Annotation 56 - Article I

 

  Strict Construction and the Police Power .--The police power, too, has frequently benefitted from the doctrine of strict construction, although this recourse is today seldom, if ever, necessary in this connection. Some of the more striking cases may be briefly summarized. The provision in the charter of a railway company permitting it to set reasonable charges still left the legislature free to determine what charges were reasonable. 1931 On the other hand, when a railway agreed to accept certain rates for a specified period, it thereby foreclosed the question of the reasonableness of such rates. 1932 The grant to a company of the right to supply a city with water for twenty-five years was held not to prevent a similar concession to another company by the same city. 1933 The promise by a city in the charter of a water company not to make a similar grant to any other person or corporation was held not to prevent the city itself from engaging in the business. 1934 A municipal concession to a water company to run for thirty years and accompanied by the provision that the ''said company shall charge the following rates,'' was held not to prevent the city from reducing such rates. 1935 But more broadly, the grant to a municipality of the power to regulate the charges of public service companies was held not to bestow the right to contract away this power. 1936 Indeed, any claim by a private corporation that it received the rate-making power from a municipality must survive a two-fold challenge: first, as to the right of the municipality under its charter to make such a grant, secondly, as to whether it has actually done so, and in both respects an affirmative answer must be based on express words and not on implication. 1937  

  Doctrine of Inalienability as Applied to Eminent Domain, Taxing, and Police Powers .--The second of the doctrines mentioned above, whereby the principle of the subordination of all persons, corporate and individual alike, to the legislative power of the State has been fortified, is the doctrine that certain of the State's powers are inalienable, and that any attempt by a State to alienate them, upon any consideration whatsoever, is ipso facto void and hence incapable to producing a ''contract'' within the meaning of Article I, Sec. 10. One of the earliest cases to assert this principle occurred in New York in 1826. The corporation of the City of New York, having conveyed certain lands for the purposes of a church and cemetery together with a covenant for quiet enjoyment, later passed a by-law forbidding their use as a cemetery. In denying an action against the city for breach of covenant, the state court said the defendants ''had no power as a party, [to the covenant] to make a contract which should control or embarrass their legislative powers and duties.'' 1938  

The Supreme Court first applied similar doctrine in 1848 in a case involving a grant of exclusive right to construct a bridge at a specified locality. Sustaining the right of the State of Vermont to make a new grant to a competing company, the Court held that the obligation of the earlier exclusive grant was sufficiently recognized in making just compensation for it; and that corporate franchises, like all other forms of property, are subject to the overruling power of eminent domain. 1939 This reasoning was reinforced by an appeal to the theory of state sovereignty, which was held to involve the corollary of the inalienability of all the principal powers of a State.

The subordination of all charter rights and privileges to the power of eminent domain has been maintained by the Court ever since; not even an explicit agreement by the State to forego the exercise of the power will avail against it. 1940 Conversely, the State may revoke an improvident grant of public property without recourse to the power of eminent domain, such a grant being inherently beyond the power of the State to make. So when the legislature of Illinois in 1869 devised to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, its successors and assigns, the State's right and title to nearly a thousand acres of submerged land under Lake Michigan along the harbor front of Chicago, and four years later sought to repeal the grant, the Court, a four-to-three decision, sustained an action by the State to recover the lands in question. Said Justice Field, speaking for the majority: ''Such abdication is not consistent with the exercise of that trust which requires the government of the State to preserve such waters for the use of public. The trust devolving upon the State for the public, and which can only be discharged by the management and control of property in which the public has an interest, cannot be relinquished by a transfer of the property. . . . Any grant of the kind is necessarily revocable, and the exercise of the trust by which the property was held by the State can be resumed at any time.'' 1941  

On the other hand, repeated endeavors to subject tax exemptions to the doctrine of inalienability, though at times supported by powerful minorities on the Bench, have failed. 1942 As recently as January, 1952, the Court ruled that the Georgia Railway Company was entitled to seek an injunction in the federal courts against an attempt by Georgia's Revenue Commission to compel it to pay ad valorem taxes contrary to the terms of its special charter issued in 1833. In answer to the argument that this was a suit contrary to the Eleventh Amendment, the Court declared that the immunity from federal jurisdiction created by the Amendment ''does not extend to individuals who act as officers without constitutional authority.'' 1943  

The leading case involving the police power is Stone v. Mississippi. 1944 In 1867, the legislature of Mississippi chartered a company to which it expressly granted the power to conduct a lottery. Two years later, the State adopted a new Constitution which contained a provision forbidding lotteries, and a year later the legislature passed an act to put this provision into effect. In upholding this act and the constitutional provision on which it was based, the Court said: ''The power of governing is a trust committed by the people to the government, no part of which can be granted away. The people, in their sovereign capacity, have established their agencies for the preservation of the public health and the public morals, and the protection of public and private rights,'' and these agencies can neither give away nor sell their discretion. All that one can get by a charter permitting the business of conducting a lottery ''is suspension of certain governmental rights in his favor, subject to withdrawal at will.'' 1945  

