Trenton v. New Jersey
262 U.S. 182 (1923)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Trenton v. New Jersey, 262 U.S. 182 (1923)

Trenton v. New Jersey

No. 430

Argued March 2, 1923

Decided May 7, 1923

262 U.S. 182

Syllabus

1. A state has power, and it is its duty, to control and conserve its water resources for the benefit of all its inhabitants. P. 262 U. S. 185.

2. Diversion of waters from the sources of supply for this use is a legitimate function of the state, which may be left to private enterprise subject to state regulation, or be performed directly, or be delegated either to bodies politic created for the purpose or to the state's municipalities. P. 262 U. S. 185.

3. In the absence of state constitutional provisions safeguarding it to them, municipalities have no inherent right of self-government which is beyond the legislative control of the state, but are merely departments of the state, with powers and privileges such as the state has seen fit to grant, held and exercised subject to its sovereign will. P. 262 U. S. 187.

4. The power of a state over the rights and properties of cities held and used for "governmental purposes" is unrestrained by the Contract Clause, or the Fourteenth Amendment, of the federal Constitution. P. 262 U. S. 188.

5. The distinction between a municipality as an agent of the state for governmental purposes, and as an organization to care for local needs in a private or proprietary capacity, affords no ground for the application of those constitutional restraints against a state in favor of its own municipality. P. 262 U. S. 191.

6. The City of Trenton, as successor to a grant made by New Jersey to a private corporation, claimed a perpetual right, unburdened by license fee or other charge, to divert all the water that might be required for the use of the city or its inhabitants from the Delaware River, and resisted a charge, imposed under c. 252, Laws N.J. 1907, for water diverted beyond the amount being legally diverted when the act was passed and in excess of a per capita maximum prescribed by the act. Held that the city could not invoke the Contract Clause or the Fourteenth Amendment, even assuming that the private corporation might have done so if its rights had not passed to the city, and that, in view of previous decisions, the city's contention to the contrary did not present a substantial federal question. Pp. 262 U. S. 185, 262 U. S. 192.

Writ of error to review 117 A. 158 dismissed.

Page 262 U. S. 183

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, affirmed by the Court of Errors and Appeal, in favor of the state in its action to recover license fees from the City of Trenton for water diverted from the Delaware River.

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