and the point most strenuously pressed, and upon which the lower court's decision rested, was that it was in fact a local law and void as violative of section 106 of our Constitution. For its generality the act rests upon a population classifications, recognized under limited conditions, as a proper basis for classification by numerous decisions of this court. Walden v. City of Montgomery, 214 Ala. 409, 108 So. 231; State ex rel. Ward v. Henry (Ala. Sup.) 139 So. 278; Board of Revenue v. Huey, 195 Ala. 83, 70 So. 744; State ex rel. Gunter v. Thompson, 193 Ala. 561, 69 So. 461.

But the conditions justifying such classification are equally well established by our cases. The difference in population must be substantial, and the classification must be made in good faith and reasonably related to the purpose to be effected by the act. These conditions appearing, the fact that at the time the law may be applicable to only one political subdivision of the state, will not suffice for its condemnation. If, on the other hand, the classification is not in good faith, bears no reasonable relation to the difference in population upon which it rests in view of the purpose to be effected by such legislation, and was arbitrarily fixed, the law will be condemned as local, and as having been passed merely under the guise of a general law in violation of our Constitution. Reynolds v. Collier, 204 Ala. 38, 85 So. 465; State v. Gullatt, 210 Ala. 452, 98 So. 373; Vaughan v. State, 212 Ala. 258, 102 So. 222; State v. Weakley, 153 Ala. 648, 45 So. 175; Mobile County v. Byrne, 218 Ala. 5, 117 So. 83; Kearley v. Hamilton (Ala. Sup.) 137 So. 424.

In the application of these principles this court has recognized the rule that it is our duty to not construe a law as local when it is so worded and framed as to be interpreted as a general one, in order to save its constitutionality, resulting as it does from that other rule that before a statute is stricken as unconstitutional, the court must be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt. Reynolds v. Collier, supra; State v. Gullatt, supra; State v. Merrill, 218 Ala. 149, 117 So. 473.

We have condemned double classification which tended to confine the operation of the law to one particular locality (State v. Weakley, supra) for such a law results in designation rather than classification. Mobile County v. Byrne, supra.

Statutes are to be construed as having a prospective operation, unless the contrary is expressed or necessarily implied, and hence in Griffin v. Drennen, 145 Ala. 128, 40 So. 1016, the act there involved was construed as to embrace all cities in the future reaching the population classification therein named. But in Henry v. Wilson (Ala. Sup.) 139 So. 259, the court condemned the act because, as to its major features, future legislation was necessary for its operation. The writer, with whom Justice Foster concurred, [139 So. 418] entertained the view that the case of Board of Revenue v. Huey, 195 Ala. 83, 70 So. 744, cited approvingly in Stone v. State, 211 Ala. 601, 101 So. 62, as well as a number of other of our decisions, concluded to the contrary, and should be adhered to. We interpreted the Huey Case to make reference to legislation that was in good faith intended for better government or for the public convenience, and of such a nature as to bear relation to the act in question and to be reasonably anticipated. So interpreted, we considered the Huey Case applicable to Henry v. Wilson, supra, and rested our dissent thereon.

If, however, the required legislation must itself be narrow and arbitrary and an unanticipated freak of chance and "a turn of the wheel of fortune defying probabilities," then of course the act itself bears the marks of arbitrary classification, and is to be condemned as such. But, in either event, the requirement for future legislation is of evidentiary character, the effect of which is left to be determined as it arises under the peculiar conditions of each particular case. We have thought these observations not inappropriate as further explanatory of the views of the writer and Justice Foster in the Wilson Case, supra, as well as our views as applicable to the act here in question. These general observations suffice for a discussion of the case at hand.

We judicially know by the population classification of 150,000 that the only city at present affected is the city of Birmingham, and approaching a consideration of the act here assailed, we think a preliminary survey of the inferior courts existing in Birmingham prior thereto is proper and which is concisely stated in the opinion of the learned trial judge, as follows:

"1 The Municipal Court of Birmingham (with two divisions-First and Third) having and exercising only the civil jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace in only seven of the precincts within or partly within said city, the numbers of said seven precincts being as follows: 9, 10, 21, 34, 36 37 and 46; and with no other jurisdiction
"2. The Inferior Court of North Birmingham (created by Local Act 1927, p. 388) having only the civil jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace in only one precinct in the city of Birmingham, which is precinct No. 42. This court is by the terms of the act creating it a branch of the Third Division of the Municipal Court of Birmingham, and the judges of the First and Third Division of the Municipal Court of Birmingham are required to hold court one day each week in precinct 42 (North Birmingham).

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34 cases
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    • United States
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