MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Separate suits were brought by the several appellees, in the United States District Court for South Dakota, to enjoin the County Commissioners, the Auditor and the Treasurer of Minnehaha County, South Dakota, from making any apportionment of benefits or assessments of costs affecting the property of the several appellees, for
In all of the suits, except No. 99, there was diversity of citizenship. In each it was alleged that an amount in excess of the jurisdictional requirement was in controversy, and in each it was alleged that proceedings purporting to be had under the South Dakota drainage statutes, with respect to the lands of the appellees, were unauthorized and void, and that those statutes and proceedings denied to appellees due process of law and the equal protection of the laws, in contravention of the Constitution of the United States. The suits were tried together and decrees were given for the plaintiffs by the District Court. 282 Fed. 364. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, on appeal, affirmed the decrees, 297 Fed. 710, and the cases are brought here on appeal. Jud. Code, §§ 128, 241, before Act of February 13, 1925. Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R.R. Co., 244 U.S. 499, 508. Petition for certiorari was denied, 206 U.S. 622.
The two courts below agree as to all material facts. We accordingly consider them here only so far as is needful to pass on questions of law. United States v. State Investment Co., 264 U.S. 206, 211.
In 1907 the Board of County Commissioners of Minnehaha County, acting under the constitution and laws of the State, established "Drainage Ditch No. 1," extending from a point north of the city of Sioux Falls, thence south, and then to the east of Sioux Falls, three miles in all, to the Big Sioux River, into which it emptied. From the main ditch, a spur ditch was extended northwest to a point near the Big Sioux River, which from that point passes to the southwest and thence flows east, forming a loop about the principal part of the city of Sioux Falls, and finally flows through the city on its easterly side in a northeasterly direction.
In 1916 the river broke through its banks into the area drained by the spur ditch, and, uniting with the flood water flowing from the river through ditch No. 2, flooded the main ditch, No. 1, washed out and destroyed a spillway on ditch No. 1, and, in its uncontrolled flow caused extensive damage. There was danger that the river by its flow through the ditch would be diverted from its natural course, cutting off the city's water supply and causing other damage to the city and to individuals.
In August, 1916, a proceeding was instituted by petition to the Board of County Commissioners, purporting to be pursuant to statute, "to reconstruct and improve drainage ditches numbers one and two . . . and to pay therefor by an assessment upon the property, persons and corporations benefited." This proceeding resulted in resolutions of the Commissioners purporting to establish "Drainage District No. 1 and 2" and providing for the construction of the proposed ditch. The location fixed for it, however, was identical with that of the old ditches No. 1 and No. 2. The County Commissioners then caused the previously established ditch No. 1 and ditch No. 2 to be diked, cleaned out, and widened and deepened at certain points; the river to be straightened, and the spillway to be reconstructed so as to continue and safeguard the flow of water through ditch No. 1 and ditch No. 2. The cost was approximately $255,000.
Proceedings were then had by the County Commissioners for the assessment of benefits to defray the expenses thus incurred. The assessments of benefits were extended
Both courts below found that the drainage ditch No. 1 and 2 was not a new project, but was in fact identical with the previously established ditches No. 1 and No. 2; that no new or additional drainage was established, and that the only purpose of the proceedings was to provide for the maintenance and repair of the previously established ditches by assessing the cost on tracts not included within the area originally assessed for their construction. For these reasons, among others, both courts held that the proceedings had by the Board of County Commissioners to apportion and assess benefits on land outside the original drainage districts were unauthorized and void under the statutes of South Dakota. In this we think they were right.
Section 8458 of the South Dakota Revised Code of 1919 provides that the Board of County Commissioners "may establish and cause to be constructed any ditch or drain; may provide for the straightening or enlargement of any water course or drain previously constructed, and may provide for the maintenance of such ditch, drain or watercourse . . ."
Section 8476 provides that the powers conferred for establishing and constructing drains "shall also extend to and include the deepening and widening of any drains
The procedure prescribed by the South Dakota statutes embraces two distinct schemes or methods for carrying into effect the authority of the Board of County Commissioners. The one relates exclusively to the establishment and construction of proposed drainage; the other to assessments for further costs and maintenance of drainage already established. With reference to the establishment of proposed drainage, it is provided that the Board shall act only on petition of a landowner affected by the "proposed drainage" (§ 8459), and upon the filing of the petition the Board shall cause the "proposed route" of the drainage to be inspected and, if necessary, surveyed. (§ 8460.) It is required to hold a hearing on notice describing the proposed drainage (§ 8461), and after hearing the drainage "may be established" in accordance with the petition or the findings of the Board (§ 8462). After the establishment of the drainage, the Board is required to determine "the proportion of benefits of the proposed drainage," and to fix a time and place for equalization of benefits, on notice describing the land affected by the "proposed drainage"; and to state the proportion of benefits fixed for each tract, benefits being considered "such as accrue directly by the construction of such drainage or indirectly by virtue of such drainage being an outlet for connection drains which may be subsequently constructed." (§ 8463.) Following equalization of benefits as prescribed, the Board is authorized to make an assessment against each tract, "in proportion to benefits as equalized," for the purpose of paying damages and the cost of establishment, which are stated to include all the expenses "incurred or to be incurred that in any way contributed or will contribute to the establishment or construction
The only provisions contained in the statutes for equalization of benefits are those found in the sections referred to, which have to do with the establishment of proposed drainage. By § 8477 all drains, when constructed, are in charge of the Board of County Commissioners, who are made responsible for keeping them open and in repair. The statutory provisions which deal with assessments for further costs of construction and for maintenance are found in §§ 8467 and 8470, the material portions of which are printed in the margin.
