Reinman v. City of Little Rock/Opinion of the Court

Reinman v. City of Little Rock, 237 U.S. 171 (1915)
Opinion of the Court by Mahlon Pitney
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Opinion of the Court
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107 Ark. 174

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The decision of the state court of last resort is conclusive upon the point that the ordinance under consideration is within the scope of the powers conferred by the state legislature upon the city council of Little Rock. It must therefore be treated, for the purposes of our jurisdiction, as an act of legislation proceeding from the lawmaking power of the state; for a municipal ordinance passed under authority delegated by the legislature is a state law within the meaning of the Federal Constitution; and any enactment, from whatever source originating, to which a state gives the force of law, is a statute of the state within the meaning of Judicial Code, § 237 [36 Stat. 1156, c. 231, Comp. Stat. 1913, § 1214], which confers jurisdiction upon this court. Atlantic Coast Line v. Goldsboro, 232 U.S. 548, 555, and cases cited.

Therefore the argument that a livery stable is not a nuisance per se, which is much insisted upon by plaintiffs in error, is beside the question. Granting that it is not a nuisance per se, it is clearly within the police power of the state to regulate the business, and to that end to declare that in particular circumstances and in particular localities a livery stable shall be deemed a nuisance in fact and in law, provided this power is not exerted arbitrarily, or with unjust discrimination, so as to infringe upon rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. For no question is made, and we think none could reasonably be made, but that the general subject of the regulation of livery stables, with respect to their location and the manner [p177] in which they are to be conducted in a thickly populated city, is well within the range of the power of the state to legislate for the health and general welfare of the people.

While such regulations are subject to judicial scrutiny upon fundamental grounds, yet a considerable latitude of discretion must be accorded to the lawmaking power; and so long as the regulation in question is not shown to be clearly unreasonable and arbitrary, and operates uniformly upon all persons similarly situated in the particular district, the district itself not appearing to have been arbitrarily selected, it cannot be judicially declared that there is a deprivation of property without due process of law, or a denial of the equal protection of the laws, within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. Slaughter House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 62; Fertilizing Co. v. Hyde Park, 97 U.S. 659, 667; Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 30; Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U.S. 703, 708; Lawton v. Steele, 152 U.S. 133, 136; Gundling v. Chicago, 177 U.S. 183, 188; Williams v. Arkansas, 217 U.S. 79, 87; Cronin v. People, 82 N.Y. 318, 321; In re Wilson, 32 Minn. 145, 148, 19 N.W. 723; City of St. Louis v. Russell, 116 Mo. 248, 253, 22 S.W. 470.

The only debatable question arises from the contention that under the particular circumstances alleged in the complaint, viz: that plaintiffs in error have conducted the livery stable business for a long time in the same location, and at large expense for permanent structures, and the removal to another location would be very costly, and since (as the complaint alleges) their stables are in all respects properly conducted, this particular ordinance must be deemed an unreasonable and arbitrary exercise of the power of regulation. But these averments of fact are contradicted by the answer, and so we are confronted with the question: Upon what basis of fact is this matter to be determined? Plaintiffs in error insist that it is to be [p178] decided upon the basis of the averments contained in their complaint, because the supreme court ordered the complaint to be dismissed for want of equity. But it seems that in the practice of the courts of Arkansas, as elsewhere, the expression "dismissed for want of equity" is employed to indicate a decision upon the merits, as distinguished from one based upon a formal defect or default; and that it applies as well where on final hearing it is found that the averments of the complaint are not true in fact, as where those averments do not upon their face show a sufficient basis of fact for the granting of the relief sought. Meux v. Anthony, 11 Ark. 411, 422, 424; Smith v. Carrigan, 23 Ark. 555; McRae v. Rogers, 30 Ark. 272.

Upon the face of this record it appears that all the material averments of the bill were denied by the answer, and that the latter pleading also showed particular reasons why it was proper for the city council to prohibit the further maintenance of livery stables within the limited district described in the ordinance. It was averred that that district is in a densely populated and busy part of the city of Little Rock, and that the stables are conducted in a careless manner, with offensive odors, and so as to be productive of disease. Plaintiffs did not contradict this, but demurred to the answer as insufficient in law, and the cause was heard in the trial court upon the complaint and exhibits, the answer, and the demurrer. The demurrer being sustained, and defendants declining to plead further, a perpetual restraining order followed in due course. Upon the removal of the cause to the supreme court on defendants' appeal, it was heard there, as appears from the decree rendered by that court, "upon the transcript of the record of the chancery court of Pulaski county." That record includes not only the complaint, but the answer and demurrer. The supreme court in its opinion made no statement of the facts upon which it proceeded [p179] to judgment, and did not intimate that it ignored the effect of the answer and confined itself to the averments of the bill alone. It is true that broad reasoning was employed; but, upon familiar principles, the opinion is to be interpreted in the light of the issue as framed by the pleadings. Besides, the petition for rehearing especially set up that the effect of the ruling of the supreme court was to deprive plaintiffs of the opportunity of presenting evidence to sustain those allegations of the complaint that were denied by the answer, that unless they were given an opportunity to introduce evidence the answer might be taken as conclusive against them, and that the cause ought to have been remanded to take evidence, etc. The fact that the supreme court denied the rehearing without giving reasons is at least consistent with the theory that plaintiffs had properly interpreted the meaning of the decree as entered, and that it correctly expressed the intent and the purpose of the court.

By § 25 of the judiciary act of 1789 (1 Stat. at L. 86, chap. 20) it was provided: "No other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal . . . than such as appears on the face of the record." Under this act, it was uniformly held that in reviewing the judgments of state courts (in states other than Louisiana, where the opinion formed a part of the record), this court could not look into the opinion to ascertain what was decided. In the amendatory act of February 5, 1867 (ch. 28, § 2) [14 Stat. 386], the words above quoted were omitted, and because of this it has since been held that this court is not so closely restricted as before to the face of the record to ascertain what was decided in the state court, and may examine the opinion, when properly authenticated, so far as may be useful in determining that question. This is recognized in paragraph 2 of our eighth rule. "But, after all," said Mr. Justice Miller, speaking for the court in Murdock v. City of Memphis, 20 Wall. 590, 633, 634, [p180] "the record of the case, its pleadings, bills of exceptions, judgment, evidence, in short, its record, whether it be a case in law or equity, must be the chief foundation of the inquiry; and while we are not prepared to fix any absolute limit to the sources of the inquiry under the new act, we feel quite sure it was not intended to open the scope of it to any loose range of investigation."

If the record, including the opinion, leaves it a matter of doubtful inference upon what basis of fact the state court rested its decision of the Federal question, it seems to us very plain, upon general principles, that we ought to assume, so far as the state of the record permits, that it adopted such a basis of fact as would most clearly sustain its judgment. Hence, in the present case, we ought to and do assume that the Arkansas Supreme Court acted upon the basis of the facts set up in the answer of the City, treating them as sufficiently substantiated by the effect of the demurrer in admitting them to be true so far as properly pleaded. This being so, there is, as we have already remarked, no reasonable question of the validity of the ordinance, and the judgment of the Supreme Court is