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U.S. Supreme Court

Field v. Barber Asphalt Paving Co., 194 U.S. 618 (1904)

Field v. Barber Asphalt Paving Company

Nos. 201, 202

Argued April 11, 1904

Decided May 31, 1904

194 U.S. 618


Where there are allegations of diverse citizenship in the bill, but the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is also invoked on constitutional grounds, the case is appealable directly to this Court under § 5 of the Act of March 3, 1891, as one involving the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States, and where both parties have appealed the entire case comes to this Court, and the respondent's appeal does not have to go to the circuit court of appeals.

It is not the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent the states from classifying the subjects of legislation and making different regulations as to the property of different individuals differently situated.

The provision of the federal Constitution is satisfied if all persons similarly situated are treated alike in privileges conferred or liabilities imposed.

The provision in § 5989, Rev.Stat. of Missouri, that certain improvements are not to be made if a majority of resident owners of property liable to taxation protest is not unconstitutional because it gives the privilege of protesting to them and not to nonresident owners.

Only such acts as directly interfere with the freedom of interstate commerce are prohibited to the states by the Constitution, and the Sherman Act of July 2, 1890, is not intended to affect contracts which have only a remote and indirect bearing on commerce between the states. The specification in an ordinance, not invalid under the laws of the state, that a particular kind of asphalt produced only in a foreign country does not violate any federal right.

Although the agent of the company obtaining a paving contract may have been active and influential in obtaining signatures to the petition, in the absence of proof of fraud and corruption, the levies will not be set aside after the improvement has been completed.

The necessity for an improvement of streets is a matter of which the proper municipal authorities are the exclusive judges, and their judgment is not to be interfered with except in cases of fraud or gross abuse of power.

These cases are appeals from the decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Missouri.

Page 194 U. S. 619

Richard H. Field, as owner of certain lands abutting on Main street, Baltimore Avenue, and Wyandotte Street, in Westport, Missouri, which city was then a suburb and has since become a part of Kansas City, filed a bill of complaint against the paving company. The relief sought was against certain tax bills, issued to pay for the paving of the above-named streets, held by the defendant company, and to have the same declared void because (1) the act under which they were assessed violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; (2) that the paving in question was unnecessary, and the contract for the same was the result of undue and illegal influence on the part of the agents of the defendant company, exercised upon the board of aldermen of the City of Westport; (3) that the contracts for the paving required the same to be constructed of Trinidad Lake asphalt, thereby cutting off competition with other kinds of asphalt suitable for street paving; (4) that the proceedings and agreements by which such asphalt was designated in the resolutions, ordinances, and rules for the construction of said pavements were in violation of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States (Art. I, sec. 8), and (5) that the said resolutions, ordinances, and contracts, and the action of the defendant company in securing the same, were in violation of the federal antitrust Act of July 2, 1890.

Upon the trial, the circuit court held against the prayer of the complainant for relief upon the federal grounds alleged, but, holding that the paving of Wyandotte Street was unnecessary, granted the prayer of the bill as to the tax bills issued for work done on that street, and dismissed the bill as to the other two streets.

Page 194 U. S. 620

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