County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Company

PETITIONER: County of Allegheny
RESPONDENT: Frank Mashuda Company
LOCATION: Fargo, North Dakota

DOCKET NO.: 347
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 360 US 185 (1959)
ARGUED: Apr 02, 1959
DECIDED: Jun 08, 1959

Facts of the case

Question

Media for County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1959 in County of Allegheny v. Frank Mashuda Company

Earl Warren:

No 347, County of Allegheny, Petitioner, versus Frank Mashuda Company.

Mr. Baskin may proceed.

Philip Baskin:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

This case is before the Court on the certiorari granted for the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

A judgment of the Court of Appeals reversed the action of the District Court, sitting at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which had sustained a motion by the County of Allegheny to dismiss the complaint filed by the respondents who were the plaintiffs below.

Now the Creasy case which was heard just before this case discussed the question of a road leading to the airport, which takes us right to the airport itself.

The plaintiffs complained below, and had alleged that the County of Allegheny had taken their property, purportedly for airport purposes, but in fact there was a taking for a private purpose, and that since it was not a public purpose that taking was invalid.

They, therefore, asked for the following relief.

Plaintiff stated wherefore the plaintiff demands judgment of ouster and damages against the two defendants, in addition, or in the alternative plaintiffs demand an injunction restraining the County of Allegheny, from proceeding further against plaintiffs in the Court of Common Plea in regard to the said man and a re-conveyance to the land to which the County had wrongfully acquired title.

In short the bill of complaint asked for a stay of a pending court proceeding in which the parties were then involved.

The County of Allegheny filed a motion to dismiss.

The motion was based on the following grounds.

First, at section 2283 of 28 U.S.C. prevented the issuance of an injunction against a pending State Court proceeding and that therefore the District Court had no jurisdiction over the action.

The second ground given for the motion to dismiss was that this condemnation proceeding in a State Court was an In rem action and that the State Court having acquired jurisdiction over the raise, it had exclusive jurisdiction and that the District Court could not entertain an action which had to concern itself with a title to the land.

The County, however, went further in its motion to dismiss.

It said assuming that the District Court had jurisdiction in view of the fact that there was pending proceeding in a State Court and the parties before the District Court with the same parties before the State Court proceeding and since there was a question that the state law involved that the plaintiffs should have raised that question of the invalidity of the taking first in the State Court proceeding and that therefore the District Court should refrain from exercise its jurisdiction.

The motion to dismiss also stated that there was no basis for the cause of action, but that is not relevant to this appeal.

Now the facts which brought this case to the District Court are quite simple, because all that we have in here really is aggrieved complaint and a motion to dismiss.

The Board of County Commissioner of Alleghany County, pursuant to their powers under the Second Class Code, had passed a resolution in June of 1955, condemning various properties for use for the greater Pittsburgh Airport.

Included in these properties were 8 acres which were owned by the Mashudas who are the respondents in this case.

The County then petitioned for a Board of Viewers and in March of 1956 a Board of Viewers came in with an award of approximately $52,000 for the property.

The County appealed that award, claiming that the award was excessive.

The property owners appealed claiming that it was an adequate and the case was then set at issue before the Court of Common Pleas.

This case was set at issue in the early Court of 1957, which was almost two years after the original resolution and approximately 18 months after the petition for the appointment of viewers.

Then in May of 1957, the respondents, plaintiffs below, went into the District Court and claimed for the first time that the taking by the county was improper in that we were using it not for a public purpose, not for airport purposes, but for a private purpose.

I think before going into the argument on the case it might be well to review very briefly the procedure for eminent domain in Pennsylvania some of which was covered in the preceding argument.

Earl Warren:

Is it in the record what, what purpose it was for, what private purpose it was claimed it was?

Philip Baskin:

Yes it is Mr. Chief Justice.

Earl Warren:

What it is –-

Philip Baskin:

What happened was that they added as a defendant, in the District Court proceedings, a contractor who the county had issued a contract to for construction of part of the airport paving and the county had also licensed the contractor to use a certain portion of the Mashuda property temporarily for storage purposes for his materials during his construction contract.