Milheim v. Moffat Tunnel Improvement Dist. - 262 U.S. 710 (1923)
U.S. Supreme Court
Milheim v. Moffat Tunnel Improvement Dist., 262 U.S. 710 (1923)
Milheim v. Moffat Tunnel Improvement District
Motion to dismiss or affirm submitted February 20, 1923
Decided June 11, 1923
262 U.S. 710
1. A federal question which requires analysis and exposition for its decision is not frivolous, and withstands a motion to dismiss the writ of error. P. 262 U. S. 716.
2. But a motion to affirm should be granted if the questions on which decision depends are so wanting in substance as not to need further argument. Rule 6, § 5. P. 262 U. S. 717.
3. Determination of the judicial question whether a use is public or private is influenced by local conditions, and this Court, while enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment, should keep in view the diversity of such conditions and regard with great respect the judgments of the courts and the declaration of the legislature of a state as to what should be deemed a public use in the state. P. 262 U. S. 717.
4. The construction and maintenance of a tunnel for railroad, telegraph, and telephone lines, for the transmission of electric power, and the transportation of water and automobiles and other vehicles
(Colo.Laws, Ex.Sess., 1922, c. 2, p. 88), held a public use warranting the exercise of the state power of taxation through assessments levied on the private lands benefited by the improvement to aid in defraying its cost. Pp. 262 U. S. 717, 262 U. S. 720.
5. A tunnel constructed and maintained by a state with the design of leasing it, at a just rental based on the cost, to a railroad corporation for operation in the service of the public as part of its line, and of thus promoting the efficiency of the railroad as an important common carrier and of preventing its abandonment, is a public improvement for public purposes. P. 262 U. S. 718.
6. If a proposed improvement is one which a state has authority to make and pay for by assessments on property benefited, the legislature may determine by the statute imposing the tax what lands may be, and are in fact, benefited, and its determination is conclusive, and cannot be assailed under the Fourteenth Amendment unless it is a flagrant abuse and so arbitrary as to amount to a mere confiscation of particular property. P. 262 U. S. 721.
7. Where a Commission, authorized to appraise the benefits to be assessed on lands to meet the cost of a public tunnel improvement, adopted a tentative ad valorem basis, subject to modification and correction before confirmation, held that landowners who did not see fit to avail themselves of their opportunity to object and be heard could not attack the appraisals as arbitrary in a suit for an injunction. P. 262 U. S. 722.
72 Colo. 268 affirmed.
Error to a decree of the Supreme Court of Colorado, affirming a decree of the state district court, which dismissed the complaint, after full hearing, in a suit brought by landowners to enjoin proceedings taken for the assessment of their property to defray costs of a public tunnel improvement.