Constitutionality of Water Supply Act Assailed

Constitutionality of Water Supply Act Assailed

Refusal of the United States Supreme Court, through lack of jurisdiction, to consider a decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirming the constitutionality of the Water Supply act, under which the city of Providence acquired land in Scituate for a water works system, was announced recently in advices from Washington. The decision came on the motion of the city to dismiss writs of error and petitions for writs of certiorari brought by counsel for the defendants, the Joslin Manufacturing Company, the Scituate Light and Power Company and Theresa B. Joslin. These defendants originally filed with the Rhode Island Supreme Court bills in equity claiming that the Water Supply act was unconstitutional, in that it violated the provisions of sections 5 and 10 of Article 1 of the State constitution and Article 14 of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all having to do with due process of law. The petitioners asked for an injunction forbidding the city to take possession of their land in Scituate. The Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that the Water Supply act was not contrary to any of the constitutional sections named, and ordered the papers in the cases with its decision certified thereon sent back to the Superior Court for further proceedings. The complainants obtained writs of error and filed them with the Supreme Court of the United States, together with petitions for writs of certiorari to compel the State Supreme Court to send the records of the cases to Washington. City Solicitor Elmer S. Chace and former City Solicitor Albert A. Baker, as special counsel for the Water Board, presented to the United States Supreme Court motions to dismiss the action on the grounds that the decision of the Rhode Island Supreme Court was not a final judgment or decree, therefore, under section 137 of the United States Judicial Code, the United States Supreme Court had no jurisdiction in the matter. Briefs were filed supporting the motions to dismiss and against granting the complainants’ petition for writs of certiorari. The decision of the United States Supreme Court as handed down supported the city’s contentions and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. The effects of the decision, according to Mr. Baker, will be that the order of the Rhode Island Supreme Court will be carried out and the papers in the cases returned to the Superior Court for further proceedings.

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