Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Chicago
|Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued November 6 – November 9, 1896
Decided March 1, 1897
|Full case name||Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago|
|Citations||166 U.S. 226 (more)
166 U.S. 226
|The 14th Amendment's due process clause requires that states provide fair compensation for seizing private property.|
|Majority||Harlan, joined by Field, Gray, Brown, Shiras, White, Peckham|
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Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. City of Chicago, 166 U.S. 226 (1897), incorporated the takings clause of the 5th Amendment into the due process clause of the 14th Amendment by requiring states to provide just compensation for seizing private property. This was the first Supreme Court case that incorporated an amendment of the Bill of Rights and applied it to a state or local government. Prior to this case, the Bill of Rights was considered to only apply to the federal government.
Facts of the Case
The Chicago city council decided on October 9, 1880 to widen Rockwell Street, which required appropriating land owned by private individuals, as well as the right of way for property owned by Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company. In a jury trial, the jury awarded fair compensation to the individual land owners for condemning their lots, and awarded the railroad company one dollar ($1.00) for appropriating the right of way for its property (166 U.S. 226, 230). The railroad company appealed.
The City of Chicago contended that due process of law was purely procedural and only required allowing the railroad company's case to be heard: "the question as to the amount of compensation to be awarded to the railroad company was one of local law merely, and...the company appearing and having full opportunity to be heard, the requirement of due process of law was observed" (166 U.S. 226, 233).
Opinion of the Court
"Regard must be had to substance, not to form"
Justice Harlan argued that the concept of due process of law required that fair compensation be given for any private property seized by the state. In responding to the City of Chicago's claim that due process of law was served merely by allowing the railroad company's grievance to be heard, Justice Harlan states that satisfying legislative procedure alone is not enough to satisfy due process, writing that "In determining what is due process of law, regard must be had to substance, not to form" (166 U.S. 226, 235). Harlan then claims that part of this 'substance' of due process requires the legislation to provide for fair compensation for private property, writing that
"The legislature may prescribe a form of procedure to be observed in the taking of private property for public use, but it is not due process of law if provision be not made for compensation. Notice to the owner to appear in some judicial tribunal and show cause why his property shall not be taken for public use without compensation would be a mockery of justice. Due process of law, as applied to judicial proceedings instituted for the taking of private property for public use means, therefore, such process as recognizes the right of the owner to be compensated if his property be wrested from him and transferred to the public."—Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Chicago: 166 U.S. 226, 237 (1897)
"Wanting in the due process of law required by the fourteenth amendment"
After determining just compensation was therefore required for a conception of due process of law, the court for the first time incorporated an amendment into the 14th amendment's due process clause when Justice Harlan wrote
"In our opinion, a judgment of a state court, even if it be authorized by statute, whereby private property is taken for the state or under its direction for public use, without compensation made or secured to the owner, is, upon principle and authority, wanting in the due process of law required by the fourteenth amendment of the constitution of the United States, and the affirmance of such judgment by the highest court of the state is a denial by that state of a right secured to the owner by that instrument."—Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Chicago: 166 U.S. 266, 241 (1897)
Having decided that the state is required to give just compensation after seizing private property for public use, the majority then found that just compensation had in fact been given to the railroad company by the state in this case.
In his dissent, Justice Brewer agreed that the due process of law required just compensation, but disagreed with the majority finding that just compensation had indeed been given to the railroad, arguing that the one dollar in compensation given to the railroad was merely nominal. In response to the majority opinion, Justice Brewer wrote that:
"It is disappointing, after reading so strong a declaration of the protecting reach of the fourteenth amendment, and the power and duty of this court in enforcing it as against action by a state by any of its officers and agencies, to find sustained a judgment, depriving a party - even though a railroad corporation - of valuable property without any, or at least only nominal, compensation."—Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Chicago: 166 U.S. 266, 259 (1897)
This case incorporated the Takings clause of the 5th amendment into the due process clause of 14th amendment, and was the first to incorporate any amendment of the Bill of Rights and apply it against the States.