« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
“In arriving at the basis for the estimate of said values the board has considered the cost of the construction and equipment of said roads, the market value of the stocks and bonds, and the gross and net earnings of each of said roads, and all other matters appertaining thereto that would assist the board in arriving at a true cash value of the same."
The return made by the plaintiff to the auditor of State for the year 1891, in accordance with the requirements of the statute, was also given in evidence, which return was upon a blank furnished by the auditor, and shows an aggregate valuation of about $8,000,000. This return was sworn to by the general manager and secretary of the company. The second vice-president and general counsel of the plaintiff was called as a witness, and, after testifying to his familiarity with the property, and its value, was asked the value in 1890, but, on objection, this testimony was ruled out. He was permitted, however, to give testimony as to the value in 1891, and his answer fixed that value in the aggregate at $8,538,053, the same value that was placed upon the property by the state board in 1890. He was asked to state the average cash value per mile of the company's property in Indiana, and in the other States into which the company's road extended, treating the portion in each State as constituting a unit, separate and distinct from those of the portions in the other States, but an objection to this was sustained, and the testimony offered ruled out. He then testified as to the terminal facilities in the cities of Chicago and Pittsburgh belonging to the plaintiff, and their great value, and the absence of terminal facilities of any particular value in any of the cities in Indiana. He was then asked if the plaintiff owned any rolling stock which was used exclusively in any one of the five States in which it did business, but this question was ruled out. In response to further questions he testified that the plaintiff had no rolling stock used exclusively within the State of Indiana for special purposes. Certain questions were also asked as to the notice or knowledge which the plaintiff had of the determination made by the state board in 1891 as to the valuation, but we have heretofore held that it is immaterial whether it had any
Opinion of the Court.
notice thereof after the decision and prior to the adjournment of the board. The assistant engineer of the plaintiff was also called as a witness, and producing a written statement which he had presented to the state board prior to its determination, which statement goes at length into the mileage in the different States, the gross earnings, per cent of earnings, and the value of the track, testified that the facts in such written statement were true. Another witness, the assistant comptroller of the plaintiff, was asked what per cent of the gross receipts of its Indiana business was derived from commerce, beginning and ending wholly within the State and what from interstate business; but, on objection, this testimony was ruled out. The secretary of State, who was a member of the state board, was also called, and testified that the members of the board did not make an official examination or inspection of the railroad track and rolling stock of the plaintiff, being personally acquainted therewith ; that they did not summon before them, or examine under oath, any person or persons acquainted with the true cash value of the property. The plaintiff also offered the return made by the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad Company to the auditor of State for the year 1891, prepared upon the same form as that upon which the plaintiff's return was made, but it was ruled out as irrelevant and immaterial, as well as the action taken by the state board in respect to the valuation of the property of such road. This was, in substance, all the testimony offered by the plaintiff.
The defendant simply called the secretary of State, who testified that in assessing the plaintiff's property no assessment was made, except upon the railroad track and rolling stock of plaintiff within the State, and no assessment was made of any property of value outside the State.
Upon this testimony the decision of the court was that there was nothing to impeach the assessment made by the state board, and in this conclusion we concur. The true cash value of the plaintiff's property in the State of Indiana in the year 1891 was a question of fact, the determination of which for the purposes of taxation was given to this special tribunal, the state board. Whenever a question of fact is thus submitted
Opinion of the Court.
to the determination of a special tribunal, its decision creates something more than a mere presumption of fact, and if such determination comes into inquiry before the courts it cannot be overthrown by evidence going only to show that the fact was otherwise than as so found and determined. Here the question determined by the state board was the value of certain property. That determination cannot be overthrown by the testimony of two or three witnesses that the valuation was other than that fixed by the board. It is true such testimony may be competent, and was received in this case because, taken in conjunction with other testimony, it might establish fraudulent conduct on the part of the board sufficient to vitiate its determination. It is not, however, contended by counsel that there was any actual fraud on the part of that board ; that the individual members thereof deliberately violated the obligations of their oaths of office, and intentionally placed upon the property of the plaintiff a valuation which they knew to be grossly in excess of that which it in fact bore, and did so with the purpose of making the plaintiff bear a larger share of the burden of the support of the state government than it rightfully should. The contention is rather that the board made a grievous mistake in placing so high a value, and that it took into consideration property outside of the State, and gave to the property within a value partly deduced from that without the State. The testimony, however, does not sustain this contention.
