Boise Artesian Water Co. v. Boise City - 230 U.S. 84 (1913)
U.S. Supreme Court
Boise Artesian Water Co. v. Boise City, 230 U.S. 84 (1913)
Boise Artesian Hot and Cold Water Co., Limited v. Boise City
Nos. 573, 639
Argued May 7, 8, 1913
Decided June 16, 1913
230 U.S. 84
Where appellants' direct appeal to this Court under § 5 of the Judiciary Act of 1891 is taken on the claim that the ordinance on which the Circuit Court based its decision is in contravention of the Constitution of the United States, this Court has jurisdiction to review not only the constitutional question, but every other question properly arising in the case, including error assigned by the other party on its cross-writ for failure to allow its counterclaim under the contract.
Rights acquired under an ordinance granting the right to a water company to lay and maintain pipes in the streets is a substantial property right, with all the attributes of property, and the obligation of the contract in the ordinance on which it is based is protected against impairment by the contract clause of the Constitution of the United States.
There is a presumption that investments of large amounts of capital in a public utility enterprise will not be made on a franchise for necessary use of the streets which is a mere license revocable at will.
Where there is no limitation in the general law of the state, nor in the charter of the city, as to duration of franchises for public utilities in the streets, the grant of an easement for that purpose, not specifying a period of duration, is in perpetuity.
Quaere whether the limitation of fifty years in § 2710, Rev.Stat., and 838, Rev.Codes of Idaho, on grants to corporations applies to a grant made by a municipality to an individual and afterwards assigned to a corporation.
Where there is a limitation in the law of the duration for which easements in streets can be granted by municipalities, an easement granted for an indefinite period continues for the statutory period.
There is a distinction between a definite grant for a period longer than
the law of the state permits and an indefinite grant; while the former may be altogether void as an effort to obtain that which is illegal, the latter is simply limited in duration to the period established by law, and during that time it is protected from impairment by the contract clause of the Constitution of the United States.
The municipal ordinance of a town in Idaho imposing additional obligations on a corporation holding by assignment an easement granted by a former municipal ordinance within fifty years for use of the streets for water mains held an unconstitutional impairment of the obligation of the contract of the former ordinance.
A municipality may not object to the state's relieving a grantee of franchise rights from obligations formerly imposed by a general law of the state.
Municipal corporations are mere emanations from the state, exercising such public power as the state chooses to grant.
A statutory provision that all water companies must furnish free water to the municipalities in which they are situated does not constitute a contract to which the municipalities are parties; it is within the power of the state to relieve the water companies of the obligation and permit them to furnish water at reasonable cost.
A water company under the laws of the Idaho is entitled to compensation for water furnished and which it is ready to furnish to the municipality, even if the report of commissioners fixing reasonable rates in pursuance of the statute has not been adopted by municipal ordinance.
A municipality, which continues to use water furnished by a water company after giving notice that it will pay no further bills for such water, is not relieved by such notice from the obligation to pay therefor according to the reasonable rates which have been fixed pursuant to statute.
The facts, which involve the constitutionality under the contract clause of the federal Constitution of an ordinance of Boise City, Idaho, affecting a franchise for using the streets of the city for water supply purposes and the liability of the city for water supplied to it, are stated in the opinion.