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U.S. Supreme Court

City of Tacoma v. Taxpayers of Tacoma, 357 U.S. 320 (1958)

City of Tacoma v. Taxpayers of Tacoma

No. 509

Argued April 30, 1958

Decided June 23, 1958

357 U.S. 320


Under the Federal Power Act, the City of Tacoma, a municipality of the State of Washington authorized to construct and operate electric power plants, applied for a license to construct and operate a hydroelectric project on navigable waters. Its application was opposed by the State on the ground, inter alia, that one of the reservoirs which would be created by the proposed dams would inundate a fish hatchery owned by the State, but the Commission issued the license. Under § 313 of the Act, the State petitioned the Court of Appeals for review and challenged the Commission's authority to issue the license on the ground, inter alia, that the City could not act in opposition to the policy of the State. Holding that state laws cannot prevent the Commission from issuing a license or bar the licensee from acting thereunder, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's order. This Court denied certiorari. In a proceeding by the City for a judgment declaring valid a bond issue to finance the project, a state court enjoined the City from proceeding with the project. The Supreme Court of Washington affirmed on the ground that the City was not authorized by state law to condemn state-owned property. This Court granted certiorari.

Held: the judgment is reversed. Pp. 357 U. S. 322-341.

1. The fact that the project cannot be completed before expiration of the license does not require dismissal of the writ on the ground that the case is moot, because § 13 of the Act expressly authorizes the Commission to extend the time for completing the project, and an application for extension is pending. P. 357 U. S. 333.

2. Under § 313(b) of the Act, the judgment of the Court of Appeals became final upon this Court's denial of certiorari; it is binding upon the State, its officers and its citizens, including the taxpayers of Tacoma, and the objections and claims to the contrary asserted by the State, its officers, and the taxpayers of Tacoma in the bond validation suit were impermissible collateral attacks upon, and de novo litigation between the same parties of issues chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 357 U. S. 321

determined by, the final judgment of the Court of Appeals. Pp. 357 U. S. 334-341.

(a) Under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government has dominion, to the exclusion of the States, over navigable waters of the United States. P. 334.

(b) Under § 313(b) of the Federal Power Act, the Court of Appeals had "exclusive jurisdiction" to review the Commission's order; all objections to the order, to the licenses to be issued thereunder, and to the legal competence of the licensee to execute its terms, must be made in the Court of Appeals or not at all, and the judgment of the Court of Appeals is "final," subject to review by this Court. Pp. 357 U. S. 335-337.

(c) Upon review of the Commission's order, the Court of Appeals overruled the State's contention that the City, as a creature of the State, had no right to take or destroy property of the State. Pp. 357 U. S. 337-339.

(d) Even if it be thought that this issue was not raised in the Court of Appeals, that was the only place where it could be raised, because the Court of Appeals had "exclusive jurisdiction," and Congress has declared that its judgment "shall be final," subject to review by this Court. P. 357 U. S. 339.

(e) The decision of the Court of Appeals left open possible questions with reference to "indebtedness limitations" in the City's charter and other "questions of this nature," but it did not leave open the right of the City to receive and perform, as licensee of the Federal Government under the Federal Power Act, the federal rights determined by the Commission and delegated to the City as specified in the license. Pp. 357 U. S. 339-340.

(f) The final judgment of the Court of Appeals was effective not only against the State, but also against its citizens, including the taxpayers of Tacoma, for they, in their common public rights as citizens, were represented by the State in those proceedings and, like it, were bound by the judgment. Pp. 357 U. S. 340-341.

49 Wash.2d 781, 307 P.2d 567, reversed and remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 357 U. S. 322

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