Clark v. Kansas City
176 U.S. 114 (1900)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Clark v. Kansas City, 176 U.S. 114 (1900)

Clark v. Kansas City

No. 288

Argued November 18, 1899

Decided January 15, 1900

176 U.S. 114

Syllabus

The provision in section 1 of chapter 74 of the Laws of Kansas of 1891, authorizing certain first-class cities to take in described tracts of land in territory adjoining or touching the city limits and make them a part of the city by ordinance, and providing that

"nothing in this act shall be taken or held to apply to any tract or tracts of land used for agricultural purposes, when the same is not owned by any railroad or other corporation,"

does not conflict with any provision of the Constitution of the United States, when exercised by such a city to take in lands belonging to a railroad company which are not used for agricultural purposes, but are occupied by the company for railroad purposes.

This case was here once before on writ of error to review a judgment of the Supreme Court of Kansas reversing a judgment of the nisi prius court sustaining a demurrer to the petition of plaintiffs. 172 U. S. 172 U.S. 334.

Page 176 U. S. 115

The writ was dismissed on the ground that the judgment was not final. On the return of the case to the supreme court of the state, such proceedings were had there and, by its direction, in the trial court, that a final judgment was entered denying the relief prayed for, which judgment the supreme court affirmed, and the case was then brought here.

The question presented is the constitutionality of a statute of the state, and the validity of an ordinance passed by Kansas City under the statute. Kansas Laws of 1891, 133, c. 74; Act of March 10, 1891. The statute is as follows:

"Cities of the First Class."

"An Act Relating to Certain Cities of the First Class"

"and the Adding Thereto Certain Adjoining Territory"

"Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas: SEC. 1. That whenever any territory adjoining or touching the city limits of any city of the first class having a population of 30,000 inhabitants or more shall be subdivided into lots and blocks, or whenever any unplatted tract of land shall lie upon or mainly within any such city, or is so situated as to be bounded on three-fourths of its boundary line by platted territory of or adjacent to such city, or by the boundary line of such city, or by both, the same may be added to and made a part of the city by ordinance duly passed, which ordinance shall describe the territory by giving the name of the subdivision or addition as platted, and by giving the metes and bounds of such unplatted tract, or by giving the metes and bounds of each tract and plat so taken in separately, or of the entire tract or tracts so taken in, with the section, town, range, and county in which the same is located, without further proceedings; but nothing in this act shall be taken or held to apply to any tract or tracts of land used for agricultural purposes when the same is not owned by any railroad or other corporation."

"* * * *"

The following is the ordinance:

Page 176 U. S. 116

"Ordinance No. 2163"

An Ordinance Adding Certain Lands Therein Described, Known as the Union Pacific Lands, to and Making the Same a Part of the City of Kansas City, Kansas.

"Whereas, A certain unplatted territory belonging to the Union Pacific Railroad Company lies upon and mainly within the City of Kansas City, Kansas, and is so situated as to be bounded on three-fourths (3/4) of its boundary line by platted Territory of and adjoining to said city; which said railroad land, by virtue of its location, enjoys the benefits of said city without sharing its burdens, now therefore,"

"Be it ordained by the Mayor and Councilmen of the City of Kansas City, Kansas: SEC. 1. That the following described territory, to-wit: . . . said tracts being contiguous and containing in the aggregate one hundred and seventy-two (172) acres, be and hereby is added to and made a part of the City of Kansas City, Kansas."

"SEC. 2. This ordinance shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and publication in the Kansas City Gazette."

After passage of the ordinance, the city levied taxes on the lands, and this suit was brought to restrain their collection. The petition presented the facts and contained the following allegations:

"Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws."

"And plaintiffs are advised and so charge the fact to be that, insofar as said statute attempts to authorize the taking of said lands within the limits of Kansas City, Kansas, as attempted in said ordinance, 'Exhibit A,' it is unconstitutional, null, and void, in this, to-wit:"

"That by reason of that portion of the act which excepts from its operation any tract or tracts of land used for agricultural purposes when the same is not owned by any railroad or other corporation, it is in violation of that part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United

Page 176 U. S. 117

States which reads as follows:"

"Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws."

"Plaintiffs further allege upon information and belief that there was not at the time of the passage of said chapter 74 of the Session Laws of Kansas for 1891 any city of thirty thousand (30,000) inhabitants or more in the State of Kansas where the conditions referred to in the first part of the said act permitting the adding of additional territory to a city by the passage of an ordinance merely exist, and plaintiffs are advised, and so charge the fact to be, that said act of the legislature, while purporting to be a general act, was intended solely to apply to the lands attempted to be taken within the limits of said Kansas City, Kansas, by said ordinance, 'Exhibit A.'"

The property over which the extension was made was actually used in part for railroad purposes, and consisted of roadbed and right of way, main and side tracks, buildings, and improvements. The portion not actually used for railroad purposes, the petition alleged, were vacant and unoccupied lands, which were held and possessed by the railroad company for railroad purposes.

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