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Williams v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 289 U.S. 36 (1933)

Williams v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore

No. 513

Argued February 13, 1933

Decided March 13, 1933*

289 U.S. 36


1. A municipal corporation, created by a state for the better ordering of government, has no privileges or immunities under the Federal Constitution which it may invoke in opposition to a statute of the state. P. 289 U. S. 40.

2. A special exemption of railroad property from state, county, and city taxation, granted by the Maryland Legislature for the period of two years as an aid to continuing in operation a financially crippled railroad (in the hands of a receiver) because of its peculiar public importance as a carrier of millions of passengers and as the only railroad serving the capital of the state, held consistent with the uniformity of taxation provision (Art. 15) of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. P. 289 U. S. 40.

3. Tax exemptions to promote the construction of railroads and tax exemptions to help keep constructed railroads in operation when they are failing rest on the same public policy. P. 289 U. S. 44.

4. The statute above described is not repugnant to Art. III, § 33, of the Maryland Constitution, which provides that "the General Assembly shall pass no special law for any case for which provision has been made by an existing general law." P. 289 U. S. 45.

5. This provision leaves the legislature a wide margin of discretion to enact special laws for special evils not met by the general laws, and only in cases of plain abuse may courts declare the special laws invalid. P. 289 U. S. 46.

Page 289 U. S. 37

6. An act of the legislature exempting a railroad from taxation is not a "local law" within the meaning of the Home Rule Article of the Maryland Constitution when so drawn as to apply to two "geographical subdivisions" of the state -- e.g., Baltimore and Annapolis. P. 289 U. S. 47.

7. Franchise payments due from a railroad to the Cities of Baltimore and Annapolis under city ordinance describing them as "taxes," held "charges in the nature of a tax" within the meaning of a state statute exempting the railroad. P. 289 U. S. 47.

8. The standing of a municipal corporation to assail a statute of its state as repugnant to the state constitution depends upon the state law. P. 289 U. S. 47.

61 F.2d 374 reversed.

Certiorari, 287 U.S. 594, to review decrees which reversed orders of the District Court disallowing claims for overdue taxes, filed with the receiver of the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railroad Company by the corporations of Baltimore and Annapolis.

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