Risty v. Chicago, R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co.,
270 U.S. 378 (1926)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Risty v. Chicago, R.I. & Pac. Ry. Co., 270 U.S. 378 (1926)

Risty v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company

Nos. 95-100

Argued January 7, 8, 1926

Decided March 1, 1926

270 U.S. 378


1. When the district court and circuit court of appeals agree upon all material facts, this Court will consider them only so far as needful to pass on questions of law. P. 270 U. S. 381.

2. The statutes of South Dakota (Rev.Code 1919, §§ 8458 et seq., §§ 8467, 8470) contain no provision by which the cost of reconstructing or maintaining existing drainage works may be assessed on lands which were not embraced within or assessed in connection with the project as originally established. P. 270 U. S. 383.

3. It is the duty of the federal courts, in suits brought in or removed to the district courts, to decide for themselves all relevant questions of state law, including the meaning of the state statutes where they have not been clearly and decisively passed upon by the state court. P. 270 U. S. 387.

Page 270 U. S. 379

4. Questions involving the federal Constitution, giving the federal court jurisdiction, need not be passed upon when the case is decided by applying the state law. P. 270 U. S. 387.

5. Suits in the federal court to enjoin state officials from equalizing benefits of drainage work and making assessments of the cost held not premature, but within equitable jurisdiction where the ground of the suits was the invalidity of the whole proceedings, and not merely inequality in apportionment of benefits, and where the effects of the proceedings would be to establish liens on plaintiffs' lands, clouding the titles, and subject them to liability for future assessments. P. 270 U. S. 387.

6. The remedy in such cases afforded by § 8465 of So.Dak.Code, 1919, does not appear to be coextensive with the relief afforded by equity. Id.

7. The test of equity jurisdiction in a federal court is the inadequacy of the remedy on the law side of that court, and not the inadequacy of the remedies afforded by the state courts. P. 270 U. S. 388.

8. It does not appear that the law of South Dakota affords a remedy, in cases like the present, by payment of the assessment and suit to recover it back, which could be availed of in the federal court, or that such remedy, if available, would not entail a multiplicity of suits. P. 270 U. S. 388.

9. Where the legal remedy under the state law is uncertain, the federal court (having jurisdiction as such of the case) has jurisdiction in equity to enjoin illegal assessments. P. 270 U. S. 389.

10. Jurisdictional amount held involved in suits against a board to enjoin illegal apportionments and assessments of cost of drainage work, where the board had made tentative assessments against plaintiffs in excess of that amount and the basis of the suits was want of jurisdiction to make such apportionments and assessments. P. 270 U. S. 389.

11. Plaintiffs held not estopped to question the legality of proceedings to extend drainage assessments to their land outside the drainage area because of their relation to the proceeding or to the construction before they had knowledge of the purpose so to extend the assessments. P. 270 U. S. 389.

12. A bill by a city to restrain the laying of drainage assessments under a law of its own state as violative of the Fourteenth Amendment is too unsubstantial to confer jurisdiction on a federal court, since the Amendment does not restrain the power of the state and its agencies over its municipal corporations. P. 270 U. S. 389.

297 F. 710 affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Page 270 U. S. 380

Appeals from decrees of the circuit court of appeals which affirmed decrees of the district court (282 F. 364) in favor of four railroad companies, a power company, and a city in six suits brought by them to enjoin a board of county commissioners and certain state officers of South Dakota from extending apportionment of benefits and assessments of costs of a drainage project to outside lands.

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