The Commissioner of Agriculture and Immigration and the Attorney General instituted this proceeding under R.S. 13:4231-4246 for a judgment declaring Act 230 of 1954 constitutional.
The named defendant is the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, which is authorized and directed by Act 230 of 1954 to construct, furnish and equip additional buildings on the University campus at Baton Rouge for the purpose of providing facilities to the State Chemist for performance of the duties and responsibilities imposed upon him by R.S. 3:1024, 1025, 1312, 1892 and Act 501 of 1952 and also to provide housing for the State Seed Laboratory. To enable the Board of Supervisors to erect the necessary building, Act 230 of 1954 empowers and directs it to issue and sell bonds in an amount not to exceed the sum of $850,000, payment of which is to be secured by certain funds
It is alleged by the proponents of the litigation that a justiciable controversy has arisen anent the constitutionality of Act 230 of 1954, specifically as to whether the funds pledged for the payment of bonds to be issued by the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University are derived from charges imposed under the police power of the State, or whether they are licenses assessed and collected under the power of taxation.
The Board of Supervisors states in its answer that it is willing to perform the duties exacted of it by the statute but asserts that the bonds and obligations which it is directed to issue and sell are not merchantable because Act 230 of 1954 offends Section 18 of Article 19 of the Constitution of 1921, which declares that the police power of the State shall never be abridged. Taking the position that the funds which are to secure the payment of the bonds are authorized to be collected under the police power, the Board declares that the pledging of any such funds will effectually trammel the State in the exercise of this power.
In the district court, it was decreed that Act 230 of 1954 is constitutional, the judge being of the opinion that the funds pledged for the payment of the bonds to be issued are derived from the exercise of the State's power of taxation. The Board of Supervisors have appealed.
At the outset, we direct our attention, sua sponte, to the question of the jurisdiction of the district court to entertain this proceeding. Although the litigants profess that this is a justiciable controversy, it is patent on the face of the pleadings that the parties are not really seeking the declaration of a right but rather an advisory opinion that Act 230 of 1954 is constitutional.
Ever since 1810, it has been fundamental in the law of Louisiana that courts sit to administer justice in actual cases and that they do not and will not act on feigned ones, even with consent of the parties. See Livingston v. D'Orgenoy, D.C., 108 F. 469, also reported in 1 Mart.,O.S., 87. This principle has been strictly adhered to throughout the years
Section 35 of Article 7 of the Constitution vests the district courts throughout the State with original jurisdiction in all civil matters "* * * regardless of the amount in dispute * * *". Thus, in order for the court to become seized of jurisdiction in the first instance, there must be a dispute or controversy over some matter or right in which the opposing parties have an interest. For one to sue, his interest must be real and actual, Article 15, Code of Practice, and a controversy between the suitor and the defendant must exist.
The Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, R.S. 13:4231 et seq., has not had the magical effect of changing the above stated basic tenets. In truth, to construe the statute as extending jurisdiction to the courts to validate legislative action, or otherwise render advisory opinions, would effect an unconstitutional enlargement of the grant of judicial power which is restricted to real controversies. State ex rel. Day v. Rapides Parish School Board, 158 La. 251, 103 So. 757; Graham v. Jones, 198 La. 507, 3 So.2d 761 and State ex rel. Bussie v. Fant, 216 La. 58, 43 So.2d 217.
The Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act is merely a procedural device by which the courts may make a declaratory finding pursuant to the provisions of R.S. 13:4231. But, in order for an action to be entertained under the Act, it must be based on an actual controversy
In the matter at hand, it is perfectly plain that neither the Attorney General
Nor does defendant's plea of unconstitutionality create a controversy between it and the plaintiffs when none actually exists. The Board of Supervisors states in its answer that it is willing to perform the duties imposed upon it by Act 230 of 1954 but it claims that, if it issues the bonds, they will not be merchantable because it is of the opinion that the Act is unconstitutional. The unmerchantability of the bonds might be a good defense to a mandamus proceeding taken to compel the Board to sell the bonds had it issued them and found them to be unsaleable. But the Board has no right to refuse compliance with the mandate of the law because it entertains doubt as to its validity when it is not adversely affected by its provisions and
Being of the opinion that the case does not present a justiciable controversy and that the district court was without jurisdiction thereof, the declaratory judgment appealed from is annulled and set aside and the proceeding is dismissed.