When Parking Meters Were Against the Law

While doing some academic journal digging for my article
yesterday on “Petty
Law Enforcement vs. the Poor
,” I came across some very
interesting news-to-me (perhaps well known to everyone else) from a
1947 article by Marion Allen Grimes called “The
Legality of Parking Meter Ordinances and Permissible Use of Parking
Meter Funds
“, from California Law Review. 

Turns out that back in the first half of the 20th century,
people had enough mistrust of government and respect for the notion
of enumerated powers–even on the local level–that lots of people
filed legal challenges to the very notion of a municipality’s power
to install parking meters.

After all, “It is a well-established rule of municipal law that
a municipal corporation possesses and can exercise only those
powers expressly granted to it, those necessarily or fairly implied
in or incident to the powers expressly granted, and those essential
to the accomplishment of the declared objects and purposes….”

Most such challenges lost, natch. Courts are, after all, a
branch of government.

But not all of them! In some cases discussed in this article,
“the court came to the conclusion that the municipality had not
been granted the power to regulate traffic by use of parking
meters. The ordinance in one jurisdiction was held bad as levying a
license fee, such fees being prohibited by state law. Another
jurisdiction held that a city which had power to pass a parking
meter ordinance had wrongly exercised that power since the measure
was for revenue rather than for regulation. Another ordinance was
held invalid as being not a proper exercise of the police power,
since it violated the rights of an abutting property owner.”

A very different nation, worse in many important ways, but that
courts could actually accept and rule in favor of people
challenging state power to put in parking meters is a neat

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/09/when-parking-meters-were-against-the-law

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