Hawks v. Hamill
288 U.S. 52 (1933)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hawks v. Hamill, 288 U.S. 52 (1933)

Hawks v. Hamill

No. 147

Argued December 9, 1932

Decided January 9, 1933

288 U.S. 52

Syllabus

Claiming a perpetual franchise under Oklahoma statutes to maintain and operate a toll bridge constructed by them over a navigable stream, plaintiffs sued state and county officers, in the federal court, to restrain threatened interference. Jurisdiction rested on diversity of citizenship. The case did not involve any claim of federal right, nor the right of the plaintiffs to remove the bridge. It depended on the purely local question whether the franchise was void ab initio under the state constitution.

Held:

1. As construed by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, the provision of the state constitution prohibiting "perpetuities," (Art. II, § 32) includes franchises such as the perpetual franchise to operate a toll bridge. P. 288 U. S. 55.

2. The federal court will follow the clear and unequivocal opinion of the state court to this effect, even though uttered after the date of the franchise and as a considered dictum, rather than a definitive decision. P. 288 U. S. 56.

3. Federal courts are especially reluctant to restrain the activities of state officers where the rights set up by plaintiffs are strictly local and jurisdiction has no other basis than the accident of residence -- the case must be clear. P. 288 U. S. 60.

58 F.2d 41 reversed.

District Court affirmed.

Certiorari to review the reversal of a decree denying an injunction and dismissing the bill in a suit to restrain state and county officers and other persons from threatened interference with the maintenance and operation of a toll bridge.

Page 288 U. S. 53

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