MCCAIN V. DES MOINES, 174 U. S. 168 (1899)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McCain v. Des Moines, 174 U.S. 168 (1899)

McCain v. Des Moines

No. 238

Submitted April 5, 1899

Decided May 1, 1899

174 U.S. 168


It appearing on the face of the bill in this case that all the parties to this suit are citizens of Iowa, and the court being of opinion that the allegation in the bill that this is a controversy and a suit of a civil nature arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States is not only not supported by the facts appearing in the bill, but is so palpably unfounded

Page 174 U. S. 169

that it constitutes not even a color for the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, the decree below, dismissing the bill for want of jurisdiction, is affirmed.

The bill in this case is filed against the City of Des Moines, its board of public works, the Des Moines Brick Manufacturing Company, and the incorporated Town of Greenwood Park, to obtain an injunction restraining, among other things, the City of Des Moines and its officers and agents from exercising over the territory of the incorporated town of Greenwood Park any function of municipal government for the purpose of taxation, or for works of internal improvements or otherwise, and for other relief.

The bill makes the following allegations: the complainants own in severalty lands within the incorporated Town of Greenwood Park, and the lands so owned by each of the complainants are worth more than $2,000. Adjoining the town is the City of Des Moines, a municipal corporation created under the laws of the State of Iowa. In 1890, the legislature passed an act purporting to extend the limits of the City of Des Moines so as to include therein the town above named. The constitution of the state prohibits the passing of special acts for the incorporation of cities. The act of 1890 was a special act incorporating a city, and therefore prohibited by the constitution, and, as a consequence, entirely void. The incorporated town has never been dissolved, and is entitled to exercise all the functions of government and taxation, but it has ceased to exercise them over the territory. That, notwithstanding the act of 1890 is wholly void, and of no effect, the defendant the City of Des Moines pretended and undertook to exercise the functions of government and the power of taxation over the territory of Greenwood Park. That the only warrant for the city to act in the premises is the void act of the legislature of 1890, and the city is assuming to levy assessments, and to exercise the power of taxation, and to perform all the other functions of municipal government under that act. That the suit herein is one of a civil nature, arising under the laws and constitution of the United States, and the suit in controversy

Page 174 U. S. 170

exceeds $2,000. It appears on the face of the bill that all the parties are citizens of the State of Iowa.

The bill further alleges that the city made a contract with the defendant the Des Moines Brick Manufacturing Company to pave a public highway in the town, the expense of which was to be assessed upon the property abutting thereon, including the lands of the complainants, and the work was all done under color of the act mentioned, and that it was all illegal for want of authority; that at the time of the passage of the act and the taking of jurisdiction by the city, the town was exclusively an agricultural community, and there was no advantage in or necessity for the annexation of the town to the City of Des Moines, and none of the land in the town had been plotted into lots by laying out streets or alleys therein, and the highways within it were under the control and jurisdiction of the officers of Polk County, and that to subject the lands of complainants or the other lands within the town to the taxes and assessments threatened by the City of Des Moines is to take their property under color of authority from the void act of 1890, and contrary to the amendment of the Constitution of the United States (Section 1, Article XIV).

Further allegations were made, not material to be stated.

In addition to asking for an injunction to restrain the City of Des Moines from exercising jurisdiction over the Town of Greenwood Park, the complainants ask that the town

"be enjoined to exercise for its own future benefits under the statutes of Iowa all functions of municipal government and taxation and works of internal improvement in the same manner and to the same extent as the said functions have been exercised by said defendant prior to March 3, 1890."

The bill further prayed that the city and the board of public works should be enjoined from making any levy upon the property of the complainants to pay the expense of paving the highway, and that the city be restrained from issuing to the Des Moines Brick Manufacturing Company any assessment certificates on account of paving, and for other relief.

The defendant the Des Moines Brick Manufacturing

Page 174 U. S. 171

Company demurred to the bill on the ground, among others, that it appeared on the face of complainants' bill that all the parties to the suit were citizens of the State of Iowa, and that this suit does not involve any question arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, and therefore the circuit court had no jurisdiction in the case.

The circuit court sustained the demurrer on the ground of want of jurisdiction, and, pursuant to section 5 of the act of 1891, organizing the circuit courts of appeals, 26 Stat. 826, it has certified the question of jurisdiction alone for decision by this Court.

The opinion of the district judge in dismissing the bill is reported in 84 F.7d 6.

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