U.S. Supreme Court
Litchfield v. Ballou, 114 U.S. 190 (1885)
Litchfield v. Ballou
Submitted January 9, 1885
Decided April 6, 1885
114 U.S. 190
When a bill in chancery sets forth facts which would support an action at law for money loaned and received, the latter is the appropriate remedy, and the bill fails for want of equitable jurisdiction.
A provision in a state constitution that municipal corporations shall not become indebted in any manner nor for any purpose to an amount exceeding five percent of the taxable property therein forbids implied as well as expressed indebtedness, and is as binding on a court of equity as on a court of law.
A creditor who has loaned to a municipal corporation (in excess of the amount of indebtedness authorized by the constitution of the state) money which has been used in part for the construction of public works is not entitled to a decree in equity for the return of his money because the municipality has parted with that specific money, and it cannot be identified.
A bill in equity praying for the return to the plaintiff of specified, identical moneys borrowed by a municipal corporation from him in violation of law will not support a general decree that there is due from the municipality to him a sum named which is equal to the amount borrowed.
A constitutional provision forbidding a municipality from borrowing money operates equally to prevent moneys loaned to it in violation of this provision and used in the construction of a public work from becoming a lien upon the works constructed with it.
This was a bill in chancery to enforce payment of moneys loaned to a municipality in violation of law, and for which it had been held that an action could not be maintained at law. Buchanan v. Litchfield, 102 U. S. 278. The facts making the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.