The Court shortly afterward applied the same reasoning in a case in which was challenged the right of Louisiana to invade the exclusive privilege of a corporation engaged in the slaughter of cattle in New Orleans by granting another company the right to engage in the same business. Although the State did not offer to compensate the older company for the lost monopoly, its action was sustained on the ground that it had been taken in the interest of the public health. 1946 When, however, the City of New Orleans, in reliance on this precedent, sought to repeal an exclusive franchise which it had granted a company for fifty years to supply gas to its inhabitants, the Court interposed its veto, explaining that in this instance neither the public health, the public morals, nor the public safety was involved. 1947  

Later decisions, nonetheless, apply the principle of inalienability broadly. To quote from one: ''It is settled that neither the 'contract' clause nor the 'due process' clause has the effect of overriding the power to the State to establish all regulations that are reasonably necessary to secure the health, safety, good order, comfort, or general welfare of the community; that this power can neither be abdicated nor bargained away, and is inalienable even by express grant; and all contract and property rights are held subject to its fair exercise.'' 1948  

It would scarcely suffice today for a company to rely upon its charter privileges or upon special concessions from a State in resisting the application to it of measures alleged to have been enacted under the police power thereof; if this claim is sustained, the obligation of the contract clause will not avail, and if it is not, the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment will furnish a sufficient reliance. That is to say, the discrepancy that once existed between the Court's theory of an overriding police power in these two adjoining fields of constitutional law is today apparently at an end. Indeed, there is usually no sound reason why rights based on public grant should be regarded as more sacrosanct than rights that involve the same subject matter but are of different provenience.

  Private Contracts .--The term ''private contract'' is, naturally, not all-inclusive. A judgment, though granted in favor of a creditor, is not a contract in the sense of the Constitution, 1949 nor is marriage. 1950 And whether a particular agreement is a valid contract is a question for the courts, and finally for the Supreme Court, when the protection of the contract clause is invoked. 1951  

The question of the nature and source of the obligation of a contract, which went by default in Fletcher v. Peck and the Dartmouth College Case, with such vastly important consequences, had eventually to be met and answered by the Court in connection with private contracts. The first case involving such a contract to reach the Supreme Court was Sturges v. Crowninshield, 1952 in which a debtor sought escape behind a state insolvency act of later date than his note. The act was held inoperative, but whether this was because of its retroactivity in this particular case or for the broader reason that it assumed to excuse debtors from their promises was not at the time made clear. As noted earlier, Chief Justice Marshall's definition on this occasion of the obligation of a contract as the law that binds the parties to perform their undertakings was not free from ambiguity, owing to the uncertain connotation of the term law.

These obscurities were finally cleared up for most cases in Ogden v. Saunders, 1953 in which the temporal relation of the statute and the contract involved was exactly reversed--the former antedating the latter. Marshall contended, but unsuccessfully, that the statute was void, inasmuch as it purported to release the debtor from that original, intrinsic obligation that always attaches under natural law to the acts of free agents. ''When,'' he wrote, ''we advert to the course of reading generally pursued by American statesmen in early life, we must suppose that the framers of our Constitution were intimately acquainted with the writings of those wise and learned men whose treatises on the laws of nature and nations have guided public opinion on the subjects of obligation and contracts,'' and that they took their views on these subjects from those sources. He also posed the question of what would happen to the obligation of contracts clause if States might pass acts declaring that all contracts made subsequently thereto should be subject to legislative control. 1954  

For the first and only time, a majority of the Court abandoned the Chief Justice's leadership. Speaking by Justice Washington, it held that the obligation of private contracts is derived from the municipal law--state statutes and judicial decisions--and that the inhibition of Article I, Sec. 10, is confined to legislative acts made after the contracts affected by them, subject to the following exception. By a curiously complicated line of reasoning, it was also held in the same case that when the creditor is a nonresident, then a State by an insolvency law may not alter the former's rights under a contract, albeit one of later date.

With the proposition established that the obligation of a private contract comes from the municipal law in existence when the contract is made, a further question presents itself, namely, what part of the municipal law is referred to? No doubt, the law which determines the validity of the contract itself is a part of such law. Also part of such law is the law which interprets the terms used in the contract, or which supplies certain terms when others are used, as for instance, constitutional provisions or statutes which determine what is ''legal tender'' for the payment of debts, or judicial decisions which construe the term ''for value received'' as used in a promissory note, and so on. In short, any law which at the time of the making of a contract goes to measure the rights and duties of the parties to it in relation to each other enters into its obligation.

