184 U.S. 115
EDWARD W. VOIGT, Plff. in Err.,
CITY OF DETROIT and Thomas M. Lucking, Receiver of Taxes of Said City of Detroit.
Argued December 6, 1901.
Decided February 24, 1902.
[184 U.S. 115, 116] This is a bill in equity brought by plaintiff in error in the circuit court for Wayne county, Michigan, to restrain the sale of his lands for an assessment levied by the city of Detroit for city improvements, on the ground that the law under which the assessment was imposed is repugnant to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and that the assessment, therefore, puts a cloud upon plaintiff's title. A demurrer was filed to the bill by defendants, which was sustained, and the bill dismissed. That action was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 123 Mich. 547, 82 N. W. 253. A writ of error was then allowed by the chief justice of the state, and the case brought here.
The bill alleged that plaintiff was the owner of certain lots ( describing them), which were a part of the subdivision of the 'Voigt Park Farm,' a plat of which had been made and recorded by plaintiff. Upon the plat was designated a street called 'Second avenue,' and to extend that street proceedings were instituted, which resulted in a verdict opening the same as a public necessity. Damages were awarded for the property taken to the amount of $73,732.68.
The verdict was confirmed by the court, and the judgment of confirmation was transmitted to the common council of the city, and was referred to the committee on street openings. The committee reported, recommending that $49,155.12 of the award be assessed on a local assessment district and the balance be paid by the city. A resolution was then adopted by the common council fixing and determining the assessment district, and including therein the property of plaintiff. The resolution recited 'that it is hereby determined that the sum of $49,155.12 is a just proportion of the compensation awarded by the jury for the property taken for said improvement which should be paid by the owners' of the property included in said assessment district; and it was further resolved that said amount be assessed and levied upon the several parcels of said property by the board of assessors of the city. It was also alleged that [184 U.S. 115, 117] plaintiff in error 'had no notice of the intention of said common council to impose and have assessed upon a local assessment district a part of the damages awarded by the jury in said condemnation proceedings, and no notice to appear before said council or any committee thereof in relation to the matter of determining the limits of such district and the amount to be assessed thereon, and that he was given no opportunity to appear and be heard before said common council or any committee thereof with reference thereto.'
An assessment roll was subsequently prepared, 'being street assessment roll No. 111,' and confirmed by the common council. By the assessment roll the sums assessed against the property of plaintiff aggregated the sum of $9,957. The roll was placed in the hands of the defendant, Thomas M. Lucking, receiver of taxes of the city, for collection, and plaintiff notified of the assessment against his property, and payment of the amount assessed was demanded. And it is alleged that the receiver will, unless restrained, advertise and sell plaintiff's property for the amount assessed thereon.
The condemnation proceedings were instituted and conducted under the provisions of 3406 of the Compiled Laws of the state of Michigan, and it is alleged those provisions violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, in that they deprive plaintiff of his property without due process of law, for the following reasons:
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Mr. Hinton E. Spalding for plaintiff in error.
Messrs. C. D. Joslyn and Timothy E. Tarsney for defendants in error.
Mr. Justice McKenna, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court:
The proceedings in the case were had under the provisions of an act of the state of Michigan entitled 'An Act to Authorize Cities and Villages to Take Private Property for the Use or Benefit of the Public, and to Repeal Act No. 26, Public Acts of 1882.' This act is reproduced in the Compiled Laws of Michigan of 1897 as 3392-3415.
The particular provisions attacked are contained in 3406 ( 15 of the original act), and are as follows:
Plaintiff in error makes two objections to the law:
The common council proceeded as required by the ordinance. They determined that a portion of the city was benefited by the improvement, created a district of the property benefited, determined also that $49,155. 12 was a just proportion of the compensation awarded by the jury to be assessed upon the property owners of the district created, and directed the board of assessors to make the assessment. The assessment roll was subsequently made out and was ratified and confirmed by the council. The assessment against the property of plaintiff in error was nearly $10,000.
Passing on the ordinance the supreme court said: 'No provision is made for a notice to property owners of a time and place of hearing upon either the question of fixing a taxing district or the question of the amount of the award to be spread thereon.' But the court observed that such notices were not necessary to vindicate the statute from the charge of being unconstitutional, because 'the statute provides for a hearing in relation to the proportion each piece of property shall bear to the whole cost of the improvement, and the proper notice of this hearing was given.' And further:
It was urged by plaintiff in error in the supreme court of the state, as it is now urged here, that--
To the contention the supreme court of the state replied:
The law, then, as we understand the decision of the supreme court of the state, provides for the formation of a district in the vicinity of the proposed improvement, the limits of the district to be determined by the benefits derived from that improvement, and further provides that the common council shall determine what proportion of the cost of the improvement ('compensation awarded by the jury') shall be assessed upon the owners of the real estate benefited. The language of the statute is: 'The amount of the benefit thus ascertained shall be assessed upon the owners or occupants of such taxable real estate, in proportion, as nearly as may [be], to the advantage which such lot, parcel, or subdivision is deemed to acquire by the improvement.'
It would be difficult to find any provision fairer than this in purpose and which so essentially satisfies every requirement of due process of law. And such purpose cannot be defeated if a hearing to the property owner can prevent defeat. He is given a thoroughly efficient opportunity to be heard to test the legality of the charge upon him. And it is only with the charge upon him that he is concerned, and of that alone can he complain. In the legality of that charge is necessarily involved the legality of all which precedes it and of which it is the consequence. The supreme court of the state decided, as we have seen, 'that the amount of the taxes which may be assessed upon the district or upon any given parcel of land cannot exceed the benefits.' On the hearing given, therefore, the property owner can show a violation of the rule, if a violation there be, and the showing will take his land out of the district and relieve it from the tax.
The contentions of plaintiff in error seem to be based on the assumption that a property owner must have notice of every step of the proceedings. Such assumption is untenable. Wey- [184 U.S. 115, 123] erhaueser v. Minnesota, 176 U.S. 550 , 44 L. ed 583, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 485, and cases cited; King v. Portland, 184 U.S. 61 , ante, p. 290, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 290.
Mr. Justice Harlan did not hear the argument and took no part in the decision.