The certificate of the state board does not show that it reached its determination of the value of the property in Indiana by first ascertaining the total value of the company's property, and then dividing it on the mileage basis. It simply shows that it considered the matters which by the statute were required to be presented to it by the railroad company, as well as all other matters which in its judgment bore upon the question of value, and from such consideration reached the result announced, to wit, the value of that part of the company's road in the State of Indiana. Evidence that there were peculiar matters which gave to portions of the road outside of Indiana an enormous value as compared with the
Opinion of the Court.
general line of the road does not prove that the board did not take those peculiar matters into consideration. On the contrary, the reasonable presumption is that if its attention was called by the company to those facts it did take them into consideration in connection with the information derived from the total amount of stock and indebtedness of the company. Indeed, its certificate is affirmatively that it took into consideration “all other matters appertaining thereto that would assist the board in arriving at a true cash value" of the parts of the road within the State of Indiana. That the aggregate value of the entire property of the company was evidence properly receivable and bearing upon the question of value of that part in Indiana is a proposition which, as we have heretofore said, is clearly established both on reason and authority. There is no evidence that the board had before it or considered any matter in reaching its determination which was not properly receivable and properly to be considered. A comparison of the assessment placed by the board upon the property of this plaintiff with that placed by it upon other roads, or portions of roads, within the State is immaterial unless coupled with an offer to show an identity in value, so that the case narrows itself down to this : Is testimony that the value placed by the board was excessive, together with testimony that portions of the road outside of the State were of largely greater value than any similar length of road within the State, unaccompanied with evidence that the board reached the valuation by simply dividing the total value of the company's property on a mileage basis, or that it failed to take into consideration the fact of such excessive value of portions outside the State, sufficient to impeach its determination? This question must be answered in the negative. No determination of a special board, charged under the law with the duty of placing a value upon property, can be successfully impeached by such meagre testimony.
These are all the questions presented in this record, and notwithstanding the shadow cast upon the action of the board by this large increase in valuation, we are forced to the conclusion not only that the act is not open to the objections
Dissenting Opinion: Harlan, Brown, JJ.
made to its constitutionality, but also that there is no sufficient testimony to impeach the conclusion and determination of the state board. The judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana is, therefore,
Affirmed. MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, with whom concurred MR. JUSTICE Brown, dissenting.
The statute of Indiana of March 6, 1891, as construed by the Supreme Court of that State, authorized the State Board of Tax Commissioners, in assessing the “railroad track” and “ rolling stock” of the company in the State, to ascertain the market value of its property and interests of every kind, within and without the State, including capital stock, bonds, earnings, franchise, equipment, etc.; and, that being done, to take as the value of the company's track and rolling stock in Indiana for taxation such proportion of that aggregate amount as the number of miles of its road in that State bore to the aggregate miles of its road or roads within and without the State. And by this rule of valuation the State Board of Tax Commissioners seems to have been governed. In the official report by the board of its proceedings for 1891, showing the basis on which the values of the railroads and parts of roads within the State had been fixed, it is said that, “in arriving at the basis for the estimate of said values the board has considered the cost of the construction and equipment of said roads, the market value of the stocks and bonds, and the gross and net earnings of each of said roads, and all other matters appertaining thereto that would assist the board in arriving at a true cash value of the same.” The forms of printed returns supplied to railroad companies show that they were required to report such values and earnings in respect of all their property of every kind, wherever situated. Under the mode of assessment pursued, property was taxed in Indiana that had no situs there, which was used in interstate commerce outside of Indiana, and could not properly be included in the company's railroad track and rolling stock in that State. I am of opinion that the statute as construed and