  Remedy a Part of the Private Obligation .--Suppose, however, that one of the parties to a contract fails to live up to his obligation as thus determined. The contract itself may now be regarded as at an end, but the injured party, nevertheless, has a new set of rights in its stead, those which are furnished him by the remedial law, including the law of procedure. In the case of a mortgage, he may foreclose; in the case of a promissory note, he may sue; and in certain cases, he may demand specific performance. Hence the further question arises, whether this remedial law is to be considered a part of the law supplying the obligation of contracts. Origi nally, the predominating opinion was negative, since as we have just seen, this law does not really come into operation until the contract has been broken. Yet it is obvious that the sanction which this law lends to contracts is extremely important--indeed, indispensable. In due course it became the accepted doctrine that that part of the law which supplies one party to a contract with a remedy if the other party does not live up to his agreement, as authoritatively interpreted, entered into the ''obligation of contracts'' in the constitutional sense of this term, and so might not be altered to the material weakening of existing contracts. In the Court's own words: ''Nothing can be more material to the obligation than the means of enforcement. Without the remedy the contract may, indeed, in the sense of the law, be said not to exist, and its obligation to fall within the class of those moral and social duties which depend for their fulfillment wholly upon the will of the individual. The ideas of validity and remedy are inseparable . . .'' 1955  

This rule was first definitely announced in 1843 in the case of Bronson v. Kinzie. 1956 Here, an Illinois mortgage giving the mortgagee an unrestricted power of sale in case of the mortgagor's default was involved, along with a later act of the legislature that required mortgaged premises to be sold for not less than two-thirds of the appraised value and allowed the mortgagor a year after the sale to redeem them. It was held that the statute, in altering the preexisting remedies to such an extent, violated the constitutional prohibition and hence was void. The year following a like ruling was made in the case of McCracken v. Hayward, 1957 as to a statutory provision that personal property should not be sold under execution for less than two-thirds of its appraised value.

But the rule illustrated by these cases does not signify that a State may make no changes in its remedial or procedural law that affect existing contracts. ''Provided,'' the Court has said, ''a substantial or efficacious remedy remains or is given, by means of which a party can enforce his rights under the contract, the Legislature may modify or change existing remedies or prescribe new modes of procedure.'' 1958 Thus, States are constantly remodelling their judicial systems and modes of practice unembarrassed by the obligation of contracts clause. 1959 The right of a State to abolish imprisonment for debt was early asserted. 1960 Again, the right of a State to shorten the time for the bringing of actions has been affirmed even as to existing causes of action, but with the proviso added that a reasonable time must be left for the bringing of such actions. 1961 On the other hand, a statute which withdrew the judicial power to enforce satisfaction of a certain class of judgments by mandamus was held invalid. 1962 In the words of the Court: ''Every case must be determined upon its own circumstances;'' 1963 and it later added: ''In all such cases the question becomes . . . one of reasonableness, and of that the legislature is primarily the judge.'' 1964  

There is one class of cases resulting from the doctrine that the law of remedy constitutes a part of the obligation of a contract to which a special word is due. This comprises cases in which the contracts involved were municipal bonds. While a city is from one point of view but an emanation from the government's sovereignty and an agent thereof, when it borrows money it is held to be acting in a corporate or private capacity and so to be suable on its contracts. Furthermore, as was held in the leading case of United States ex rel. Von Hoffman v. Quincy, 1965 ''where a State has authorized a municipal corporation to contract and to exercise the power of local taxation to the extent necessary to meet its engagements, the power thus given cannot be withdrawn until the contract is satisfied.'' In this case, the Court issued a mandamus compelling the city officials to levy taxes for the satisfaction of a judgment on its bonds in accordance with the law as it stood when the bonds were issued. 1966 Nor may a State by dividing an indebted municipality among others enable it to escape its obligations. The debt follows the territory, and the duty of assessing and collecting taxes to satisfy it devolves upon the succeeding corporations and their officers. 1967 But where a municipal organization has ceased practically to exist through the vacation of its offices, and the government's function is exercised once more by the State directly, the Court has thus far found itself powerless to frustrate a program of repudiation. 1968 However, there is no reason why the State should enact the role of particeps criminis in an attempt to relieve its municipalities of the obligation to meet their honest debts. Thus, in 1931, during the Great Depression, New Jersey created a Municipal Finance Commission with power to assume control over its insolvent municipalities. To the complaint of certain bondholders that this legislation impaired the contract obligations of their debtors, the Court, speaking by Justice Frankfurter, pointed out that the practical value of an unsecured claim against a city is ''the effectiveness of the city's taxing power,'' which the legislation under review was designed to conserve. 1969  

