OVERVIEW: The attorney-general brought suit against the chief engineer for an alleged usurpation of the office after the chief engineer refused to vacate his post. The lower court found in favor of the attorney-general. On appeal, the chief engineer contended that the act of the legislature to establish a board of water commissioners was unconstitutional and void. The central question in the case was one of legislative power. The court affirmed the judgment below. It found that the Water Department was a municipal corporation. The corporation was merely an agency instituted by the state for the purpose of carrying out in detail the objects of the government. It was essentially a revocable agency, with no vested powers or franchises. The corporation was also subject to the control of the legislature. While it existed in subjection to the will of the state, it enjoyed the rights and was subject to the liabilities of any other corporation, public or private. The court noted that whether the act should have been passed was a question to have been determined solely by the legislature itself. The court ruled that it was not at liberty to declare the act itself unconstitutional.
COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS OF DELAWARE
12 Del. 44; 30 A. 728; 1884 Del. LEXIS 8; 7 Houst. 44
July 22, 1884
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