State Control over Local Units of Government

The Fourteenth Amendment does not deprive a state of the power to determine what duties may be performed by local officers, and whether they shall be appointed or popularly elected.381 Nor does a statute requiring cities to indemnify owners of property damaged by mobs or during riots result in an unconstitutional deprivation of the property, even when the city could not have prevented the violence.382 Likewise, a person obtaining a judgment against a municipality for damages resulting from a riot is not deprived of property without due process of law by an act that so limits the municipality’s taxing power as to prevent collection of funds adequate to pay it. As long as the judgment continues as an existing liability, no unconstitutional deprivation is experienced.383

Local units of government obliged to surrender property to other units newly created out of the territory of the former cannot successfully invoke the Due Process Clause,384 nor may taxpayers allege any unconstitutional deprivation as a result of changes in their tax burden attendant upon the consolidation of contiguous municipalities.385 Nor is a statute requiring counties to reimburse cities of the first class but not cities of other classes for rebates allowed for prompt payment of taxes in conflict with the Due Process Clause.386


Soliah v. Heskin, 222 U.S. 522 (1912); City of Trenton v. New Jersey, 262 U.S. 182 (1923). The Equal Protection Clause has been used, however, to limit a state’s discretion with regard to certain matters. See “Fundamental Interests: The Political Process,” infra. back
City of Chicago v. Sturges, 222 U.S. 313 (1911). back
Louisiana ex rel. Folsom v. Mayor of New Orleans, 109 U.S. 285, 289 (1883). back
Michigan ex rel. Kies v. Lowrey, 199 U.S. 233 (1905). back
Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161 (1907). back
Stewart v. Kansas City, 239 U.S. 14 (1915). back