  Private Contracts and the Police Power .--The increasing subjection of public grants to the police power of the States has been previously pointed out. That purely private contracts should be in any stronger situation in this respect obviously would be anomalous in the extreme. In point of fact, the ability of private parties to curtail governmental authority by the easy device of contracting with one another is, with an exception to be noted, even less than that of the State to tie its own hands by contracting away its own powers. So, when it was contended in an early Pennsylvania case that an act prohibiting the issuance of notes by unincorporated banking associations was violative of the obligation of contracts clause because of its effect upon certain existing contracts of members of such association, the state Supreme Court answered: ''But it is said, that the members had formed a contract between themselves, which would be dissolved by the stoppage of their business. And what then? Is that such a violation of contracts as is prohibited by the Constitution of the United States? Consider to what such a construction would lead. Let us suppose, that in one of the States there is no law against gaming, cock- fighting, horse-racing or public masquerades, and that companies should be formed for the purpose of carrying on these practices. . . .'' Would the legislature then be powerless to prohibit them? The answer returned, of course, was no. 1970  

The prevailing doctrine was stated by the Supreme Court of the United States in the following words: ''It is the settled law of this court that the interdiction of statutes impairing the obligation of contracts does not prevent the State from exercising such powers as are vested in it for the promotion of the common weal, or are necessary for the general good of the public, though contracts previously entered into between individuals may thereby be affected. . . . In other words, that parties by entering into contracts may not estop the legislature from enacting laws intended for the public good.'' 1971  

So, in an early case, we find a state recording act upheld as applying to deeds dated before the passage of the act. 1972 Later cases have brought the police power in its more customary phases into contact with private as well as with public contracts. Lottery tickets, valid when issued, were necessarily invalidated by legislation prohibiting the lottery business; 1973 contracts for the sale of beer, valid when entered into, were similarly nullified by a state prohibition law; 1974 and contracts of employment were modified by later laws regarding the liability of employers and workmen's compensation. 1975 Likewise, a contract between plaintiff and defendant did not prevent the State from making the latter a concession which rendered the contract worthless; 1976 nor did a contract as to rates between two railway companies prevent the State from imposing different rates; 1977 nor did a contract between a public utility company and a customer protect the rates agreed upon from being superseded by those fixed by the State. 1978 Similarly, a contract for the conveyance of water beyond the limits of a State did not prevent the State from prohibiting such conveyance. 1979  

But the most striking exertions of the police power touching private contracts, as well as other private interests within recent years, have been evoked by war and economic depression. Thus, in World War I, the State of New York enacted a statute, which, declaring that a public emergency existed, forbade the enforcement of covenants for the surrender of the possession of premises on the expiration of leases, and wholly deprived for a period owners of dwellings, including apartment and tenement houses, within the City of New York and contiguous counties, of possessory remedies for the eviction from their premises of tenants in possession when the law took effect, providing the latter were able and willing to pay a reasonable rent. In answer to objections leveled against this legislation on the basis of the obligation of contracts clause, the Court said: ''But contracts are made subject to this exercise of the power of the State when otherwise justified, as we have held this to be.'' 1980 In a subsequent case, however, the Court added that, while the declaration by the legislature of a justifying emergency was entitled to great respect, it was not conclusive; a law ''depending upon the existence of an emergency or other certain state of facts to uphold it may cease to operate if the emergency ceases or the facts change,'' and whether they have changed was always open to judicial inquiry. 1981  

Summing up the result of the cases above referred to, Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for the Court in Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blaisdell, 1982 remarked in 1934: ''It is manifest from this review of our decisions that there has been a growing appreciation of public needs and of the necessity of finding ground for a rational compromise between individual rights and public welfare. The settlement and consequent contraction of the public domain, the pres sure of a constantly increasing density of population, the interrelation of the activities of our people and the complexity of our economic interests, have inevitably led to an increased use of the organization of society in order to protect the very bases of individual opportunity. Where, in earlier days, it was thought that only the concerns of individuals or of classes were involved, and that those of the State itself were touched only remotely, it has later been found that the fundamental interests of the State are directly affected; and that the question is no longer merely that of one party to a contract as against another, but of the use of reasonable means to safeguard the economic structure upon which the good of all depends. . . . The principle of this development is . . . that the reservation of the reasonable exercise of the protective power of the States is read into all contracts . . .'' 1983  

  Evaluation of the Clause Today .--It should not be inferred that the obligation of contracts clause is today totally moribund. Even prior to the most recent decisions, it still furnished the basis for some degree of judicial review as to the substantiality of the factual justification of a professed exercise by a state legislature of its police power, and in the case of legislation affecting the remedial rights of creditors, it still affords a solid and palpable barrier against legislative erosion. Nor is this surprising in view of the fact that, as we have seen, such rights were foremost in the minds of the framers of the clause. The Court's attitude toward insolvency laws, redemption laws, exemption laws, appraisement laws and the like, has always been that they may not be given retroactive operation, 1984 and the general lesson of these earlier cases is confirmed by the Court's decisions between 1934 and 1945 in certain cases involving state moratorium statutes. In Home Building & Loan Assn. v. Blaisdell, 1985 the leading case, a closely divided Court sustained the Minnesota Moratorium Act of April 18, 1933, which, reciting the existence of a severe financial and economic depression for several years and the frequent occurrence of mortgage foreclosure sales for inadequate prices, and asserting that these conditions had created an economic emergency calling for the exercise of the State's police power, authorized its courts to extend the period for redemption from foreclosure sales for such additional time as they might deem just and equitable, although in no event beyond May 1, 1935.

