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RIDER V. UNITED STATES, 178 U. S. 251 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rider v. United States, 178 U.S. 251 (1900)

Rider v. United States

No. 40

Argued November 1, 1899

Decided May 14, 1900

178 U.S. 251


The fourth and fifth sections of the River and Harbor Act, approved September 19, 1890, provide:

"§ 4. That section nine of the River and Harbor Act of August 11th, 1888, be amended and reenacted so as to read as follows: That whenever the Secretary of War shall have good reason to believe that any railroad or other bridge now constructed or which may hereafter be constructed over any of the navigable waterways of the United States is an unreasonable obstruction to the free navigation of such waters on account of insufficient height, width or span, or otherwise, or where there is difficulty in passing the draw-opening of the draw-span of such bridge by rafts, steamboats, or other watercrafts, it shall be the duty of said Secretary, first giving the parties reasonable opportunities

Page 178 U. S. 252

to be heard, to give notice to the persons or corporations owning or controlling such bridge so to alter the same as to render navigation through or under it reasonably free, easy, and unobstructed, and in giving such notice, he shall specify the changes to be made and shall prescribe in each case a reasonable time in which to make them. If, at the end of such time, the alteration has not been made, the Secretary of War shall forthwith notify the United States District Attorney for the district in which such bridge is situated to the end that the criminal proceedings mentioned in the succeeding section may be taken."

"§ 5. That section ten of the River and Harbor Act of August 11th, 1888, be amended and reenacted so as to read as follows: That if the persons, corporations or associations owning or controlling any railroad or other bridge shall, after receiving notice to that effect, as hereinbefore required, from the Secretary of War, and within the time prescribed by him, willfully fail or refuse to remove the same, or to comply with the lawful order of the Secretary of War in the premises, such person, corporation or association shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000, and every month such person, corporation or association shall remain in default as to the removal or alteration of such bridge shall be deemed a new offense and subject the person, corporation, or association so offending to the penalties above described."

26 Stat. 426, 453, c. 907. Proceeding under that act, the Secretary of War gave notice to the County Commissioners of Muskingum County, Ohio, to make on or before a named day certain alterations in a bridge over the Muskingum River, Ohio, at Taylorsville in that state. The Commissioners, although having control of the bridge, did not make the alterations required, and were indicted under the act of Congress. Held that, however broadly the act of Congress may be construed, it ought not to be construed as embracing officers of a municipal corporation owning or controlling a bridge who had not in their hands, and under the laws of their state could not obtain, public moneys that could be applied in execution of the order of the Secretary of War within the time fixed by that officer to complete the alteration of such bridge.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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