Road District No. 2 v. St. Louis S.W. Ry. Co. - 257 U.S. 547 (1922)


U.S. Supreme Court

Road District No. 2 v. St. Louis S.W. Ry. Co., 257 U.S. 547 (1922)

Commissioners of Road Improvement District No. 2 of Lafayette

County, Arkansas v. St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company

No. 141

Argued January 26, 27, 1922

Decided February 27, 1922

257 U.S. 547

Syllabus

1. A petition for removal to a federal court of a controversy over an assessment on particular lands, involved with others in a general proceeding for assessing all the lands within a road improvement district, was in time, under Jud.Code, § 29, when filed on the day before the day advertised for the hearing in the state court and on which the landowner was required by the state law to file his written objections. P. 257 U. S. 551.

2. Under the law of Arkansas, the County Court approves a proposed road improvement district, which then becomes a corporation capable of suing and being sued; appoints, but cannot remove, the

Page 257 U. S. 548

governing commissioners; passes upon their plan of improvement and estimate of cost; appoints assessors who assess the benefits and damages to the several parcels of land included; hears and determines the justice of particular assessments upon written objections filed by landowners affected, pursuant to published notice; equalizes, lowers and raises assessments, and levies a general assessment upon all the land to be collected against the properties in proportion to benefits thus adjudged by proceedings in a court of chancery. Its findings and order are declared to have the effect of a judgment against the property, and appeals from particular assessments of benefits and damages may be taken by either the landowner or the commissioners to a court of general jurisdiction for trial de novo. Held: that, while the proceedings in the County Court are in the main legislative and administrative, a controversy therein over the benefits and damages to an owner's land is a suit at law within the removal act because (a) its determination is judicial, like a valuation of property in condemnation, p. 257 U. S. 553; (b) the issue is between adversary parties, the road district and the landowner, framed on pleadings, consisting of the assessment book and the owner's objections, to be heard on evidence, and is separable from like issues respecting other landowners, pp. 257 U. S. 556, 257 U. S. 559, and (c) the County Court, in disposing of such issues, renders what is in name, form, and effect a judgment, and functions as a judicial tribunal under the Arkansas constitution. P. 257 U. S. 556.

3. A decision of the state court on the nature of a proceeding under the state statutes is not conclusive on the question of removability. P. 257 U. S. 558.

4. Section 28, Jud.Code, limiting removal to cases within the original jurisdiction of the district court under § 24, does not deprive a defendant of the right merely because the form of the case in the state court would be awkward in the federal court or require reframing of the complaint and different procedure. P. 257 U. S. 561.

5. Action of the district court in withdrawing a case from the jury and making findings of fact in the absence of a stipulation under Rev.Stats. §§ 649, 700, but without objection or exception by the parties, is not reviewable by writ of error. P. 257 U. S. 562.

265 F. 524 affirmed.

Certiorari to a judgment of the circuit court of appeals affirming a judgment of the district court for the respondent railway company in a case involving a road improvement assessment removed from a state court.

Page 257 U. S. 550



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