« ForrigeFortsett »
244, U. S.
Opinion of the Court.
In repeated decisions since Ex parte Young, that case has been recognized as setting these questions at rest. Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Andrews, 216 U. S. 165, 166; Herndon v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pac. Ry. Co., 218 U. S. 135, 155; Philadelphia Co. v. Stimson, 223 U. S. 605, 621; Home Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Los Angeles, 227 U. S. 278, 293; Truax v. Raich, 239 U. S. 33, 37. And see Hopkins v. Clemson Agricultural College, 221 U. S. 636, 642-644.
The principle is not confined to the maintenance of suits for restraining the enforcement of statutes which as enacted by the state legislature are in themselves unconstitutional. Reagan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 154 U. S. 362, 390, was a case not of an unconstitutional statute, but of confiscatory, and therefore unconstitutional, action taken by a state commission under a constitutional statute. The court, by Mr. Justice Brewer, said: "Neither will the constitutionality of the statute, if that be conceded, avail to oust the Federal court of jurisdiction. A valid law may be wrongfully administered by officers of the State, and so as to make such administration an illegal burden and exaction upon the individual. A tax law, as it leaves the legislative hands, may not be obnoxious to any challenge, and yet the officers charged with the administration of that valid tax law may so act under it in the matter of assessment or collection as to work an illegal trespass upon the property rights of the individual.” In Raymond v. Chicago Union Traction Co., 207 U. S. 20, 38, the court upheld the right of action in a federal court to restrain the collection of taxes that had been assessed at a different rate and by a different method from that employed with respect to other tax-payers of the same class, in defiance of the provisions of a constitutional statute that required equalization, and also in denial of the equal protection of the laws within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Opinion of the Court.
244 U. S.
(3) The contention of plaintiffs, set forth in their respective bills of complaint, that the action of the Board of Valuation and Assessment in making the assessments under consideration and the threatened action of defendants in respect of carrying those assessments into effect constituted action by the State, and if carried out would violate the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment, presents, without question, a real and substantial controversy under the Constitution of the United States, which (there being involved a sum and value in excess of the jurisdictional amount) conferred jurisdiction upon the federal court, irrespective of the citizenship of the parties. This being so, the jurisdiction of that court extended, and ours on appeal extends, to the determination of all questions involved in the case, including questions of state law, irrespective of the disposition that may be made of the federal question, or whether it be found necessary to decide it at all. Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., 213 U. S. 175, 191; Ohio Tax Cases, 232 U. S. 576, 586.
(4) Taking up first the question of state law, we should at the outset briefly consider the pertinent provisions of the constitution and laws of the State. By § 171 of the constitution it is prescribed: "The General Assembly shall provide by law an annual tax, which, with other resources, shall be sufficient to defray the estimated expenses of the Commonwealth for each fiscal year. Taxes shall be levied and collected for public purposes only. They shall be uniform upon all property subject to taxation within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax; and all taxes shall be levied and collected by general laws." By § 172: "All property, not exempted from taxation by this Constitution, shall be assessed for taxation at its fair cash value, estimated at the price it would bring at a fair voluntary sale; and any officer, or other person authorized to assess values for taxation, who shall commit
any willful error in the performance of his duty, shall be deemed guilty of misfeasance, and upon conviction thereof shall forfeit his office, and be otherwise punished, as may be provided by law." By § 174: "All property, whether owned by natural persons or corporations, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, unless exempted by this Constitution; and all corporate property shall pay the same rate of taxation paid by individual property. Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prevent the General Assembly from providing for taxation based on income, licenses or franchises." Section 181 provides as follows: "The General Assembly may, by general laws only, provide for the payment of license fees on franchises, stock used for breeding purposes, the various trades, occupations and professions, or a special or excise tax;" etc. And § 182 declares: "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prevent the General Assembly from providing, by law, how railroads and railroad property shall be assessed and how taxes thereon shall be collected."