The act also left the mortgagor in possession during the period of extension, subject to the requirement that he pay a reasonable rental for the property as fixed by the court. Contemporaneously, however, less carefully drawn statutes from Missouri and Arkansas, acts which were not as considerate of creditor's rights, were set aside as violative of the contracts clause. 1986 ''A State is free to regulate the procedure in its courts even with reference to contracts already made,'' said Justice Cardozo for the Court, ''and moderate extensions of the time for pleading or for trial will ordinarily fall within the power so reserved. A different situation is presented when extensions are so piled up as to make the remedy a shadow. . . . What controls our judgment at such times is the underlying reality rather than the form or label. The changes of remedy now challenged as invalid are to be viewed in combination, with the cumulative significance that each imparts to all. So viewed they are seen to be an oppressive and unnecessary destruction of nearly all the incidents that give attractiveness and value to collateral security.'' 1987 On the other hand, in the most recent of this category of cases, the Court gave its approval to an extension by the State of New York of its moratorium legislation. While recognizing that business conditions had improved, the Court was of the opinion that there was reason to believe that '''the sudden termination of the legislation which has dammed up normal liquidation of these mortgages for more than eight years might well result in an emergency more acute than that which the original legislation was intended to alleviate.''' 1988  

And meantime the Court had sustained legislation of the State of New York under which a mortgagee of real property was denied a deficiency judgment in a foreclosure suit where the state court found that the value of the property purchased by the mortgagee at the foreclosure sale was equal to the debt secured by the mortgage. 1989 ''Mortgagees,'' the Court said, ''are constitutionally entitled to no more than payment in full. . . . To hold that mortgagees are entitled under the contract clause to retain the advantages of a forced sale would be to dignify into a constitutionally protected property right their chance to get more than the amount of their contracts. . . . The contract clause does not protect such a strategical, procedural advantage.'' 1990  

More important, the Court has been at pains most recently to reassert the vitality of the clause, although one may wonder whether application of the clause will be more than episodic.

''[T]he Contract Clause remains a part of our written Constitution.'' 1991 So saying, the Court struck down state legislation in two instances, one law involving the government's own contractual obligation and the other affecting private contracts. 1992 A finding that a contract has been ''impaired'' in some way is merely the preliminary step in evaluating the validity of the state action. 1993 But in both cases the Court applied a stricter-than-usual scrutiny to the statutory action, in the public contracts case precisely because it was its own obligation that the State was attempting to avoid and in the private contract case, apparently, because the legislation was in aid of a ''narrow class.'' 1994 The approach in any event is one of balancing. ''The severity of the impairment measures the height of the hurdle the state legislation must clear. Minimal alteration of contractual obligations may end the inquiry at its first stage. Severe impairment, on the other hand, will push the inquiry to a careful examination of the nature and purpose of the state legislation.'' 1995 Having determined that a severe impairment had resulted in both cases, 1996 the Court moved on to assess the justifica tion for the state action. In United States Trust, the test utilized by the Court was that an impairment would be upheld only if it were ''necessary'' and ''reasonable'' to serve an important public purpose. But the two terms were given somewhat restrictive meanings. Necessity is shown only when the State's objectives could not have been achieved through less dramatic modifications of the contract; reasonableness is a function of the extent to which alteration of the contract was prompted by circumstances unforeseen at the time of its formation. The repeal of the covenant in issue was found to fail both prongs of the test. 1997 In Spannaus, the Court drew from its prior cases four standards: did the law deal with a broad generalized economic or social problem, did it operate in an area already subject to state regulation at the time the contractual obligations were entered into, did it effect simply a temporary alteration of the contractual relationship, and did the law operate upon a broad class of affected individuals or concerns. The Court found that the challenged law did not possess any of these attributes and thus struck it down. 1998  

Whether these two cases portend an active judicial review of economic regulatory activities, in contrast to the extreme deference shown such legislation under the due process and equal protection clauses, is problematical. Both cases contain language emphasizing the breadth of the police powers of government that may be used to further the public interest and admitting limited judicial scrutiny. Nevertheless, ''[i]f the Contract Clause is to retain any meaning at all . . . it must be understood to impose some limits upon the power of a State to abridge existing contractual relationships, even in the exercise of its otherwise legitimate police power.'' 1999  

Footnotes

[Footnote 1931] Railroad Commission Cases (Stone v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co.), 116 U.S. 307, 330 (1886), extended in Southern Pacific Co. v. Campbell, 230 U.S. 537 (1913) to cases in which the word ''reasonable'' does not appear to qualify the company's right to prescribe tolls. See also American Bridge Co. v. Comm., 307 U.S. 486 (1939).

