Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Goldsboro,
232 U.S. 548 (1914)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548 (1914)

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company

v. City of Goldsboro

No. 112

Argued December 10, 1913

Decided February 24, 1914

232 U.S. 548


Whether a municipal ordinance is within the power conferred by the legislature upon the municipality is a question of state law.

A municipal ordinance within the power delegated by the legislature is a state law within the meaning of the federal Constitution.

Any enactment, from whatever source originating, to which a state gives the force of law is a statute of the state within the pertinent clause of § 237, Judicial Code, conferring jurisdiction on this Court.

A railroad charter may embody a contract within the protection of the federal Constitution.

Although the state court may have held that there was a contract, but that it was subject to constitutional reserved power to alter and repeal, this Court, in reviewing that judgment under § 237, Judicial Code, will determine for itself the existence or nonexistence of the asserted contract and whether its obligation has been impaired.

While a railroad company which devotes a part of its right of way to public use inconsistent with railway purposes may not lose its property right therein, the state may, in the exercise of its police power and for the protection of the public so using such property, require the company to so use its other property as not to endanger the public, applying the principle underlying the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas.

Neither the "contract clause" nor the "due process clause" of the federal Constitution overrides the power of the state to establish necessary and reasonable regulations under its police power, a power which can neither be abdicated nor bargained away and subject to which all property rights are held.

The enforcement of uncompensated obedience to a properly enacted police regulation for public health and safety is not an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation or without due process of law.

The constitutional validity of ordinances affecting public safety as affected by railroads must be considered not only in view of charter

Page 232 U. S. 549

and property rights, but also of the consent and acquiescence of the owners of railroads.

Ordinances limiting speed of trains, requiring notice of their approach, fixing hours for shifting cars and periods of stoppage of cars, and requiring the adjustment of tracks to the established grade of the streets in business sections of the municipality are properly within the police power of the municipality, and, when fairly designed to promote the public health and safety, do not violate the contract clause or due process clause of the federal Constitution.

Ordinance of the City of Goldsboro, North Carolina, regulating speed of trains, notice of their approach, periods for car shifting and length of time of car stoppages and requiring adjustment of grades of track to grades of streets in business sections of the town held proper and reasonably suited to the purposes they are intended to accomplish, and therefore that they do not impair the obligation of the charter of a railroad occupying those streets, nor do they take any of its property without due process of law.

155 N.C. 356 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a municipal ordinance regulating the operation of railroad trains and the standing of the cars in the street and requiring the tracks to conform to the street grade and to be filled in between the rails, are stated in the opinion.

Page 232 U. S. 550

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