Murray v. Pocatello - 226 U.S. 318 (1912)
U.S. Supreme Court
Murray v. Pocatello, 226 U.S. 318 (1912)
Murray v. Pocatello
Argued December 3, 4, 1912
Decided December 16, 1912
226 U.S. 318
This Court is not prepared on the facts in this case to overrule the highest court of a state in construing the relative powers of the legislature and municipalities in establishing rates for water.
The Supreme Court of Idaho having held that, under the constitution of the state, the legislature has a continuing and irrevocable power to establish the manner of fixing water rates, and that a municipality can only grant franchises subject to that power, this Court follows that construction, and therefore held that:
A statute of the State of Idaho establishing a method for fixing water rates is not unconstitutional under the federal Constitution as impairing the obligation of the contract with a water company under an ordinance of a municipality previously enacted and which established a different method of fixing such rates.
A court which is not empowered to grant relief whatever the merits may be cannot decide what the merits are, and a judgment sustaining a demurrer to and dismissing the bill on the ground of such lack of power is not res judicata on the merits.
Where the judgment cannot be res judicata on the merits because the court has no power to grant relief, it is not made res judicata by reference to the opinion in which the court expresses its views on the merits.
21 Idaho 180 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the contract clause of the federal Constitution of a statute of Idaho, are stated in the opinion.