LANCEY v. KING COUNTY, 15 Wash. 9; 45 P. 645 (1896).


No. 2137.

SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON


June 18, 1896, Decided
Appeal from Superior Court, King County.--Hon. J. W.
LANGLEY, Judge. Affirmed.

Court: Affirmed.

Syllabus: CONSTITUTONAL LAW--TITLE OF ACT--PUBLIC
IMPROVEMENTS--COUNTY AID--EMINENT DOMAIN--EXERCISE FOR
BENEFIT OF UNITED STATES.
An act of the legislature will not be declared void on the
ground of violating the constitutional provision that "no
bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be
expressed in the title," unless the violation is most
clear--sound policy and legislative convenience requiring
that this provision should be liberally construed.
The act of February 12, 1895, entitled "an act to grant and
prescribe powers of counties relative to public works
undertaken or proposed by the State of Washington, or the
United States," contains but one subject matter, which is
fairly embraced within the scope of its title.
An act authorizing counties to condemn land for a
right-of-way for a ship canal projected by the general
government, is not a violation of art. 8, 7, of the
constitution, which forbids counties giving any money or
property, etc., to or in aid of any individual, association,
company or corporation, etc., as neither the state nor the
United States can be brought within the meaning of the
section.
Such undertaking is not open to the objection that it is in
violation of art. 8, 6, of the constitution, which
prohibits a county from incurring debt for any other than
strictly county purposes, as it is entirely within the
limits of the county, and for the purpose of connecting two
large local waterways with the Pacific ocean.
The fact that an act authorizes the exercise of the state's
eminent domain for the purpose of constructing a ship canal
which shall be under the control of the general government,
but for the use and benefit of the public generally, will
not render the act unconstitutional, when there is no
express constitutional provision prohibiting it.

Counsel: C. W. Turner, for appellant.
A. W. Hastie, Prosecuting Attorney, (Roger S. Greene, and
Thomas Burke, of counsel), for respondents.

Judge(s) SCOTT, J. HOYT, C. J., and DUNBAR, ANDERS and
GORDON, JJ., concur.

