TONAWANDA V. LYON, 181 U. S. 389 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tonawanda v. Lyon, 181 U.S. 389 (1901)

Tonawanda v. Lyon

No. 214

Argued February 26, 1901

Decided April 29, 1901

181 U.S. 389


It was not the intention of the court in Norwood v. Baker, 172 U. S. 289, to hold that the general and special taxing systems of the states, however long existing and sustained as valid by their courts, have been subverted by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but the purpose of that amendment is to extend to the citizens and residents of the states the same protection against arbitrary state legislation, affecting life, liberty and property, as is afforded by the Fifth Amendment against similar legislation by Congress.

This was the case of a bill in equity filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of New York on September 9, 1899, by James B. Lyon, a citizen of the State of New York, against the Town of Tonawanda, a municipal corporation of that state, and John K. Patton, supervisor of said town. The object of the bill was to restrain the defendants from enforcing payment of a certain assessment against tracts or parcels of land belonging to the complainant, situated in the Town of Tonawanda, and abutting on Delaware Street in said town. The assessment was levied against said tracts of land to meet the expense of grading and paving said street, in pursuance of the provisions of statutes of the State of New York and of an order of the Town Board of Tonawanda. The principal matter complained of was that the method of meeting the expense of grading and paving the said street was by assessing the same against the lots abutting on the street according to frontage thereon, and that the statutes and proceedings thereunder, which provided for that method, were contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States in that thereby the land of the complainant would be taken for public use without just compensation, and he be deprived of his property without due process of law. chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 390

The case came on for final hearing on bill, answer, and a stipulation of facts, and on January 17, 1900, the circuit court decreed, among other things, as follows:

"That those parts of the acts of the Legislature of the State of New York mentioned and set forth in plaintiff's bill of complaint, to-wit, of chapter 550 of the laws of the State of New York for the year 1893, and of chapter 816 of the laws of the State of New York for the year 1895, which authorize and require the town board of said town to levy the assessment for the entire expense of paving said Delaware Street, set forth in the bill of complaint, upon the complainant's said parcels of land described in said bill of complaint and the other lands fronting on said Delaware Street, and the acts of the said defendant, the Town of Tonawanda, by its town board, mentioned in said bill of complaint, in levying said assessments upon said lands according to the rule prescribed in said acts of said legislature, to-wit in the proportion which the number of front feet of each of said lots and parcels of land bounding and fronting on said Delaware Street in front of which said improvement of paving said street was made, and which are assessed therefor in and by said assessment, bear and are to the aggregate number of feet of frontage of all the lots of land so bounding on the portion of said street in front of which said improvement was made, was and were, and each and every of said provisions of said acts of the Legislature of the State of New York, and all acts of said defendant, the Town of Tonawanda, in levying said assessment in the manner and form aforesaid, are wholly unconstitutional and void as being contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of the United States."

And thereupon the Town of Tonawanda and John K. Patton as supervisor of said town were forever enjoined and restrained "from in any manner collecting or enforcing payment of such assessments against said complainant or his land or property." 98 F.3d 1.

On January 17, 1900, an appeal from said decree to this Court was prayed for and allowed. chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 391


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