« ForrigeFortsett »
the bill in the present case, allowed a preliminary injunction upon the payment of taxes based upon the same valuation. The cause proceeded to final hearing, and the court, having found plaintiff to have been subjected to discrimination by the valuing of other property at approximately 60 per cent. of actual values, but having overruled the other grounds of relief asserted, applied an equalizing factor to the valuation of plaintiff's franchise, with the result of finding $25,808,493.60 to be the amount at which it was legally taxable, or $2,909,293.60 in excess of the amount upon which payment was made at the inception of the suit. Therefore a final decree was made enjoining defendants from enforcing the assessment complained of, on condition that plaintiff should pay taxes, state and local, on the excess amount named. 230 Fed. Rep. 191, 232.
Plaintiff appealed to this court upon the ground that it ought not to be required to pay franchise taxes upon any amount in excess of $22,899,200. Defendants took a cross appeal upon the ground that plaintiff was entitled to no relief. The cases were argued together with kindred cases this day decided, viz., Nos. 617 and 618, Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R. R. Co., ante, 499, and Nos. 642-645, Illinois Central R. R. Co. v. Greene, post, 555.
There are numerous assignments of error by each party, but, without specifying these, the questions raised will be disposed of in the order of convenience. Of course, the federal jurisdiction, having been invoked upon substantial grounds of federal law, extends to the determination of all questions involved in the case, whether resting upon state or federal law. Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., 213 U. S. 175, 191; Ohio Tax Cases, 232 U. S. 576, 586.
It may be premised that plaintiff owns and operates a great system of railroads extending throughout Kentucky and twelve other States, embracing (in the year in question) roads operated on its own account to the extent of
Opinion of the Court.
244 U. S.
4,478.61 miles, of which 1,574.47 miles, or 35.15 per cent., were in Kentucky, and an aggregate of roads owned, operated, and controlled, extending to 7,907.83 miles, of which 1,952.45 miles, or 24.69 per cent., were in Kentucky. It is subject to taxation in Kentucky upon its tangible property as assessed by the State Railroad Commission, and, in addition, to taxation state and local upon its intangible property or "franchise" under § 4077, Ky. Stats., and succeeding sections (set forth below in the margin), the valuation to be fixed by the Board of Valuation and Assessment.
(1) Defendants contend that the District Court was without jurisdiction because the suit was in effect a suit against the State of Kentucky. It is said that the sole basis of a suit to enjoin state officers from the performance of duties pursuant to a statute must be that the statute itself is unconstitutional; that, since the statute in question here is constitutional, an action may not be maintained in a court of the United States (there being no diversity of citizenship) for what is done by subordinate officers of the State in executing the statute in an unconstitutional manner; and that for misconduct of this sort there is no remedy except in the state courts. These contentions are disposed of adversely in Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R. R. Co., ante, 499.
(2) It is contended that the plaintiff has an adequate remedy at law under § 162, Ky. Stats. This likewise is negatived by the case just mentioned.