Under statutory provisions, property is valued for purposes of taxation, both state and local, in the following manner: All property in the State, real and personal, tangible and intangible, except the property of railroads, the franchises of certain corporations, shares of stock in banks, and distilled spirits, is assessed by county assessors, subject to the review of county boards of supervisors and a State Board of Equalization. Tangible railroad property is assessed by the State Railroad Commission. Bank shares and distilled spirits are assessed by the Board of Valuation and Assessment, composed of the Auditor of Public Accounts, the Treasurer of State, and the Secretary of State. And, by § 4077, Ky. Stats., it is provided: "Every railway company or corporation . . also every other corporation, company or association having or exercising any special or exclusive privilege or franchise not allowed by law to natural persons, or performing any
Opinion of the Court.
public service, shall, in addition to the other taxes imposed on it by law, annually pay a tax on its franchise to the State, and a local tax thereon to the county, incorporated city, town or taxing district, where its franchise may be exercised." The values of such franchises (except as to turnpike companies, otherwise provided for), are to be fixed by the Board of Valuation and Assessment. By § 4078, verified statements are to be delivered annually to the Auditor showing certain facts respecting the company, including the amount of capital stock, with its par and real value, and the highest price at which it was sold within twelve months preceding, the amount of surplus funds and undivided profits, the value of all other assets, the amount of indebtedness, the gross or net earnings or income, the amount and kind of tangible property in the State, the fair cash value thereof estimated at the price it would bring at a fair voluntary sale, and such other facts as the Auditor may require. Section 4079 provides that "where the line or lines of any such corporation, company or association extend beyond the limits of the State or county," the statement shall, in addition to other facts, show the length of entire lines operated, owned, leased or controlled in the State and in each county, incorporated city, town, or taxing district, and the entire line operated, etc., elsewhere. There is a proviso that the Board, from the statement furnished to it by the corporation, and from such other evidence as it may have, is to "fix the value of the capital stock of the corporation and from the amount thus fixed shall deduct the assessed value of all tangible property assessed in this State, or in the counties. where situated. The remainder thus found shall be the value of its corporate franchise subject to taxation as aforesaid." It has been held by the Kentucky Court of Ap
The particular method of fixing the value of "capital stock" and of "corporate franchise" is not in issue in the present cases. The District Court, in Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Bosworth, 209 Fed. Rep. 380,
peals, and by this court, that the "capital stock of the corporation," here referred to, includes its entire property, of every kind and description, tangible and intangible, and that what is called a "franchise tax" is nothing else than a tax upon the intangible property of the company in Kentucky. Henderson Bridge Co. v. Commonwealth, 99 Kentucky, 623, 639, 641; Henderson Bridge Co. v. Kentucky, 166 U. S. 150, 154; Adams Express Co. v. Kentucky, 166 U. S. 171, 180; Louisville Tobacco Warehouse Co. v. Commonwealth, 106 Kentucky, 165, 167; Marion National Bank v. Burton, 121 Kentucky, 876, 888. In view of these decisions, no serious attempt is made to sustain the assessments in question as a taxation of franchises, under § 174 or 181 of the constitution. There seems to be no provision of law for taxing franchises under either of those sections. Marion National Bank v. Burton, 121 Kentucky, 876, 885.
To recapitulate: Real estate and personal property of individuals and of non-franchise corporations are assessed by the county assessors, both for state and county purposes; tangible railroad property by the Railroad Commission; bank shares, distilled spirits, and corporate franchises by the Board of Valuation and Assessment. It is important to be observed that the latter board has no authority or control over the actions of the county assessors, the county boards of supervisors, or the State Board of Equalization; and, on the other hand, these officials have no authority or control over the actions of the Board of Valuation and Assessment. Nor is there any statutory
409-411, reading §§ 4077-4079 together, seems to have considered that the method prescribed by the proviso in § 4079 was applicable to all public service corporations organized in Kentucky, including those which operate and conduct their business and have their property wholly in that State. And this appears to have been the view of the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Louisville Railway Co. v. Commonwealth, 105 Kentucky, 710, 714.