Vicksburg Waterworks Co. v. Vicksburg
185 U.S. 65 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Vicksburg Waterworks Co. v. Vicksburg, 185 U.S. 65 (1902)

Vicksburg Waterworks Company v. Vicksburg

No. 392

Submitted December 4, 1301

Decided April 7, 1902

185 U.S. 65

Syllabus

By the Act of March 18, 1886, the City of Vicksburg was authorized to provide for the erection and maintenance of a system of waterworks and the contract made in accordance with its provision was within the power of the city to make, and the subsequent legislation, state and municipal, set forth in the bill, impair the contract rights of the water company, within the protection of the Constitution of the United States unless the city can point to some inherent want of legal validity in the contract.

Page 185 U. S. 66

It is one of the most valuable features of equity jurisdiction to anticipate and prevent a threatened injury where the damages would be insufficient or irreparable, and the exercise of such jurisdiction is for the benefit of both parties in disclosing to the defendant that he is proceeding without warrant of law and in protecting the complainant from injuries which, if inflicted, would be wholly destructive of his rights. This cause presents a controversy so arising under the laws and Constitution of the United States as to give the Circuit Court jurisdiction.

The Vicksburg Waterworks Company, a corporation of the State of Mississippi, filed, in February, 1901, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Mississippi, a bill of complaint against the mayor and aldermen of the City of Vicksburg, a municipal corporation of Mississippi. To this bill the city filed a demurrer and certain special pleas, and subsequently moved the court for leave to withdraw the demurrer and pleas and for leave to file an answer alleging that said answer embodied all the matters of defense which were set forth in said pleas and demurrer, and also a motion to dissolve a temporary injunction which had been theretofore granted.

On July 1, 1901, the court entered the following order:

"Coming on to be heard the motion to dissolve the injunction herein, and the defendant now having moved the court for leave to file the answer herewith presented and marked by the clerk as filed June 21, 1901, and to withdraw the pleas and demurrers filed April 30, 1901, it is ordered that leave be granted to file said answer and withdraw said pleas and demurrers, but that the question of the jurisdiction of this Court to hear the matter in controversy, raised by said answer, shall be first presented and argued."

On July 3, 1901, the complainant moved the court to "require defendant to elect on which plea it will stand, whether on demurrer to the whole bill or on the answer." This motion was overruled, and on July 3, 1901, the court entered the following order and decree:

"This cause coming on to be heard upon the motion to dissolve the injunction heretofore issued in this cause, and the court now being advised in the premises, and it appearing that there is no federal question involved in the controversy presented

Page 185 U. S. 67

by the pleading, it is therefore ordered, adjudged, and decreed that said injunction be, and the same is hereby, dissolved, and that the bill of the complainant be, and the same is hereby, dismissed, and that execution issue therefor for the cost in the case."

Thereupon the complainant moved the court to

"continue the restraining order in force as granted until the appeal in this cause is heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, or until the further order is granted by said court."

The following order was then entered by the court:

"Upon the appeal's being allowed herein, it is ordered that the temporary restraining order herein be continued until the 1st day of January, 1902, or if before then, until the decision of the appeal herein by the supreme court, upon condition, however, that the complainant diligently prosecute its appeal and file a motion at or before the next term of the supreme court to advance the appeal in this cause upon the docket of the Supreme Court of the United States, and upon the further condition that the injunction bond heretofore given in this case shall stand and continue in force for any additional liability which may be incurred by reason of this order, the principal and sureties upon said bond, now in open court consenting thereto. Ordered, adjudged, and decreed this 3d July, 1901."

On the same day, an appeal was allowed to this Court, and on July 4, 1901, the following certificate was signed by the trial judge and filed:

"The final decree having been entered herein on the 3d day of July, 1901, dismissing this suit and the bill, and amended and supplemental bill therein, now therefore this Court, in pursuance of the second paragraph of the fifth section of the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1891, and entitled"

"An Act to Establish Circuit Courts of Appeal, and to Define and Regulate in Certain Cases the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, and for Other Purposes,"

"hereby certifies to the Supreme Court of the United States for decision the question of the jurisdiction alone of this Court over this cause, whether this cause presents a controversy which involves a federal question under the laws or Constitution of the United States."

"The only question which I considered and decided in dismissing

Page 185 U. S. 68

this suit and the bills of complaint is whether a federal question was involved upon the pleadings."

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