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Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago

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Significance: The Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to the states and that, therefore, the state needed to compensate a railroad adequately when it converted private property to a public purpose.


Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote the 7-1 majority opinion with Justice David J. Brewer dissenting in part and Justice Melville W. Fuller not participating. The Supreme Court unanimously held that the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause required the states to grant just compensation when it took private property for a public purpose. The ruling was unanimous because Justice Brewer concurred on this point even though he dissented on other issues. The Illinois supreme court had upheld a jury verdict of one dollar awarded to the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad for loss of its money-making ability when the city of Chicago created a street across its railroad track. Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Co. was one of the earliest attempts to use the right of substantive due process to control a state's attempt to regulate economic behavior. Although this latter purpose has been set aside by other decisions, this case remains valid law for the proposition that the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause incorporates specific guarantees for the Bill of Rights. In this case, the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of just compensation when private property is taken for public purpose was incorporated and applied to the states.