“The city holds all property which it owns as trustee for the public, although certain classes or kinds of property, such as the public streets, the public squares, the courthouse, and the jail cannot be taken on execution against it, for reasons which are plain to be seen. Such property is so necessary for the present and daily use of the city as the representative of the public, as well as for the use of the public itself, that to allow it to be taken on execution against the city would interfere so substantially with the immediate wants and rights of the public whose trustee the city is, and also with the due performance of the duties which are imposed upon the city by virtue of its incorporation, that it ought not to be tolerated. Other property which the city might hold, not being so situated, might be taken on execution against it, but it nevertheless holds that very property as trustee. It holds it for the purpose of discharging in a general way the duties which it owes to the public—that is, to the inhabitants of the city. The citizens or inhabitants of a city, not the common council or local legislature, constitute the ‘corporation’ of the city. The corporation as such has no human wants to be supplied. It cannot eat or drink or wear clothing or live in houses. It must as to all its property be the representative or trustee of somebody or of some aggregation of persons, and it must therefore hold its property for the same use, call that use either public or private. It is a use for the benefit of individuals. A municipal corporation is the trustee of the inhabitants of that corporation, and it holds all its property in a general and substantial, although not in a strictly technical, sense in trust for them. They are the people of the state inhabiting that particular subdivision of its territory, a fluctuating class constantly passing out of the scope of the trust by removal and death and as constantly renewed by fresh accretions of population. The property which a municipal corporation holds is for their use, and is held for their benefit. Any of the property held by a city does not belong to the mayor, or to any or all of the members of the common council, nor to the common people as individual property. If any of those functionaries should appropriate the property or its avails to his own use, he would be guilty of embezzlement, and if one of the people not clothed with official station should do the like, he would be guilty of larceny. So we see that whatever property a municipal corporation holds, it holds it in trust for its inhabitants—in other words, for the public—and the only difference in the trust existing in the case of a public highway or a public square and other cases is that, in the one case, the property cannot be taken in execution against the city, while in other cases, it may be. The right of the city is less absolute in the one case than in the other, but it owns all the property in the same capacity and character as a corporation, and in trust for the inhabitants thereof.” – Unites States Supreme Court Associate Justice Rufus W. Peckham, Werlein v. New Orleans, 177 U.S. 390 (1900)

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