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STATE GEORGIA v. TRUSTEES CINCINNATI SOUTHERN RAILWAY AND CINCINNATI

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


November 18, 1918

STATE OF GEORGIA
v.
THE TRUSTEES OF THE CINCINNATI SOUTHERN RAILWAY AND THE CINCINNATI, NEW ORLEANS & TEXAS PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY

IN EQUITY

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Holmes

[ 248 U.S. Page 26]

 MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit brought in this Court by the State of Georgia to prevent the defendants from longer occupying or using any portion of the right of way of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, a railroad built and owned by the

[ 248 U.S. Page 27]

     plaintiff State. The question, although argued at considerable length, is a very short one. On October 8, 1879, the State passed an act sufficiently explained by its contents.*fn1 On August 21, 1916, reciting that the Cincinnati

[ 248 U.S. Page 28]

     Southern Railway now is controlled by a competitor of the Western and Atlantic road and that the Western and Atlantic needs the space, Georgia undertook to repeal the former act and to treat it as giving a license only, that the State was free to revoke. [Laws 1916, No. 539.] The defendants say that the words "there is hereby granted to the Trustees of the Cincinnati Southern Railway, for the use of said railway the use of that portion of the right-of-way of the Western and Atlantic Railroad" &c. grant a right of way in fee.

The Ohio statute under which the Cincinnati Southern Railway was constructed by the City of Cincinnati provided for a board of trustees to be appointed and kept filled by the Superior Court of the city, to have control of the fund raised by the city, and to acquire and hold all the necessary real and personal property and franchises either in Ohio or in any other State into which the line of railroad should extend. Therefore the grant to the trustees was the proper form for a grant in effect to the Railway, as it was styled in the title of the Georgia act, or to the city if the city was in strictness the cestui que trust. No other facts of much importance appear. Considerations are urged on behalf of Georgia to show that the motives for a perpetual grant were weak, but nothing that affects the construction of the words used or that shows that they are not to be given their ordinary meaning, as indeed the argument for the plaintiff agrees. But if that be true, cadit quaestio. A grant of the use of a right of way is the grant of a right of way in the ordinary meaning of words, and a grant of a right of way to a corporation or to perpetual trustees holding for the corporate uses does not need words of succession to be perpetual. The words "and its successors" or "in fee" would not enlarge the content of a grant to a corporation. Owensboro v. Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Co., 230 U.S. 58, 66. Detroit v. Detroit Citizens' Street Ry. Co., 184 U.S. 368. 395.

[ 248 U.S. Page 29]

     the state constitution. A conveyance in aid of a public purpose from which great benefits are expected is not within the class of evils that the constitution intended to prevent and in our opinion is not within the meaning of the word as it naturally would be understood. We deem further argument unnecessary to establish that the State of Georgia made a grant which it cannot now revoke.

Bill dismissed.


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