166 U.S. 226 (1897), argued 6, 9 Nov. 1896, decided 1 Mar. 1897 by vote of 7 to 1; Harlan for the Court, Brewer in dissent, Fuller not participating.
In this case the Court unanimously held that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause compelled the states to award just compensation when it took private property for public use. (Justice Brewer concurred on this point while dissenting from other parts of the judgment.) The case, which came to the Court as an appeal from a ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court upholding a jury award of one dollar when a street was opened across a railroad track, was among the earliest instances in which the Court applied the due process concept to protect substantive property rights. It was an important step in the Court's development of due process limits on state control of economic liberties. Yet Chicago B. & Q.R.R. v. Chicago remains good law despite its relation to the doctrine of laissez-faire constitutionalism. In contemporary constitutional law, the case stands as an early example of the doctrine that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause incorporates the specific guarantees of the Bill of Rights.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice David J. Brewer agreed that the Due Process Clause required the states to pay compensation when private property was taken, but argued that the jury verdict provided only nominal, rather than just, compensation to the railroad.
Stephen A. Siegel