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Wilcox v. Oakland

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1874
49 Cal. 29 (Cal. 1874)


         On the 27th day of May, 1872, a petition was presented to the council of Oakland, asking for a street eighty feet wide, to be laid out from Broadway to Alice street. The Council appointed three commissioners to assess the damages and benefits, and to report their action. The proceedings were had under the Act of January 31, 1870 (Laws 1870-'71, p. 38). The Commissioners proceeded to take testimony, and in doing so, tried the issue, as to whether the persons in possession of the land had any title to it, and whether it had not previously been dedicated as a public street. The Commissioners reported nominal damages, and the Council proceeded to open the street. The petitioner Wilcox obtained a writ of certiorari from the County Court, (the testimony taken before the Commissioners was a part of the return,) and that tribunal refused to disturb the proceedings. From the judgment of the County Court Wilcox appealed.


         The Commissioners, in trying the title to claimant's land, exceeded their jurisdiction. Their powers were limited to finding the value of the land to be taken, and the amount to be assessed therefor on the remaining land. (Sacramento Valley R. R. Co. v. Moffatt , 7 Cal. 577.) In Spring Valley Water Works v. San Francisco (22 Cal. 433), this Court says: " The Commissioners are selected, not for their supposed judicial abilities, but for their good judgment in estimating the value of property, and their disinterestedness. It is no part of their duties to hear evidence and determine the right, title and interest of each claimant of the several tracts of land, whether such claims are conflicting or not. The Court or Judge before whom the proceedings are conducted, and not the Commissioners, is the proper tribunal to determine such questions."

         The same question, also, arose in S. F. & S. J. R. R. Co. v. Mahoney (29 Cal. 118), and the Court held that the Commissioners had no power to pass in any manner upon the question of title. A similar view is taken in Curran v. Shattuck (24 Cal. 433), where it is said, " neither the Board nor the viewers are competent to pass upon the question of title." The same rule prevails in New York. (See Angell on Highways, Secs. 164; 19 Wendell, 688.)

          D. P. Barstow and S. F. Gilcrest, for the Appellant.

          H. H. Havens and W. W. Crane, Jr., for Respondent.

         In this proceeding the Court can only inquire whether or not the Commissioners or City Council exceeded their jurisdiction. Error in admitting or excluding evidence, or whether the reasons given in reaching a conclusion are good or bad, cannot here be examined into. (Will v. Sinkwitz , 39 Cal. 570.)

         It is conceded that all the proceedings up to the reception of testimony by the Commissioners are regular. The City Council and the Commissioners had jurisdiction of the general subject-matter of the opening of Fourteenth street, and also over the parties appellant. The Commissioners were required by the Act (section 4, paragraph 39), to " make a report to the said Council of the assessments and awards so made by them, with the names and amounts of the persons damaged or benefited as aforesaid." This they did; (Trans., folio 166,) but the statute did not require them to return the notes of the testimony taken, the deeds read, and the preliminary opinion given by them, and these should be treated as surplusage, and disregarded.

         JUDGES: Rhodes, J. Neither Mr. Chief Justice Wallace nor Mr. Justice Niles expressed an opinion.


          RHODES, Judge

         The County Court issued a writ of certiorari to the Council of the City of Oakland to bring up the proceedings in the matter of the opening of Fourteenth street; and upon the hearing of the cause the County Court dismissed the writ on the ground that the Council and the Commissioners appointed by the Council did not exceed their authority in determining whether the public had acquired the right of way over the land upon which the proposed street is to be laid out. Although it is very apparent to us that the determination of that issue necessarily involved a question of title, and that therefore the Commissioners had no jurisdiction of it, yet this Court cannot, through the medium of an appeal from the judgment of the County Court, entertain and determine the question whether the Commissioners exceeded their jurisdiction, because that Court has no authority to issue the writ of certiorari, except in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. In People ex rel. Brudage v. Supervisors of Kern County (47 Cal. 81), it was held that the Act conferring power upon County Courts to issue writs of mandamus was not warranted by the Constitution. In Faut v. Mason (47 Cal. 7), which was an appeal from the judgment of a County Court, on certiorari to a Justice of the Peace, it was said: " It may be doubtful whether County Courts have power, under the Constitution to grant writs of certiorari; " but the writ was disposed of on other grounds. The argument in support of the position, that the County Courts have no constitutional power to issue writs of mandamus, is applicable to the question of the power of those Courts to issue writs of certiorari; and we are satisfied that their power in the latter respect is limited to cases in aid of their appellate jurisdiction. The writ should have been dismissed on that ground.

         Judgment affirmed. Remittitur forthwith.

Summaries of

Wilcox v. Oakland

Supreme Court of California
Oct 1, 1874
49 Cal. 29 (Cal. 1874)
Case details for

Wilcox v. Oakland

Case Details


Court:Supreme Court of California

Date published: Oct 1, 1874


49 Cal. 29 (Cal. 1874)

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