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U.S. Supreme Court

City & County of Denver v. New York Trust Co., 229 U.S. 123 (1913)

City and County of Denver v. New York Trust Company

Nos. 642, 643

Argued October 28, 29, 1912

Decided May 26, 1913

229 U.S. 123


The exceptional power of this Court to review, upon certiorari, decisions of the circuit court of appeals on an appeal from an interlocutory order is intended to be, and is, sparingly exercised; that power does exist, however, in a case where no appeal lies from the final decision of that court.

While the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court in a case where diverse citizenship exists may also rest upon the fact that the case is one arising under the Constitution of the United States, in which case there is an appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of appeals, that is not the case where the alleged infractions of the Constitution are without color of merit, or are anticipatory of defendant's defense.

A suit to enforce a contract between a municipality and a water company for the purchase, as is claimed, by the former of the water plant of the latter and to enjoin the city from constructing another plant, is not, without more, a case arising under the Constitution of the United States. In such a case, the decision of the circuit court of appeals is final, and the writ of certiorari may be exercised.

On a review of an order of the circuit court of appeals granting an injunction in an equity case, this Court is not confined to considering the Act of granting the injunction, but if it determines that there is any insuperable objection to maintaining the bill, it may direct a final decree dismissing it.

The various ordinances of the City of Denver, Colorado, granting and relating to the franchise to the Denver Union Water Company considered and construed, and held that they did not require the city, at the expiration of twenty years, to exercise either the option to renew or the option to purchase reserved in the franchise ordinance, nor did they preclude the city from erecting its own plant.

Page 229 U. S. 124

Where a municipal ordinance grants a franchise to such extent as the city may lawfully grant it, the term is not in doubt if the city charter expressly limits the term of all such grants.

A limitation in the charter on grants by the municipality is as much part of an ordinance subsequently passed as though written into it.

An ordinance providing for appraisal of a water plant and for submitting to the electors whether the contract shall be extended or the plant purchased at the appraised value does not amount to an election to purchase the plant.

Where the franchise of a water company has expired and the city has lawfully refused to purchase the plant at the appraised value, a charter amendment permitting the municipal authorities to offer the company less than such value and, in case of nonacceptance, to erect a municipal plant does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by subjecting the company to the alternative of accepting less than value for the plant or having it ruined by construction and operation of the municipal plant.

The equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a city from adopting a scheme of municipal ownership as to a single public utility, and a charter provision which prohibits franchises for that purpose does not violate the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A provision in regard to the acquisition of a municipal water plant held in this case not to be a revision in extenso of the city charter, but only an amendment thereto, and also held that none of the objections to the adoption of the amendment to the charter of the City of Denver providing for erection of a municipal water plant are tenable.

187 F.8d 0 reversed.

The facts, which involve various elements of a controversy between the City of Denver, Colorado, the Denver Union Water Company and the New York Trust Company, trustee of bonds of the said company, and the construction and validity of the contracts and ordinances and statutes relating to the water supply of Denver, are stated in the opinion.

Page 229 U. S. 125

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