Davis Farnum Manufacturing Company v. Los Angeles

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

189 U.S. 207

Davis Farnum Manufacturing Company  v.  Los Angeles

 Argued: January 12, 1903. --- Decided: March 2, 1903

This was a bill in equity filed in the circuit court for the southern district of California by appellant, a citizen of Massachusetts, to restrain the city of Los Angeles and its officers from enforcing certain municipal ordinances prohibiting the erection or maintenance of gas tanks or reservoirs within certain portions of the city.

The gravamen of the bill was that on September 1, 1901, Caroline W. Dobbins made a contract with the Valley Gas & Fuel Company, a California corporation, to build certain gas works for her, including all things necessary for the manufacture, recovery, and storage of gas, on lands thereafter to be designated; that on September 17 the appellant made a contract with the gas and fuel company to erect upon Mrs. Dobbins's premises a water tank and gas holder having a capacity of 100,000 cubic feet of gas, and that immediately thereafter it constructed and prepared the material and machinery necessary for the erection of the tank and gas holder, and shipped the same to Los Angeles; that on September 28 Mrs. Dobbins purchased certain lands in Los Angeles, which were within the limits wherein it was lawful to erect gas works as described in a municipal ordinance adopted August 26, 1901, and on November 1 applied to the board of fire commissioners for a permit to erect such gas works; that on November 22 her petition came on for hearing before the fire commissioners, and after proof had been made that all provisions of prior ordinances had been complied with, the matter was duly considered, and finally resulted, November 29, in a vote to grant a permit to erect and maintain the gas works.

That upon the 22d day of November Mrs. Dobbins's contractors began at once to lay the foundation for said works at a cost of upwards of $2,500, when, on November 25, the city adopted an ordinance, amending that of August 26, 1901, including her property in the prohibited territory for the erection or maintenance of gas works (which ordinance, however, seems to have proved defective), and subsequently, in February, 1902, caused certain of the employees of the gas and fuel company to be arrested, charging them with a violation of this ordinance. Subsequently, under new proceedings, certain employees of the plaintiff were arrested and the work stopped.

Another ordinance was passed on March 3, 1902, also amending that of August 26, 1901, and other arrests were made of the employees for a violation of this ordinance. It was averred that the gas works are in an uncompleted condition, exposed to the elements and in danger of being destroyed, and that all of the aforesaid ordinances were adopted by the common council at the instigation of the Los Angeles Light Company, which has enjoyed a monopoly of the gas business for the last ten years.

A demurrer was filed to this bill by the city for want of equity and of jurisdiction, which was sustained by the court, and the bill dismissed (115 Fed. 537), apparently upon the ground that a court of chancery has no power to restrain criminal proceedings, unless they are instituted by a party to a suit already pending before it, and to try the same right that is in issue there. Whereupon an appeal was taken to this court.

Messrs. Lynn Helm, Henry T. Helm, Edward C. Bailey, Henry T. Lee, and J. R. Scott for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 209-214 intentionally omitted]


Messrs. Albert H. Crutcher, W. B. Mathews, Le Compte Davis, and J. R. Rush for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from Pages 214-216 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).