« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
enforced by the State imposed illegal burdens upon interstate commerce under the guise of a valuation for purposes of taxation of property within the State. The board had no authority to impart to the value of railroad track and rolling stock, within the State, any part of the value of the company's various interests and property without the State.
There was some contention at the bar as to whether the state board, in fact, proceeded according to the rule of valuation to which I have referred. If I am in error in saying that it appears, affirmatively, from the record, that the board applied that rule, there can be no doubt that the state court construed the statute as authorizing the adoption of such a rule. It is equally clear that evidence to prove that the board acted upon that rule was offered and excluded, and that a proper exception was taken. Such action upon the part of the court was itself sufficient to raise the question whether the statute, as interpreted by the state court, and as administered by the state authorities, was not obnoxious to the objection that it permitted illegal burdens to be imposed, under the guise of local taxation, upon interstate commerce, and the taxation of property not within the jurisdiction of Indiana.
Without referring to other grounds discussed at the bar, I dissent from the opinion and judgment in this case upon the grounds above stated.
I am authorized by Mr. JUSTICE Brown to say that he also dissents.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON did not hear the argument in this case, or take any part in its decision.
INDIANAPOLIS AND VINCENNES RAILROAD COMPANY V. BACKUS, No. 900. Error to the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana. Argued March 27, 28, 1894. Decided May 26, 1894.
Mr. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.
Case No. 900, brought by the Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad Company to impeach the assessment made by the same board, in the same year, of its property, is so nearly like this in its material features that no separate statement of the special facts is necessary, and in that case, too, the judgment of the Supreme Court of the State of Indiana will be
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and Mr. JUSTICE BROWN dissented from the opinion and judgment upon the ground stated in their dissenting opinion in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company v. Backus, No. 899, ante, 421, 437.
MR. JUSTICE Jackson did not hear the argument in this case or take any part in its decision.
Mr. John M. Butler for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Albert Greene Smith, Attorney General of the State of Indiana, and Mr. William A. Ketcham for defendant in error.
CLEVELAND, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO AND ST.
LOUIS RAILWAY COMPANY v. BACKUS.
ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.
No. 908. Argued March 27, 28, 1894. – Decided May 26, 1894.
If an assessing board, seeking to assess for purposes of taxation a part of
a railroad within a State, the other part of which is in an adjoining State, ascertains the value of the whole line as a single property and then determines the value of that within the State, upon the mileage basis, that is not a valuation of property outside of the State; and the assessing board, in order to keep within the limits of state jurisdiction, need not treat the part of the road within the State as an independent line, disconnected from the part without, and place upon that property only the value which can be given to it if operated separately from the balance of
the road. Where an assessing board is charged with the duty of valuing a certain
number of miles of railroad within a State forming part of a line of road
Opinion of the Court.
running into another State, and assesses those miles of road at their actual cash value determined on a mileage basis, this does not place a burden upon interstate commerce, beyond the power of the State, simply because the value of that railroad as a whole is created partly — and perhaps largely — by the interstate commerce which it is doing.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. John T. Dye for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Alonzo Greene Smith, Attorney General of the State of Indiana, and Mr. William A. Ketcham for defendant in error. Mr. Albert J. Beveridge and Mr. John W. Kern were with them on their brief.
MR. JUSTICE Brewer delivered the opinion of the court.
This case is similar to the two just decided, in that it was a suit brought by this plaintiff in the same court, challenging an assessment of its railroad property for the same year, by the same board, with the same result both in the trial and Supreme Court of the State. Hence it is useless to reconsider the questions decided in those cases as to the constitutionality of the act itself, or those which depend solely upon like testimony. There was, however, in the trial of this case a more elaborate effort to show that the state board included in its assessment the value of property outside the State, and also that the valuation placed nominally upon the property within the State was largely based upon interstate business done by the plaintiff, and thus, as is claimed, to that extent, placed a direct burden upon interstate commerce, which, it is conceded, is beyond the power of the State to cast. It becomes necessary, therefore, to notice a little in detail the testimony which was received, as well as that which was excluded on the hearing.
It may be premised that there was much testimony of a character similar to that given in the other cases. Beyond that, there was a large amount of testimony received as well as some offered and rejected for the purpose of showing what was presented to the board for consideration, the method by
Opinion of the Court.
which it reached its conclusions, and the elements which entered into its estimate of value. The principal witness relied on in respect to these matters was the secretary of State, a member of the board. By him it was proved that no witness was sworn and examined, and no inquiry made in that way, as to the value of this property. It appeared that the return made by the company was before the board for consideration. The court ruled out an offer to prove that outside of such return no books, papers, or documents, except Poor's Manual and the Investors' Guide, were produced before the board, or considered by it in making the assessment; that Poor's Manual was used by it for data upon which to base the assessment; and specifically that this was the only evidence which it had as to the number of miles owned and leased by the plaintiff, the State in which they were located, and the various encumbrances upon the different lines of road included in the system belonging to the plaintiff. It was shown that the plaintiff appeared before the board by its officers, with such statements as they desired to make, and also that other individuals (especially an attorney representing Marion County, one of the counties through which the road of the plaintiff runs) appeared and made arguments. A series of questions was put to the witness, of which this is a sample:
“Q. In the assessment of the Cincinnati, La Fayette and Chicago Railway, extending from Templeton, Indiana, to the Illinois state line,” (one of the lines in plaintiff's system and included in the assessment,) " in arriving at the basis for the estimate of the value which you placed upon the main line of that road, did you consider the market value of any stocks; and, if so, of what stocks did you consider the market value?”; but the court ruled the question out on the ground that it was an attempt to inquire into the mental processes of members of the board. At the time counsel for the defendant stated :
“We desire to let the record show at this point, may the court please, that the defendant will interpose no objection to any question asked by the plaintiff as to whether or not the state board of tax commissioners assessed and valued any
Opinion of the Court.
bonds, stocks, or anything else outside of the State, and that we will not object to any question asked any member of the state board of tax commissioners as to whether or not that board assessed anything else than railroad track and rolling stock inside of the State of Indiana."
The plaintiff did not, however, apparently care to take advantage of this offer. Other questions were put to the witness, like the following:
“Q. In assessing the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad, you placed the main track at $27,900 per mile, while you assessed the main track of the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad at $21,800 per mile, being $6000 per mile less than the track of the St. Louis division of the three Ci's & St. L. or the I. & St. L. railroad. Now, in making this assessment, $21,800 per mile, or $27,900 per mile upon the main track of the St. Louis division of the three C.'s & St. L., did you or not consider the gross earnings of the three C.'s & St. L. railway, including earnings derived from carrying freight and passengers from points within to points without the State of Indiana, or through the State of Indiana, while engaged as a common carrier in interstate commerce?"; but the court sustained objections to all of them.
The witness was also asked, but not permitted to answer:
'Q. Did you fix the value upon the St. Louis division of the three C.'s & St. L. railway -- I mean did the board returned to the auditor of State separately or did you value that road as a part of the three C.'s & St. L. system in Ohio and in Indiana, and did you, having reached a unit of value by considering the whole system, distribute that unit of value according to mileage over the operated and leased lines and parts of roads in Indiana of the plaintiff ?”
Another series of questions was propounded, of which the following is one:
“Q. Did you or not, in assessing and fixing the value of the St. Louis division and of the Chicago division and of the leased and operated lines of the three C.'s & St. L. Railway in the State of Indiana, place or add anything to the value of said lines by reason of the fact that it had a franchise ?”