MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
We cannot find in the pleadings or other proceedings in the trial court, or in the Supreme Court, that any statute of California was asserted to be in conflict with the Constitution, or any law or treaty of the United States, or that any right was claimed by plaintiffs in error under the Constitution, or any treaty or statute of the United States.
The city alleged in its complaint that the Los Angeles River was a non-navigable stream, rising a few miles to the north and northwest of the city, and fed by streams rising to the surface in or near the bed of the river; that that bed was composed of sandy soil, into which the water sank and formed subterranean streams flowing beneath the bed and then rising to the surface; that the river flowed through the land sought to be condemned before reaching the city; that the city was the owner of the exclusive right to the use of all the water of the river in trust for the public purposes of supplying the inhabitants of the city with water for domestic use, supplying water for the irrigation of land embraced within the pueblo lands of the city, and other municipal uses; that plaintiffs in error were owners of the fee simple of the lands described, subject to the rights of the city to the water of the river; and the prayer was for the condemnation in fee simple of all the estate, right, title and interest of plaintiffs in error in the land.
The trial court decided that the city was, and had been since its organization, owner in fee simple of the paramount use of the waters of the Los Angeles River, so far as might be needed from time to time, for the public purposes of supplying the
The contentions seem to be that the state courts decided against the claim of plaintiffs in error to the rights of a riparian owner, and to the ownership of alleged percolating waters, as derived from patents of the United States as well as from Mexican grants, or under the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo; that the statutes of California in authorizing the trial of title in condemnation proceedings, and the determination of compensation before the determination of title, amounted to providing for the taking of private property for public use without just compensation; that certain statutes declaring the city to be vested with a paramount right to the surface and subterranean waters deprived plaintiffs in error of their property without due process of law; and that the statute of the State in providing that compensation and damages should be deemed to have accrued at the date of the summons, as construed by the state courts, resulted in taking the property of plaintiffs in error without just compensation.
Obviously, the question as to the title or right of plaintiffs in error in the land, and whatever appertained thereto, was one of state law and of general public law, on which the decision of the state court was final. San Francisco v. Scott, 111 U.S. 768; Powder Works v. Davis, 151 U.S. 389. And the question of the existence of percolating water was merely a question of fact.
The patents were in the nature of a quit claim, and under the act of March 3, 1851, were "conclusive between the United States and the said claimants only, and shall not affect the interests of third persons." The validity of that act was not drawn in question in the state court, and as the right or title asserted by plaintiffs in error was derived under Mexican and Spanish grants, the decision of the state court on the claims asserted by plaintiffs in error to the waters of the river was not
In Crystal Springs Land and Water Company v. City of Los Angeles, 82 Fed. Rep. 114, the Circuit Court ruled that where both parties claimed under Mexican grants, confirmed and patented by the United States in accordance with the provisions of the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo, and the controversy was only as to what were the rights thus granted and confirmed, the suit was not one arising under a treaty so as to confer jurisdiction on a Federal court, and that where the only ground of Federal jurisdiction was the allegation in a bill that defendant's claim of title was based in part on certain acts of the legislature of the State, which attempted to transfer to it, as alleged, the title held by complainant's grantors at the time of their passage, the court would not retain jurisdiction when an answer was filed by defendant denying the allegations, and disclaiming any title or claim of title not held by it before the passage of the acts. The bill was dismissed, and we affirmed the judgment. 177 U.S. 169.
The trial court determined for itself, among other questions, the nature and extent of the city's interest in the waters of the river, but while it instructed the jury in relation thereto it did not file its written findings until after the return of the verdict. And it is argued that the respective rights of the parties were not in fact adjudicated until after the amount of compensation had been found, and that in this way plaintiffs in error were deprived of their property without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment does not control the power of a State to determine the form of procedure by which legal rights may be ascertained, if the method adopted gives reasonable notice and affords a fair opportunity to be heard. Iowa Central R.
The construction of a law of a State, that it was competent for the court to try and determine in a condemnation proceeding, an adverse claim of the plaintiff therein to an interest in property sought to be condemned, is conclusive on this court, and we cannot understand how the entry of the verdict of a jury as to the amount of compensation prior to the filing of written findings on the other issues could have the effect of depriving plaintiffs in error of their property without due process of law. The Chief Justice of California well said that it was of no importance in what order the other issues in the case were decided, except in so far as the determination of one point was necessary as a basis for the determination of another, and that if the instructions to the jury actually given were correct, the fact that these findings had not been previously filed was of no consequence.
And so as to certain statutes of the State of California, which declared that the city of Los Angeles is vested with the paramount right to the surface and subterranean water of the Los Angeles River. Those statutes were admitted in evidence merely to show that the city was the successor of the ancient pueblo. The court held that the right of the city of Los Angeles to take from the Los Angeles River all of the waters of the river to the extent of its reasonable domestic and municipal needs was based on the Spanish and Mexican law, and not on the charters of the city of Los Angeles. The validity of the statutes, on account of repugnancy to the Federal Constitution, was not drawn in question in the trial court nor in the Supreme Court of the State, and both courts held that they neither granted to the city nor took away from plaintiffs in error any rights or property.
Section 1249 of the Code of Civil Procedure of California provided that for the purpose of assessing compensation and damages, the right thereto should be taken to have accrued at the time of the summons, "and its actual value at that date, shall be the measure of compensation for all property to be actually taken, and the basis of damages to property not actually taken, but injuriously affected."
Plaintiffs in error asked the court to charge the jury that the date of estimating the value of the property was the date of the summons, and the Supreme Court held that in these circumstances they could not be permitted to attack the condemnation statute as unconstitutional so far as related to the appraising the value of the land as provided.
Moreover, this court cannot reverse the decisions of state courts in regard to questions of general justice and equitable considerations in the taking of property. Fallbrook Irrigation District v. Bradley, 164 U.S. 112.
The truth is there is nothing in this record adequately showing that the state courts were led to suppose that any claim under the Constitution of the United States was made by plaintiffs in error, or that any ruling involved a decision against a right set up by them under that instrument.
In Sayward v. Denny, 158 U.S. 180, after stating the contention of plaintiff in error that the effect of the judgment of the state court was "to deprive him of his property without due process of law, or to deny him the equal protection of the laws, and amounted to a decision adverse to the right, privilege, or immunity of plaintiff in error under the Constitution of being protected from such deprivation or denial," we said: "But it nowhere affirmatively appears from the record that such a right was set up or claimed in the trial court when the demurrer to the complaint was overruled, or evidence admitted or excluded, or instructions given or refused, or in the Supreme Court in disposing of the rulings below. . . . We are not called on to revise these views of the principles of general law considered applicable to the case in hand. It is enough that there is nothing in the record to indicate that the state courts were led to suppose that plaintiff in error claimed protection under the Constitution of the United States from the several rulings, or to suspect that each ruling as made involved a decision against a right specially set up under that instrument. And
This case comes within the rule there laid down and the writ of error must be
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA took no part in the decision of this case.