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Citizens Committee of Anne Arundel County Inc. v. County Commissioners of

Decided: January 30, 1964.

CITIZENS COMMITTEE OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, INC., ET AL.
v.
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY ET AL.



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County; Macgill, J.

Henderson, Hammond, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Horney

This action for injunctive relief, instituted by an incorporated citizens committee and a group of individual county residents, citizens and taxpayers against the County Commissioners of Anne Arundel County, challenges the constitutionality and validity of such of the local laws, and the ordinances and resolutions passed pursuant thereto, as purport to authorize the operation of gambling devices and activities in the County. The Southern Maryland Development Company, Inc., to which the County Commissioners had issued licenses permitting the operation of slot machines, payoff pinball machines, console devices, commercial bingo, paddle wheels and wheels of fortune, was allowed to intervene as a party defendant. The laws attacked include, among others, Chapter 321 of the Laws of 1941,

Chapter 321 of the Laws of 1943, Chapter 1013 of the Laws of 1945, Chapter 625 of the Laws of 1949 and Chapter 3 of the Laws of 1954. All are now codified in the County Code. The chancellor heard the case at length, ruled that the statutes in question were constitutional and valid and dismissed the bill of complaint.

The questions presented on appeal by the appellants include contentions that the legislative acts did not, and were not intended to, authorize the licensing of gambling devices and activities; that the licensing of such devices and activities is unconstitutional in that it authorizes lottery grants in violation of Article III, § 36, of the Constitution of Maryland; that some of the acts are unconstitutional in that they violate Article III, § 29, of the Constitution prohibiting amendment of existing laws by reference to title and section number only; that all of the acts are invalid in that they were insufficiently and deceptively titled; that all constitute an unlawful delegation of authority; and that the acts, as well as the ordinances passed pursuant thereto, are invalid in that they are revenue raising measures in the guise of regulatory measures. The appellees, in addition to claiming that the operation of the licensed devices and activities are lawful, contend that neither the corporation nor the individual plaintiffs, as residents, citizens and taxpayers, had standing to maintain this suit.

We think that only one of the contentions -- that of the appellees to the effect that the appellants do not have standing to maintain this suit -- has to be considered on this appeal. It is not disputed that the corporate plaintiff, the citizens committee, is without standing to sue. And, under the circumstances of this case, we think that the individual plaintiffs, as residents, citizens and taxpayers, did not have the right to maintain this action.

While the appellants claim that the carrying out of the provisions of the alleged unconstitutional and invalid laws, ordinances and resolutions, has resulted in loss and damage to them and all other taxpayers in the county, they have failed to prove or show any special damage or loss which is peculiar to themselves as taxpayers or otherwise.

In Ruark v. Engineers' Union, 157 Md. 576, 146 A. 797

(1929), wherein taxpayers sought injunctive relief against an alleged violation of a Baltimore City statute, the Court extensively reviewed most of the previous Maryland cases pertaining to the right of an individual taxpayer to restrain a public wrong. Quoting from two earlier decisions, and citing numerous others, it was said at p. 588:

"'The rule, or principle of law, applicable and controlling in this class of cases, is well settled, that private citizens cannot restrain public wrongs, unless they allege and prove damage to themselves different in character from that sustained by the public generally, nor can taxpayers restrain official acts upon the mere ground that they are ultra vires. * * *'"

"'* * * Public wrongs are not to be redressed at the suit of individuals who have no other interest in the matter than the rest of the public. To give them a standing in a court of equity, they must allege and show that by the wrong committed they suffer some special damage or that they have a ...


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