The statutes of South Dakota contain no provision for assessing the cost of reconstruction or maintenance of an existing drainage project except in the two sections last referred to, and they make no provision for assessing such costs upon lands not embraced within or assessed in connection with the drainage as originally established. Whether the cost of construction work actually done on ditch No. 1 and ditch No. 2 and involved in this litigation be regarded as additional costs of construction or as cost of maintenance, or partly one and partly the other, there is no statutory authority for assessing that cost on lands not included in the original drainage district.
By § 8489 it is provided that "If any proceeding for the location, establishment or construction of any drain . . . has been . . . voluntarily abandoned . . . for any cause, the board of county commissioners may nevertheless . . . locate a drain . .. under the same or different names and in the same or different locations from those described in the . . . abandoned proceeding under the provisions of this article." But the original proceedings for the establishment and construction of ditch No. 1 and ditch No. 2 were not abandoned, and the proceedings had for levying the assessments now
While there are expressions in the opinion in Gilseth v. Risty, 46 S.D. 374, decided after these suits were begun, which, standing by themselves, might be regarded as supporting the view that the proceedings now in question were authorized by the statutes of South Dakota, the court clearly rested its decision upon other grounds. It is the duty of the federal courts, in suits brought in or removed to the districts courts, to decide for themselves all relevant questions of state law, and while they will follow the decisions of state courts as to the interpretation of a state statute, we do not think that the case of Gilseth v. Risty, supra, so clearly or decisively passed upon the question here involved as to control our decision. Kuhn v. Fairmount Coal Co., 215 U.S. 349; Barber v. Pittsburgh, &c. Railway, 166 U.S. 83, 99; and see Edward Hines Yellow Pine Trustees v. Martin, 268 U.S. 458.
As our decision in these cases turns on the construction and application of the state law, we do not pass upon the constitutional questions raised. See Bohler v. Calloway, 267 U.S. 479, 489; Chicago, G.W. Ry. v. Kendall, 266 U.S. 94, 97-98. They are, however, questions of substance and sufficient to give the court jurisdiction to pass on the whole case. Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R.R. Co., supra; Chicago, G.W. Ry. v. Kendall, supra; Bohler v. Calloway, supra.
The objections to the exercise of equity jurisdiction in these cases require no extended comment. When the appellees filed their bills, the drainage project had been completed and construction warrants had been issued for the work done; benefits apportioned to the lands of the appellee had been tentatively fixed and notice of a hearing for the equalization of benefits had been given. The steps next in order after the hearing would have been the
It does not appear that the state law affords a remedy by payment of the assessment and suit to recover it back, which, if it exists, can be availed of in the federal courts, Singer Sewing Machine Co. v. Benedict, 229 U.S. 481, 486, or that such remedy, if available, would not entail a multiplicity of suits. It is not suggested that § 6826 of the state code, which permits suits to recover taxes and forbids injunctions to restrain their collection, has any
The objection that it was not shown that these cases involve the jurisdictional amount is unsubstantial. The court below found that the amount due on outstanding construction warrants was approximately $300,000 and that the tentative apportionment of benefits, if undisturbed, would result in assessments for amounts ranging from $6,000 to $50,000 against the lands of the appellees. As the substantial basis of the suits was want of jurisdiction in the Board of County Commissioners to make the apportionment and assessment, we think the jurisdictional amount was necessarily involved.
Appellees are not estopped to seek the relief which was granted because of any relations which they may have had to the proceedings or to the construction work which had been carried on before notice of the tentative apportionment of benefits. The decrees of the District Court, which remain undisturbed, enjoin the assessments and further proceedings only so far as they affect lands lying outside of the original assessment areas of ditch No. 1 and ditch No. 2. As none of the appellees could have had any notice of the proposal to assess lands lying outside of these areas, until the published notice of the apportionment of benefits, their previous conduct cannot estop them from seeking the relief granted. Other objections were made to the decrees below, but they are not of sufficient gravity to require notice here.
There is no diversity of citizenship in No. 99, the appellee in that case being the city of Sioux Falls, a South Dakota municipal corporation. Nor was any substantial
No. 99 reversed and remanded.
Nos. 95, 96, 97, 98 and 100 affirmed.
§ 8470. For the cleaning and maintenance of any drainage established under the provisions of this article, assessments may be made upon the landowners affected in the proportions determined for such drainage at any time upon the petition of any person setting forth the necessity thereof. . . . Such assessments shall be made as other assessments for the construction of drainage, certificates may be issued thereon and such assessments and certificates shall be liens . . . in all respects as original assessments. . . .