[Footnote 1932] Georgia Ry. Co. v. Town of Decatur, 262 U.S. 432 (1923). See also Southern Iowa Elec. Co. v. City of Chariton, 255 U.S. 539 (1921).

[Footnote 1933] City of Walla Walla v. Walla Walla Water Co., 172 U.S. 1, 15 (1898).

[Footnote 1934] Skaneateles Water Co. v. Village of Skaneateles, 184 U.S. 354 (1902); Water Co. v. City of Knoxville, 200 U.S. 22 (1906); Madera Water Works v. City of Madera, 228 U.S. 454 (1913).

[Footnote 1935] Rogers Park Water Company v. Fergus, 180 U.S. 624 (1901).

[Footnote 1936] Home Tel. & Tel. Co. v. City of Los Angeles, 211 U.S. 265 (1908); Wyandotte Gas Co. v. Kansas, 231 U.S. 622 (1914).

[Footnote 1937] See also Puget Sound Traction Co. v. Reynolds, 244 U.S. 574 (1917). ''Before we can find impairment of a contract we must find an obligation of the contract which has been impaired. Since the contract here relied upon is one between a political subdivision of a state and private individuals, settled principles of construction require that the obligation alleged to have been impaired be clearly and unequivocally expressed.'' Justice Black for the Court in Keefe v. Clark, 322 U.S. 393, 396 -397 (1944).

[Footnote 1938] Brick Presbyterian Church v. New York, 5 Cow. (N.Y.) 538, 540 (1826).

[Footnote 1939] West River Bridge Company v. Dix, 47 U.S. (6 How.) 507 (1848). See also Backus v. Lebanon, 11 N.H. 19 (1840); White River Turnpike Co. v. Vermont Cent. R. Co., 21 Vt. 590 (1849); and Bonaparte v. Camden & A.R. Co., 3 Fed. Cas. 821 (No. 1617) (C.C.D.N.J. 1830).

[Footnote 1940] Pennsylvania Hospital v. City of Philadelphia, 245 U.S. 20 (1917).

[Footnote 1941] Illinois Central R. Co. v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387, 453 , 455 (1892).

[Footnote 1942] See especially Home of the Friendless v. Rouse, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 430 (1869), and The Washington University v. Rouse, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 439 (1869).

[Footnote 1943] Georgia R. Co. v. Redwine, 342 U.S. 299, 305 -306 (1952). The Court distinguished In re Ayers, 123 U.S. 443 (1887) on the ground that the action there was barred ''as one in substance directed at the State merely to obtain specific performance of a contract with the State.'' 342 U.S., 305.

[Footnote 1944]   101 U.S. 814 (1880).

[Footnote 1945] Id., 820-821.

[Footnote 1946] Butcher's Union Co. v. Crescent City Co., 111 U.S. 746 (1884).

[Footnote 1947] New Orleans Gas Co. v. Louisiana Light Co., 115 U.S. 650 (1885).

[Footnote 1948] Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. City of Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548, 558 (1914). See also Chicago & Alton Railroad v. Tranbarger, 238 U.S. 67 (1915); Pennsylvania Hospital v. Philadelphia, 245 U.S. 20 (1917); where the police power and eminent domain are treated on the same basis in respect of inalienability; Wabash Railroad Company v. Defiance, 167 U.S. 88, 97 (1897); Home Tel. & Tel. v. City of Los Angeles, 211 U.S. 265 (1908).

[Footnote 1949] Morley v. Lake Shore Railway Co., 146 U.S. 162 (1892); New Orleans v. N.O. Water Works Co., 142 U.S. 79 (1891); Missouri & Ark L. & M. Co. v. Sebastion County, 249 U.S. 170 (1919). But cf. Livingston's Lessee v. Moore, 32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 469, 549 (1833); and Garrison v. New York, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 196, 203 (1875), suggesting that a different view was earlier entertained in the case of judgments in actions of debt.

[Footnote 1950] Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888); Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518, 629 (1819). Cf. Andrews v. Andrews, 188 U.S. 14 (1903). The question whether a wife's rights in the community property under the laws of California were of a contractual nature was raised but not determined in Moffit v. Kelly, 218 U.S. 400 (1910).

[Footnote 1951] New Orleans v. New Orleans Water Works Co., 142 U.S. 79 (1891); Zane v. Hamilton County, 189 U.S. 370, 381 (1903).

