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LOUISIANA RAILWAY & NAVIGATION COMPANY v. BEHRMAN

November 30, 1914

LOUISIANA RAILWAY & NAVIGATION COMPANY
v.
BEHRMAN, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney, McReynolds.

Author: Hughes

[ 235 U.S. Page 165]

 MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error seeks to review the judgment of the state court upon the ground that it denied a Federal right

[ 235 U.S. Page 166]

     asserted under the contract clause of the Constitution. Art. 1, ยง 10.

The suit was brought by the Mayor of the City of New Orleans, in his official capacity, to restrain the Louisiana Railway & Navigation Company from proceeding under a municipal ordinance -- No. 1997, New Council Series, dated September 4, 1903 -- to construct and operate tracks over a public belt railroad reservation, and from operating cars, etc., over public belt railroad tracks, and to have the ordinance, so far as it granted to that Company such privileges of construction and operation, declared null and void. The facts, so far as it is necessary to state them, are these:

The authorities of the City of New Orleans devised the plan of establishing a public belt railroad along the river front. On March 1, 1899, the City adopted an ordinance (No. 15,080, C. S.) under which, in consideration of certain concessions, the Illinois Central Railroad Company built about two miles of the projected system, that is, from the upper limit of the City to the upper boundary of Audubon Park. This was followed by ordinance No. 147, N. C. S., adopted August 7, 1900, which created a Belt Railroad Board, composed of the Mayor and certain city officials, to construct, control and operate the belt railroad for the benefit of the City; and on August 12, 1902, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans, called the 'Dock Board,' -- a body exercising state authority over a part of the area to be traversed by the proposed road -- approved the dedication for the purpose stated. This approval was to remain in force only so long as the belt railroad was 'operated and controlled by a public commission' in accordance with the provisions of ordinance No. 147.

On February 10, 1903, a further ordinance was adopted -- No. 1615, N. C. S. -- which, among other things, granted to the New Orleans & San Francisco Railroad Company

[ 235 U.S. Page 167]

     a right of way over the belt line and reservation from the upper limit of the City to Henderson Street. The condition was that the company, at its own expense, should construct and dedicate to perpetual public use the tracks as projected from the end of the line already built, on the upper side of Audubon Park, to Henderson Street (a distance of about five miles), the construction to be completed before July 1, 1904. Other provisions looked to still further construction through contributions from other railroads. The validity of this ordinance was at once challenged in a suit brought by the Mayor, on behalf of the City, which resulted in favor of the Railroad Company. Capdevielle, Mayor, v. New Orleans R. R. Co., 110 Louisiana, 904. The terms of the ordinance, however, did not conform to the conditions upon which the Dock Board had consented to the building of the belt road, and, in a suit brought by that Board against the Railroad Company, the carrying out of ordinance No. 1615 was restrained so far as it authorized the construction of the railroad upon the property subject to the Board's jurisdiction. Board of Commissioners v. New Orleans & San Francisco R. R. Co., 112 Louisiana, 1011. Following this decision, it appears that the New Orleans & San Francisco Railroad Company abandoned the building of the belt line contemplated by the ordinance; no part of it was constructed thereunder.

On September 4, 1903, while the suit of the Dock Board was pending, and after the final decision in the Capdevielle suit, the City adopted ordinance No. 1997, N. C. S., -- the ordinance here in question (127 Louisiana, pp. 784-792). Without passing now upon points in controversy, it may be said that this ordinance, reciting that under ordinance No. 1615 there had already been granted to the New Orleans & San Francisco Railroad Company the right to ...


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