Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Duluth,
208 U.S. 583 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. Duluth, 208 U.S. 583 (1908)

Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Duluth

No. 92

Argued December 20, 23, 1907

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 583


In cases arising under the contract clause of the federal Constitution this Court determines for itself, irrespective of the decision of the state court, whether a contract exists and whether its obligation has been impaired, and if plaintiff in error substantially sets up a claim of contract with allegations of its impairment by state or municipal legislation, the judgment of the state court is reviewable by this Court under § 709, Rev.Stat.

Municipal legislation passed under supposed legislative authority from the state is within the prohibition of the federal Constitution and void if it impairs the obligation of a contract.

While an ordinance merely denying liability under an existing contract does not necessarily amount to an impairment of the obligation of that contract within the meaning of the federal Constitution, where the ordinance requires expenditure of money by one relieved therefrom by a contract, a valid contract claim is impaired, and this Court has jurisdiction.

The right to exercise the police power is a continuing one that cannot be limited or contracted away by the state or its municipality, nor can it be destroyed by compromise, as it is immaterial upon what consideration the attempted contract is based.

The exercise of the police power in the interest of public health and safety is to be maintained unhampered by contracts in private interests, and uncompensated obedience to an ordinance passed in its exercise is not violative of property rights protected by the federal Constitution; held that an ordinance of a municipality of that state, valid under the law of that state as construed by its highest court, compelling a railroad to repair a viaduct constructed, after the opening of the railroad, by the city in pursuance of a contract relieving the railroad, for a substantial consideration, from making any repairs thereon for a term of years was not void under the contract, or the due process, clause of the Constitution.

98 Minn. 429 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 208 U. S. 587

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