[Footnote 1952]   17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 122 (1819).

[Footnote 1953]   25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 213 (1827).

[Footnote 1954] Id., 353-354.

[Footnote 1955] United States ex rel. Von Hoffman v. Quincy, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 535, 552 (1867).

[Footnote 1956]   42 U.S. (1 How.) 311 (1843).

[Footnote 1957]   43 U.S. (2 How.) 608 (1844).

[Footnote 1958] Oshkosh Waterworks Co. v. Oshkosh, 187 U.S. 437, 439 (1903); City & Lake Railroad v. New Orleans, 157 U.S. 219 (1895).

[Footnote 1959] Antoni v. Greenhow, 107 U.S. 769 (1883).

[Footnote 1960] The right was upheld in Mason v. Haile, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 370 (1827), and again in Penniman's Case, 103 U.S. 714 (1881).

[Footnote 1961] McGahey v. Virginia, 135 U.S. 662 (1890).

[Footnote 1962] Louisiana v. New Orleans, 102 U.S. 203 (1880).

[Footnote 1963] United States ex rel. Von Hoffman v. Quincy, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 535, 554 (1867).

[Footnote 1964] Antoni v. Greenhow, 107 U.S. 769, 775 (1883). Illustrations of changes in remedies, which have been sustained, may be seen in the following cases: Jackson v. Lamphire, 28 U.S. (3 Pet.) 280 (1830); Hawkins v. Barney's Lessee, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 457 (1831); Crawford v. Branch Bank of Mobile 48 U.S. (7 How.) 279 (1849); Curtis v. Whitney, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 68 (1872); Railroad Co. v. Hecht, 95 U.S. 168 (1877); Terry v. Anderson, 95 U.S. 628 (1877); Tennessee v. Sneed, 96 U.S. 69 (1877); South Carolina v. Gaillard, 101 U.S. 433 (1880); Louisiana v. New Orleans, 102 U.S. 203 (1880); Connecticut Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Cushman, 108 U.S. 51 (1883); Vance v. Vance, 108 U.S. 514 (1883); Gilfillan v. Union Canal Co., 109 U.S. 401 (1883); Hill v. Merchant's Ins. Co., 134 U.S. 515 (1890); City & Lake Railroad v. New Orleans, 157 U.S. 219 (1895); Red River Valley Bank v. Craig, 181 U.S. 548 (1901); Wilson v. Standefer, 184 U.S. 399 (1902); Oshkosh Waterworks Co. v. Oshkosh, 187 U.S. 437 (1903); Waggoner v. Flack, 188 U.S. 595 (1903); Bernheimer v. Converse, 206 U.S. 516 (1907); Henley v. Myers, 215 U.S. 373 (1910); Selig v. Hamilton, 234 U.S. 652 (1914); Security Bank v. California, 263 U.S. 282 (1923); United States Mortgage Co. v. Matthews, 293 U.S. 232 (1934); McGee v. International Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220 (1957).

[Footnote 1965]   71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 535, 554 -555 (1867).

[Footnote 1966] See also Nelson v. St. Martin's Parish, 111 U.S. 716 (1884).

[Footnote 1967] Mobile v. Watson, 116 U.S. 289 (1886); Graham v. Folsom, 200 U.S. 248 (1906).

[Footnote 1968] Heine v. Levee Commissioners, 86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 655 (1874). Cf., Virginia v. West Virginia, 246 U.S. 565 (1918).

[Footnote 1969] Faitoute Co. v. City of Asbury Park, 316 U.S. 502, 510 (1942). Alluding to the ineffectiveness of purely judicial remedies against defaulting municipalities, Justice Frankfurter says: ''For there is no remedy when resort is had to 'devices and contrivances' to nullify the taxing power which can be carried out only through authorized officials. See Rees v. City of Watertown, 86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 107, 124 (1874). And so we have had the spectacle of taxing officials resigning from office in order to frustrate tax levies through mandamus, and officials running on a platform of willingness to go to jail rather than to enforce a tax levy ( see Raymond, State and Municipal Bonds, 342- 343), and evasion of service by tax collectors, thus making impotent a court's mandate. Yost v. Dallas County, 236 U.S. 50, 57 (1915).'' Id., 511.

[Footnote 1970] Myers v. Irwin, 2 S. & R. (Pa.), 367, 372 (1816); see, to the same effect, Lindenmuller v. The People, 33 Barb. (N.Y.) 548 (1861); Brown v. Penobscot Bank, 8 Mass. 445 (1812).

[Footnote 1971] Manigault v. Springs, 199 U.S. 473, 480 (1905).

[Footnote 1972] Jackson v. Lamphire, 28 U.S. (3 Pet.) 280 (1830). See also Phalen v. Virginia, 49 U.S. (8 How.) 163 (1850).

