Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

Opinion of the Court.

ing the writ upon the ground that error might have supervened therein.

The Fourteenth Amendment did not radically change the whole theory of the relations of the state and Federal governments to each other, and of both governments to the people. The same person may be at the same time a citizen of the United States and a citizen of a State. Protection to life, liberty and property rests primarily, with the States, and the amendment furnishes an additional guaranty against any encroachment by the States upon those fundamental rights which belong to citizenship, and which the state governments were created to secure. The privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, as distinguished from the privileges and immunities of citizens of the States, are indeed protected by it; but those are privileges and immunities arising out of the nature and essential character of the national government, and granted or secured by the Constitution of the United States. United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542; Slaughterhouse Cascs, 16 Wall. 36.

In Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516, 534, it is pointed out by Mr. Justice Matthews, speaking for the court, that the words “due process of law," as used in the Fifth Amendment, cannot be regarded as superfluous, and held to include the matters specifically enumerated in that article, and that when the same phrase was employed in the Fourteenth Amendment it was used in the same sense and with no greater extent.

As due process of law in the Fifth Amendment referred to that law of the land which derives its authority from the legislative powers conferred on Congress by the Constitution of the United States, exercised within the limits therein prescribed, and interpreted according to the principles of the common law, so, in the Fourteenth Amendment, the same words refer to that law of the land in each State, which derives its authority from the inherent and reserved powers of the State, exerted within the limits of those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions. Undoubtedly the amendment forbids any arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or

[ocr errors][merged small]

Opinion of the Court.

property, and secures equal protection to all under like circumstances in the enjoyment of their rights; and, in the administration of criminal justice, requires that no different or higher punishment shall be imposed upon one than is imposed upon all for like offences. But it was not designed to interfere with the power of the State to protect the lives, liberties and property of its citizens, and to promote their health, peace, morals, education and good order. Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U. S. 27, 31.

The enactment of this statute was in itself within the legitimate sphere of the legislative power of the State, and in the observance of those general rules prescribed by our systems of jurisprudence; and the legislature of the State of New York determined that it did not inflict cruel and unusual punishment, and its courts have sustained that determination. We cannot perceive that the State has thereby abridged the privileges or immunities of the petitioner, or deprived him of due process of law.

In order to reverse the judgment of the highest court of the State of New York, we should be compelled to hold that it had committed an error so gross as to amount in law to a denial by the State of due process of law to one accused of crime, or of some right secured to him by the Constitution of the United States. We have no hesitation in saying that this we cannot do

the record before us. The application for a writ of error is

upon

Denied.

VOL. CXXXVI-29

Opinion of the Court.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. WOODBURY.

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

No. 234. Argued March 27, 28, 1890. — Decided May 19, 1890.

The municipal corporation called the District of Columbia, created by the

act of June 11, 1878, 18 Stat. 116, c. 337, is subject to the same liability for injuries to individuals, arising from the negligence of its officers in maintaining in safe condition, for the use of the public, the streets, avenues, alleys and sidewalks of the city of Washington, as was the District under the laws in force when the cause of action in Barnes v.

District of Columbia, 91 U. S. 540, arose. Barnes v. District of Columbia, 91 U. S. 510, has never been questioned, and

is again affirmed. Evidence that a medical man, who had been in the habit of contributing

articles to scientific journals was unable to do so by reason of injuries caused by a defect in a public street is admissible in an action to recover damages from the municipality, without showing that he received com

pensation for the articles. The admission of incompetent evidence at the trial below is no cause for

reversal if it could not possibly have prejudiced the other party. General objections at the trial below, to the admission of testimony, with

out indicating with distinctness the precise grounds on which they are

intended to rest, are without weight before the appellate court. The stenographic report of an oral opinion of the court below, as reported

by the reporter of that court, cannot be referred to to control the record

certified to this court. The charge of the court below correctly stated the rules of law applicable

to this case; and they are reduced to seven propositions, by this Court in its opinion, and approved.

Tue case is stated in the opinion.

Mr. Flenry E. Davis for plaintiff in error.

Mr. James Coleman and Mr. J. M. Wilson for defendant in error.

MR. JUSTICE Harlan delivered the opinion of the court.

Early in the evening of December 6, 1881, the defendant in error, while passing on the sidewalk near the north entrance

Opinion of the Court.

of the Riggs House on G Street in the city of Washington, fell into a hole, whereby he sustained personal injuries of a serious character. Claiming that the sidewalk was not in a safe condition for use by the public, and that the District authorities had been grossly negligent in not keeping it in proper repair, he brought this action to recover damages for such injuries. The plea was not guilty. A verdict for fifteen thousand dollars was returned against the District, and a judgment in conformity therewith was entered. That judgment having been affirmed by the general term the case has been brought here for reëxamination.

The question to be first considered is whether the District of Columbia is, under any circumstances, liable in damages for personal injuries resulting from the unsafe condition of the avenues, streets and sidewalks in the city of Washington. The charge of the court below proceeded upon the ground that such liability existed. The District contends here, as it did at the trial, for the opposite view. And it insists that the question is not concluded by the decision in Barnes v. District of Columbia, 91 U. S. 540. The argument in support of this proposition assumes that the relations between the government of the District and the public have been so materially changed by legislation enacted since the Barnes Case, that the principles therein announced have no application to the present case. This suggestion renders it necessary to ascertain precisely what was decided in the former case.

It arose under the act approved February 21, 1871, 16 Stat. 419, c. 62, creating the “District of Columbia" a body corporate for municipal purposes, with power to contract and be contracted with, to sue and be sued, to plead and be impleaded, to have a seal and to exercise all other powers of a inunicipal corporation not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, or with that act. Provision was made for the appointment by the President, with the consent of the Senate, of a Governor, Secretary, Board of Health, Board of Public Works and a Legislative Assembly composed of two bodies, whose power of legislation extended to all rightful subjects of legislation within the District, con

Opinion of the Court.

sistent with the Constitution of the United States and that act. The streets, avenues, alleys and sewers of Washington, together with all other works entrusted to their charge by the Legislative Assembly or by Congress, were placed under the entire control of the Board of Public Works with authority to make all regulations they deemed necessary for keeping them in repair. It was also required to disburse “ upon their warrant all moneys appropriated by the United States or the District of Columbia, or collected from property-holders in pursuance of law, for the improvements of streets, avenues, alleys and sewers, and roads and bridges,” and to “assess, in such manner as shall be prescribed by law, upon the property adjoining and to be specially benefited by the improvements authorized by law and made by them, a reasonable proportion of the cost of the improvement, not exceeding one-third of such cost, which sum shall be collected as all other taxes are collected.”

It was contended in the Barnes Case that the Board of Public Works was not a department or subordinate agency of the District of Columbia, but a Federal Commission, having exclusive power to make such regulations as it deemed necessary for keeping in repair the streets, avenues, alleys, sewers, roads and bridges committed to their control. This view was rejected by the court. Although that Board was dependent upon both Congress and the Legislative Assembly of the District, and was the hand and agent both of the United States and of the District, it was held to be the representative and a part of the municipal corporation created by the act of 1871, and that its proceedings and acts in repairing and improving public streets were the proceedings and acts of that corporation. The District was held liable for the injury there complained of upon the principle, which the court declared to be sound and supported by numerous and well-considered adjudications in this country and in England, that a municipal corporation, as distinguished from a corporation organized for private gain, is liable for injuries to individuals arising from negligence upon its part in the construction of works which it was authorized to construct and maintain. And it was ex

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »