« ForrigeFortsett »
Opinion of the Court.
that Congress took the same view of the matter as did the officers of the Land Department, is afforded by the committee reports on the Act of 1910 wherein the grantees in the land grants were spoken of as under an existing duty "to pay one-half the cost of surveying the lands within their granted limits" and the Secretary of the Interior was encouraged to call upon Congress "for a sufficient appropriation, from time to time, to cover the Government's share of the cost of the work of surveying as it progressed." See Senate Report No. 609, 61st Cong., 2d sess., which includes the House Report. One of the reports, in evident explanation of provisions in the act intended to hasten such surveys, said:
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"It is deemed wise and important that these lands be surveyed as promptly as possible for various reasons— first, that they may become taxable by the States and communities; second, that the Government may dispose of its lands which join the railroad lands, and in order that I where the railroad lands occur within forest reservesabout 3,000,000 acres of the unsurveyed lands being in reserves the government officials may be able to determine the boundaries of the public lands for the purpose of regulating and controlling the same, selling the timber, etc."
We conclude that the provision of 1876, as supplemented by the Act of 1910, gives no warrant for demanding of the grantee in a land grant a deposit covering the entire cost of surveying a township wherein the grantee is entitled to only a part of the lands, and that in making such a demand of the plaintiff the defendant plainly exceeded his authority. Thus, the demand was an unauthorized act done under color of office, and the defendant properly may be enjoined from insisting upon or giving effect to it, unless it be that there is an absence of other elements essential to granting such relief.
We think the other elements are not wanting. There
Opinion of the Court.
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are millions of acres of unsurveyed lands within the primary limits of the unforfeited portion of the grant of 1866. (See Senate Report, supra.) The plaintiff is entitled to many of the odd-numbered sections within the unsurveyed areas. A claim such as is evidenced by the demand made by the defendant, unless and until it is adjudged unauthorized, will cast a serious cloud upon the plaintiff's rights in the granted lands remaining unsurveyed and be a source of serious embarrassment. Besides, the Act of 1910 contemplates that when a demand thereunder is not complied with the rights of the grantee in the granted lands specified in the demand "shall cease and forfeit" to the United States and the Secretary shall notify the Attorney General in order that the latter may begin "proceedings to declare the forfeiture" and to restore the lands to the public domain. The plaintiff was not required in order to test the validity of the demand to permit the ninety days to pass and to rely entirely upon defending such suit as might be brought by the Attorney General. On the contrary, if the demand was unlawful, as we hold it was, the plaintiff was entitled to sue in equity to have the defendant enjoined from insisting upon or giving any effect to it. The hazard and embarrassment incident to any other course were such as to entitle it to act promptly and affirmatively, and of course there was no remedy at law that would be as plain, adequate and complete as a suit such as this against the defendant.
The plaintiff promptly tendered a deposit of half the amount demanded, but the tender was rejected. As the granted lands could not at most be more than half the acreage in the townships and the amount demanded was what was required to survey the entire acreage, the tender was adequate.
GREENE, AUDITOR, ET AL., CONSTITUTING THE BOARD OF VALUATION AND ASSESSMENT FOR THE STATE OF KENTUCKY, ET AL. v. LOUISVILLE & INTERURBAN RAILROAD COMPANY
SAME v. LOUISVILLE RAILWAY COMPANY.
APPEALS FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY.
Nos. 617, 618. Argued January 16, 17, 18, 1917.—Decided June 11, 1917.
Equity has jurisdiction to enjoin unlawful tax proceedings, which cloud the plaintiff's title and threaten irreparable injury and a multiplicity of suits.
The principle settled in Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123, to the effect that a suit to restrain state officials from enforcing an unconstitutional state statute in violation of plaintiff's rights and to his irreparable damage is not a suit against the State, applies also when the statute itself is constitutional but the attempted administration of it is not.
In a case in which the jurisdiction of the District Court is properly invoked upon a substantial controversy arising under the Constitution of the United States, the jurisdiction of that court, and of this court on appeal, extends to the determination of all questions involved, including questions of state law, irrespective of the disposition that may be made of the federal question and of whether it be found necessary to decide it at all.
Where the relief to which plaintiff might be entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment is the same as that allowed him by the federal court upon a proper construction and application of the state constitution and laws, the question whether the acts complained of violate the Amendment need not be decided.
Under the so-called franchise tax provisions of Kentucky (Ky. Stats., §§ 4077-4079) relating to railroad and other corporations exercising special or exclusive privileges or franchises, what is termed the "capital stock of the corporation" (§ 4079) includes its entire property,
tangible and intangible, and what is termed a "franchise tax" is nothing else than a tax upon the intangible property of the corporation in Kentucky.
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Semble, that no provision is made by the Kentucky statutes for taxing franchises under §§ 174 and 181 of the state constitution.
The provision in § 182 of the Kentucky Constitution, permitting the General Assembly to provide by law "how railroads and railroad property shall be assessed, and how taxes thereon shall be collected," relates only to the mode of assessment and collection and does not authorize a departure from the uniformity in valuation and rate required by §§ 171 and 174.
Discrimination resulting from an assessment of the intangible property of a railroad corporation by the Board of Valuation and Assessment at 75 per cent. of its actual value while the property of individuals and other classes of corporations, taxed at the same rate, is generally and systematically assessed by other and independent taxing authorities of the State at not more than 60 per cent. of actual value, is violative of the provisions of the Kentucky Constitution requiring uniform taxation in proportion to value and an identical rate as between corporate and individual property (§§ 171, 174); and this has been recognized by the Supreme Court of the State.
A decision of the state Supreme Court holding that such discrimination is not subject to correction in the courts of the State, and that the equality and uniformity provisions of the state constitution may be enforced only by selection of proper assessing officers, is not binding upon the federal courts.
The courts of the United States, their jurisdiction being properly invoked, may afford relief against discriminatory state taxation, contravening the state constitution, when the discrimination results from divergent action of different assessing boards whose assessments are not subject to any process of equalization established by the State, and where the diverse results are the outcome, not of express agreement, but of intentional, systematic and persistent undervaluation by one body of officials, presumably known to and ignored by the other body, so that, in effect, the two bodies act in concert.
Sections 171 and 174 of the Constitution of Kentucky require uniform taxation according to value, and an identical rate as between corporate and individual property; and the provision of § 174 that "all corporate property shall pay the same rate of taxation paid by individual property" means that not only the percentage of the rate, but the basis of the valuation, shall be the same.
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Opinion of the Court.
Uniformity in taxing implies equality in the burden of taxation; and this equality cannot exist without uniformity in the basis of assessment, as well as in the rate of taxation.
The principal if not the sole reason for adopting "fair cash value" as the standard for valuations is as a convenient means of securing equal taxation, and, since, when the standard is systematically departed from in respect of certain classes of property, its observance in respect of others (the tax rate being uniform) would serve to frustrate its very object, it follows that, in such cases, the duty to assess at full value is not supreme but yields to the duty to avoid discrimination.
Section 162, Kentucky Statutes, does not afford an adequate legal remedy against discriminatory assessments for both state and local taxes, because, as construed by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, it does not authorize correction of erroneous assessments, and also because it applies only to state, and not to local, taxes. Singer Sewing Machine Co. v. Benedict, 229 U. S. 481, distinguished.
When the bill seeks relief as to state and local taxes based on the same assessment, and an adequate legal remedy exists as to the former class only, equity will retain and dispose of the entire case, doing justice completely and avoiding multiplicity of suits.
A railroad company whose intangible property is assessed by the Board of Valuation and Assessment, and which is subjected to discrimination through undervaluation of other property by county assessors, is not afforded an adequate remedy through §§ 4115-4120, 4123, Ky. Stats., providing for readjustment of the latter class of assessments through the County Board of Supervisors. Affirmed.
THE cases are stated in the opinion.
Mr. Charles Carroll, Mr. Marvel M. Logan, Attorney General of the State of Kentucky, and Mr. John L. Rich for appellants.
Mr. Alexander Pope Humphrey, with whom Mr. Edward P. Humphrey was on the brief, for appellees.
MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.
These are companion cases involving similar questions, were argued together, and may be disposed of in a single