[Footnote 1973] Stone v. Mississippi, 101 U.S. 814 (1880).

[Footnote 1974] Beer Co. v. Massachusetts, 97 U.S. 25 (1878).

[Footnote 1975] New York Central R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188 (1917). In this and the preceding two cases the legislative act involved did not except from its operation existing contracts.

[Footnote 1976] Manigault v. Springs, 199 U.S. 473 (1905).

[Footnote 1977] Portland Ry. Co. v. Oregon R. Comm., 229 U.S. 397 (1913).

[Footnote 1978] Midland Co. v. Kansas City Power Co., 300 U.S. 109 (1937).

[Footnote 1979] Hudson Water Co. v. McCarter, 209 U.S. 349 (1908).

[Footnote 1980] Marcus Brown Co. v. Feldman, 256 U.S. 170, 198 (1921), followed in Levy Leasing Co. v. Siegel, 258 U.S. 242 (1922).

[Footnote 1981] Chastleton Corp. v. Sinclair, 264 U.S. 543, 547 -548 (1924).

[Footnote 1982]   290 U.S. 398 (1934).

[Footnote 1983] Id., 442, 444. See also Veix v. Sixth Ward Assn. 310 U.S. 32 (1940), in which was sustained a New Jersey statute amending in view of the Depression the law governing building and loan associations. The authority of the State to safeguard the vital interests of the people, said Justice Reed, ''extends to economic needs as well.'' Id., 39. In Lincoln Federal Labor Union v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., 335 U.S. 525, 531 -532 (1949), the Court dismissed out-of-hand a suggestion that a state law outlawing union security agreements was an invalid impairment of existing contracts, citing Blaisdell and Veix.

[Footnote 1984] See especially Edwards v. Kearzey, 96 U.S. 595 (1878); Barnitz v. Beverly, 163 U.S. 118 (1896).

[Footnote 1985]   290 U.S. 398 (1934).

[Footnote 1986] W. B. Worthen Co. v. Thomas, 292 U.S. 426 (1934); W. B. Worthen Co. v. Kavanaugh, 295 U.S. 56 (1935).

[Footnote 1987] Id., 62.

[Footnote 1988] East New York Bank v. Hahn, 326 U.S. 230, 235 (1945), quoting New York Legislative Document (1942), No. 45, p. 25.

[Footnote 1989] Honeyman v. Jacobs, 306 U.S. 539 (1939). See also Gelfert v. National City Bank, 313 U.S. 221 (1941).

[Footnote 1990] Id., 233-234.

[Footnote 1991] United States Trust Co. v. New Jersey, 431 U.S. 1, 16 (1977). ''It is not a dead letter.'' Allied Structural Steel Co. v. Spannaus, 438 U.S. 234, 241 (1978). A majority of the Court seems fully committed to using the clause. Only Justices Brennan, White, and Marshall dissented in both cases. Chief Justice Burger and Justices Rehnquist and Stevens joined both opinions of the Court. Of the three remaining Justices, who did not participate in one or the other case, Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion in United States Trust while Justice Stewart wrote the opinion in Spannaus and Justice Powell joined it.

[Footnote 1992] United States Trust involved a repeal of a covenant statutorily enacted to encourage persons to purchase New York-New Jersey Port Authority bonds by limiting the Authority's ability to subsidize rail passenger transportation. Spannaus involved a statute requiring prescribed employers who had a qualified pension plan to provide funds sufficient to cover full pensions for all employees who had worked at least 10 years if the employer either terminated the plan or closed his offices in the State, a law that greatly altered the company's liabilities under its contractual pension plan.

[Footnote 1993] 431 U.S., 21; 438 U.S., 244.

[Footnote 1994] 431 U.S., 22-26; 438 U.S., 248.

[Footnote 1995] 438 U.S., 245.

[Footnote 1996] 431 U.S., 17-21 (the Court was unsure of the value of the interest impaired but deemed it ''an important security provision''); 438 U.S. 244 -247 (statute mandated company to recalculate, and in one lump sum, contributions previously adequate).

[Footnote 1997] 431 U.S., 25-32 (State could have modified the impairment to achieve its purposes without totally abandoning the covenant, though the Court reserved judgment whether lesser impairments would have been constitutional, id., 30 n. 28, and it had alternate means to achieve its purposes; the need for mass transportation was obvious when covenant was enacted and State could not claim that unforeseen circumstances had arisen.)

[Footnote 1998] 438 U.S., 244-251. See also Exxon Corp. v. Eagerton, 462 U.S. 176 (1983) (emphasizing the first but relying on all but the third of these tests in upholding a prohibition on pass-through of an oil and gas severance tax).

[Footnote 1999] 438 U.S., 242 (emphasis by Court).


 

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Annotations p. 56