Opinion By: SCOTT
The opinion of the court was delivered by
SCOTT, J.--This action was brought to enjoin the
respondents, as county officers, from proceeding, under an
act of the legislature approved February 12, 1895 (Laws
1895, p. 3), entitled "An act to grant to and prescribe
powers of counties relative to public works undertaken or
proposed by the State of Washington, or the United States,
and declaring an emergency," to condemn land for a right of
way for a ship canal to connect Lakes Union and Washington
in King county with the waters of Puget Sound, an
undertaking projected by the general government.
The constitutionality of the act is attacked upon several
grounds, the first of which is that it is in violation of
19, art. 2, of the constitution, which provides that "No
bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be
expressed in the title. " Similar provisions are contained
in the constitutions of many of the states, and there are so
many cases bearing upon the proposition as to prevent a
consideration of them in detail. It is well settled,
however, by the weight of authority, that an act of the
legislature will not be declared void except in cases where
the violation of this constitutional inhibition is most
clear, and sound policy and legislative convenience require
that this provision should be liberally construed. The
subject of this act is the condemnation and disposal of land
by counties for a public use in relation to public
improvements undertaken by the State or the United States;
and, in our opinion, the subject matter of the act is fairly
included within the scope of its title, and there is nothing
misleading in the title. The powers granted are not itemized
therein, but this is unnecessary. The title gives notice
that certain powers are granted for the purposes mentioned,
and that those powers are prescribed in the act. There is
one general subject embraced in the act and only one, and
that is expressed in the title sufficiently to prevent any
person from being misled thereby. The purpose of the title
is only to call attention to the subject matter of the act,
and the act itself must be looked to for a full description
of the powers conferred. Marston v. Humes,
3 Wash. 267 (28
P. 520); Montclair v. Ramsdell, 107 U.S. 147 (2 S. Ct. 391,
27 L. Ed. 431); State, ex rel. McCarty, v. Comrs., 26 Ind.
522; People v. Briggs, 50 N.Y. 553; Allegheny Co. Home's
Case, 77 Pa. 77; Johnson v. People, 83 Ill. 431.
Another objection is that the act is in conflict with 7,
art. 8, of the constitution, which provides that, "No county
. . . shall hereafter give any money or property, or loan
its money or credit, to or in aid of any individual,
association, company or corporation, except for the
necessary support of the poor and infirm, or become directly
or indirectly the owner of any stock in or bonds of any
association, company or corporation." It is clear that
neither the state nor the United States is an "individual,
association, company or corporation," within the meaning of
this section, and cannot legitimately be brought therein by
any judicial construction thereof. Walker v. Cincinnati, 21
Ohio St. 14 (8 Am. Rep. 24).
It is next insisted that the act is obnoxious to the
provisions of 6, art. 8, of the constitution, which
prohibits a county from incurring debt for any other than
strictly county purposes, it being contended that the tax to
be levied in the prosecution of said undertaking is not for
a county purpose, but that it is for a state or federal
purpose. But it is beyond question that the proposed
undertaking is a public improvement. It is entirely within
the limits of King county, and is for the purpose of
connecting twolarge public waterways with the Pacific ocean,
and it seems to us that such a canal can more properly be
considered a public improvement than a railway for the
construction of which it is well settled that aid may be
granted by a municipality when authorized to do so by the
legislature, there being no constitutional prohibition. The
word "strictly" lends little or no additional meaning to the
provision. It could not have been intended thereby to limit
counties to ordinary running expenses, and a canal may be as
strictly a county purpose as a highway or a bridge, etc. It
is apparent that the benefits resulting from this particular
improvement will be largely local, notwithstanding the fact
that it may also be of great general benefit, and it results
that the purpose of the tax is local as well as public. 1
Desty, Taxation, 8, 59; Goddin v. Crump, 8 Leigh 120;
County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U.S. 691, 26 L. Ed. 238;
Folsom v. Ninety-Six, 159 U.S. 611 (16 S. Ct. 174, 40 L. Ed.
278); Atlantic Trust Co. v. Darlington, 63 F. 76; Hasbrouck
v. Milwaukee, 13 Wis. 37 (80 Am. Dec. 718); Burr v.
Carbondale, 76 Ill. 455.
The remaining objection to the act and the one most
strongly insisted upon by the appellants is that the act
authorizes the exercise of the state's eminent domain for
the use and benefit of the United States. But this is hardly
a fair statement of the proposition. While it is proposed to
convey the right of way, when obtained, to the United
States, the improvement is for the use and benefit of the
general public and in a much greater degree for the citizens
of that locality. It is not to be occupied and controlled by
government agents like a fort, but is for everybody's use as
a great public highway, and the control by the general
government is only to regulate that use for the general
good, and it matters little by whom this is done. The
essential character of the work, as a local public
improvement directly connected with the commercial business
of the citizens of the county, cannot be taken away from it,
even though it has a considerable value to the general
government for naval purposes and otherwise. It is apparent
that the character of the work cannot be essentially altered
by its ownership or control, and it is immaterial whether
the United States or the county prosecutes the enterprise,
or whether they do so jointly. Nor can it make any
difference whether the power of the state or that of the
general government is invoked to condemn the right of way.
It is conceded that either the United States or the county
could singly prosecute the enterprise, and if either could
do it, it would require some good reason for holding that
they could not proceed jointly. The appellants contend that,
in all cases where the eminent domain of the state is
exercised in the prosecution of a public improvement, the
improvement when constructed must remain in the control of
the local authorities. If this assertion were true, it would
afford a sufficient reason for holding that the contemplated
undertaking was unauthorized in the form in which it is
being prosecuted. But we are clearly of the opinion that
this contention is not well founded, as, if the improvement
be for a public use and benefit, the state can authorize the
exercise of its eminent domain by individuals or by
corporations other than municipal, and if there is no
constitutional prohibition, it may be a foreign corporation.
N. Y. & Erie Ry. Co. v. Young, 33 Pa. 175; Abbott v. N. Y. &
N. E. R. R. Co., 145 Mass. 450 (15 N.E. 91). And in such
cases the control or management of the improvement is not
retained by the state. For a more marked instance see the
case of In re Townsend, 39 N.Y. 171, where a canal was
constructed without the limits of the state, but which
resulted in some damage to lands within the state.
Appellants concede that there are several cases holding
that the exercise of the state's eminent domain can be for
the benefit of the United States, but they contend that in
such instances the question of the public use was a
legislative and not a judicial question; but it is apparent
that this can go only to the manner of deciding it, and if
it is for a public use, the condition is satisfied, however
decided.
A case very like the one at bar was that in the Matter of
Petition of United States, 96 N.Y. 227, where many of the
cases are taken up and considered. There, by an act of the
legislature, the United States was granted the right to
acquire the right of way necessary for the improvement of
the Harlem river and Spuyten Duyvil creek, and for the
construction of another channel from the North river to the
East river through the Harlem Kills, and ceding
jurisdiction. The undertaking was prosecuted jointly by the
state and national governments, and the court said that if
either party might proceed in the matter, "it would be very
singular if that which either party might do could not with
equal propriety be accomplished by both." If such were not
the case, it might prevent the consummation of a great
public undertaking, such as is contemplated here, on account
of the vast expense, if it was to be exclusively borne by
the locality principally benefited, and through the
unwillingness of the general government to bear the entire
expense where the benefits were so largely local.
We are of the opinion that no such condition of affairs
was intended by the constitution makers, and there being no
express provisions in the constitution prohibiting it, a
narrow, technical construction should not be adopted to
bring it about.
Affirmed.
HOYT, C. J., and DUNBAR, ANDERS and GORDON, JJ., concur.