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Texas Pipe Line Company v. Snelbaker

Decided: March 8, 1954.

THE TEXAS PIPE LINE COMPANY, A TEXAS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILSON A. SNELBAKER, RUTH L. SNELBAKER, TOWNSHIP OF WEST DEPTFORD AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



Woods, J.s.c.

Woods

The defendants in this suit attack the plaintiff on two grounds:

First: They claim that the plaintiff has no statutory authority under the laws of this State to exercise the right of eminent domain.

Second: The statute on which the plaintiff relies for its authority, if so construed and accepted, is in violation of rights reserved under paragraph 20, Article I, of the New Jersey Constitution and under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Motions were addressed to the court and determined. The proceedings, on order of the court, came on for trial in a plenary manner, without a jury, agreeable to N.J.S.A. 20:1-2, effective July 1, 1953. Pleadings and procedure are summarized in defendants' and plaintiff's briefs.

The plaintiff is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Texas and by certificate issued October 14, 1952 is duly authorized to do business in the State of New Jersey. The character of business which said corporation is to transact in this State is that of "common carrier by pipe line engaged in transportation of petroleum products and other business more fully described in attached Certificate of Incorporation and amendments thereto." (Exhibit P-1)

By these proceedings the plaintiff seeks to acquire certain rights in lands of the defendants for the construction and operation of a pipe line for the transportation of petroleum products. Plaintiff cites R.S. 48:10-1 as its source of authority to acquire the lands necessary to carry out its purposes by eminent domain. The statute reads as follows:

"Pipe line companies, associations and corporations may acquire by condemnation land and other property necessary for public use for right of way in the manner prescribed by chapter 1 of the title Eminent Domain (§ 20:1-1 et seq.)."

As aforesaid, defendants assail the constitutionality of the statute as applied to this case and allege that the right of eminent domain cannot be delegated to a foreign corporation.

It is a fundamental principle of law that the power to appropriate private property for public use is an attribute of sovereignty which is guarded by the Federal and State Constitutions. The Legislature may exercise the power to delegate this right to another, provided there is a public use, a public necessity that the property be taken; a provision for the payment of just compensation to the owner and that due process of law is afforded him. All of these provisions have been met in general in the statute. It cannot be considered "vague, indefinite and uncertain."

"In the absence of a constitutional inhibition, the legislature may authorize a foreign corporation to condemn lands in the state." 29 C.J.S., Eminent Domain , § 25 a, note 44, p. 814. And "the right of a foreign corporation to exercise the power of eminent domain may be gathered by implication. It may be conferred by statutes * * * permitting them to take and hold real estate." 29 C.J.S., Eminent Domain , § 25 c, p. 815. It was also stated by Judge Colie in Faubel v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co. , 29 N.J. Super. 116, 119 (Law Div. 1952):

"The defendant, a foreign corporation, has, by virtue of R.S. 48:10-1 the power of condemnation. * * * In Allen v. Francisco Sugar Co. , 92 N.J. Eq. 431 (E. & A. 1921) a statute empowering a domestic corporation to lease its property to 'any corporation' was held to bestow the right to lease to either domestic or foreign corporations. More recently, in Mechanics Finance Co. v. Austin , 8 N.J. 577 (1952) the language 'any person, agent, treasurer, or other fiduciary officer of a private or public municipal corporation' was held applicable to the named agents of a domestic or a foreign corporation alike. By parity of reasoning, it seems clear that R.S. 48:10-1 grants the power of ...


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