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CALIFORNIA REDUCTION COMPANY v. SANITARY REDUCTION WORKS

November 27, 1905

CALIFORNIA REDUCTION COMPANY
v.
SANITARY REDUCTION WORKS



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Harlan

[ 199 U.S. Page 315]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The defendants insist that the ordinances in question are invalid for the want of power in the Board of Supervisors to adopt them. This objection does not seem to be well taken. By the California constitution of 1849 it was provided that "the Legislature shall have power to provide for the election of a Board of Supervisors in each county, and those supervisors shall jointly and individually perform such duties as may be prescribed by law." Subsequently, by an act approved April 25, 1863, it was provided that "the Board of Supervisors of the

[ 199 U.S. Page 316]

     city and county of San Francisco shall have power, by regulation or order, . . . to authorize and direct the summary abatement of nuisances; to make all regulations which may be necessary or expedient for the preservation of the public health and the prevention of contagious diseases; to provide, by regulation, for the prevention of contagious diseases; to provide, by regulation, for the prevention and summary removal of all nuisances and obstructions in the streets, alleys, highways and public grounds of said city and county," etc. Cal. Stat. 1863, p. 540. Again, in the state constitution of 1879, it was provided that "any county, city, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local, police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws." Art. XI, ยง 11. Further, by an act, approved March 23, 1893, it was provided, among other things, that every franchise or privilege to erect or lay telegraph or telephone wires, to construct or operate railroads along or upon any public street or highway, or "to exercise any other privilege whatever hereafter proposed to be granted by the Board of Supervisors, Common Council, or other governing or legislative body of any county, city and county, city, town or district within this State, shall be granted upon the conditions in this act provided, and not otherwise." One of those conditions was that the fact that such franchise or privilege had been made, together with a statement that it was proposed to grant the same, should be advertised -- the franchise or privilege to be awarded to the highest bidder. Cal. Stat. 1893, p. 288.

It may be here observed that under the charter of San Francisco the Board of Supervisors for the city and county of San Francisco constituted the legislative department for that municipality. McDonald v. Dodge, 97 California 112, 114; Harrison v. Roberts, 145 California 173.

In the above constitutional and statutory provisions is found full authority for the Board to make and enforce, within the city and county of San Francisco, all such reasonable sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with any general

[ 199 U.S. Page 317]

     statute or with the constitution, and which have for their object the preservation of the public health, by whatever cause endangered. It was substantially so ruled in the Circuit Court of the United States, Northern District of California, in Alpers v. City and County of San Francisco, 32 Fed. Rep. 503, Mr. Justice Field delivering the opinion of the court. The ruling in that case was followed in National Fertlizer Co. v. Lambert, 48 Fed. Rep. 458. See also The People v. Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County, 122 California, 421.

It is said that the grant to Sharon, his associates and assigns, was, in no sense, a franchise. It is true that the title of the act of 1893 refers only to franchises. But the body of the act shows that the legislature intended to embrace privileges, exercised under public authority and not alone what may be, strictly, franchises. The exclusive right granted to Sharon, his associates and assigns, was certainly a privilege, and the Board of Supervisors had power to grant it in order to protect the public health. But independently of the above statutes the Board had power, under the constitution of the State, to make such sanitary regulations as were not inconsistent with the general laws, and that broad power carried with it the power, by contract and ordinance, to guard the public health in all reasonable ways.

The defendants criticise the ordinances because they give the exclusive privileges in question for a period of fifty years. But whether the period during which such privileges might be exercised, should be long or short, was a matter in the wise discretion of the Board and determinable wholly upon grounds of public policy. It may be that grants by public authority of privileges to be exercised for the benefit or in behalf of the public ought never to be for long periods. But it suffices to say that no such consideration can control the action of the judiciary.

The defendants insist that the ordinances in question are in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, in that they deprive the ...


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