(3) It is urged that, although it be true that the local assessors in each county assessed other property at less than its cash value, plaintiff is not entitled to relief for this reason if its property was not assessed at more than its fair cash value, even though it was assessed at a higher percentage than other property. To this the same answer may be made. The facts found in this case bring it within the ruling that, in the case last mentioned, was made upon
admitted facts, because of the provisions of the constitution and laws of the State. In this case, as in that, we find it unnecessary to pass upon the merits of the question whether a like result would be reached by the application of the "equal protection" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
(4) It is contended that although there be jurisdiction to enjoin the apportioning of the assessment among the counties, cities, and towns for the purpose of local taxation, it was erroneous to enjoin state taxation based upon the same assessment. So far as this is bottomed upon the theory that the suit is a suit against the State, it is disposed of by the decision cited. It is argued, however, that while this court has held that in a proper case a bill may be brought to restrain apportionment and certification to the counties of a tax imposed by a state board in violation of federal rights (Fargo v. Hart, 193 U. S. 490), yet Coulter v. Weir, 127 Fed. Rep. 897, 906, 912-a case that arose out of the same provisions of the Kentucky statutes that are here involved-is an authority in opposition to granting relief against the state taxes, and that it was approved by this court in Coulter v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., 196 U. S. 599, 608. What was said upon the subject in the case last mentioned was not a part of the matter decided, as a reference to the opinion clearly shows; for the decision in favor of defendants proceeded upon the ground that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the bill. Coulter v. Weir, supra, is easily distinguishable. There, the Auditor of Public Accounts was the sole defendant. The Circuit Court of Appeals, after citing Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 270, 286-288; Reagan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 154 U. S. 362, 390; Scott v. Donald, 165 U. S. 107, 112; Smyth v. Ames, 169 U. S. 466, 518; Fitts v. McGhee, 172 U. S. 516, 529; and Taylor v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., 88 Fed. Rep. 350, and quoting from the opinion in the Taylor Case to the effect
that a suit against individuals seeking to enjoin them from doing certain acts which they assert to be by authority of the State, but which complainants aver to be without lawful authority, is not a suit against the State, and from Fitts v. McGhee to the effect that a suit against state officers not holding any special relation to the particular statute alleged to be unconstitutional nor charged with its enforcement, is a suit merely to test the constitutionality of a state statute and therefore is a suit against the State, proceeded (p. 906) to sustain the action only so far as it sought to enjoin the defendant from certifying to the county clerks the assessment complained of. The contrary result reached with respect to the tax due to the State went solely upon the ground that as to this tax the Auditor had no act to perform under the statute and no authority to enforce collection; the court proceeding to say further (p. 907): "If the defendant had been about to take some step under color of the law tending to complete the assessment, or if he had been authorized to seize property and was about to do so, then he was, assuming the case to be with the complainants on the merits, about to commit a trespass for which he would be individually liable, and in a proper case equity might enjoin his proposed action upon the ground of his want of legal authority. But this is not the case made in respect to the tax due the state, and the bill, so far as it sought relief against the state tax, must be dismissed without regard to the merits." It would seem that the court overlooked §§ 144, 145, and 152, Ky. Stats., which require the Auditor to keep account of taxes collected, keep a correct list of balances due by individuals to the Commonwealth, audit and enter in account all demands payable at the treasury, report to the Attorney General all public debtors who fail to render their accounts at the proper time or to pay the money in their hands due the Commonwealth into the treasury, and grant written authority to the Treasurer to receive money
from public officers or other persons due to the Commonwealth. However, we need not rest upon this point, since in the present case the Attorney General and his assistants are joined as parties, and the final decree under review restrains all of the defendants from taking any steps to collect the excessive taxes due to the State or to any of its subdivisions, and from instituting or prosecuting any proceedings against the plaintiff, either by indictment or civil action, because of any alleged delinquency or failure of the plaintiff to pay taxes upon its franchise on a valuation above the amount found by the court to be proper. The decree, with respect to the state as well as the local taxes, is clearly within the authority of Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123, 156, where Fitts v. McGhee, 172 U. S. 516, 530, was distinguished upon the ground that in that case no state officer who was made a party had to do with the enforcement of the statute alleged to be unconstitutional.
If what was said in Coulter v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., 196 U. S. 599, 608, imports that an injunction can under no circumstances be awarded with respect to state taxes, it must be deemed to have been overruled by Raymond v. Chicago Union Traction Co., 207 U. S. 20, where the collection of taxes based upon an unconstitutional assessment was enjoined, a part of these being state taxes, as appears by the report, pp. 22, 27.
(5) It is contended by defendants that the evidence was insufficient to warrant the conclusion of the learned District Judge that in fact property in general in the State of Kentucky was systematically undervalued. A similar question of fact was involved in Coulter v. Louisville & Nashville R. R. Co., and this court (p. 609) held the evidence to be insufficient. In the present case, besides much to the same effect as that presented in the Coulter Case, a mass of additional evidence was introduced, including extracts from the United States Census Report for the year 1910; reports of the State Board of Equaliza