114 U.S. 270 (1885), Poindexter v. Greenhow

Citation:114 U.S. 270, 5 S.Ct. 903, 29 L.Ed. 185
Party Name:POINDEXTER v. GREENHOW, Treasurer, etc. [1]
Case Date:April 20, 1885
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 270

114 U.S. 270 (1885)

5 S.Ct. 903, 29 L.Ed. 185



GREENHOW, Treasurer, etc. 1

United States Supreme Court.

April 20, 1885

In Error to the Hustings Court of the City of Richmond, State of Virginia.

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[5 S.Ct. 904] Wm. L. Royall, D. H. Chamberlain, Wm. M. Evarts, and Wager Swayne, for plaintiff in error.

A. H. Garland, R. T. Merrick, and F. S. Blair, Atty. Gen., for defendant in error.


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The plaintiff in error, who was also plaintiff below, brought his action in detinue on the twenty-sixth day of April, 1883, against Samuel C. Greenhow, for the recovery of specific personal property, to-wit, one office desk of the value of $30, before a police justice in the city of Richmond, who dismissed the same for want of Jurisdiction. An appeal was taken by the plaintiff to the hustings court for the city of Richmond, where the facts were found by agreement of parties to be as follows: That the plaintiff was a resident of the city of Richmond, in the state of Virginia; that he owed [5 S.Ct. 905] to the state of Virginia, for taxes on property owned by him in said city for the year 1882, $12.45, which said taxes were due and leviable for, under the laws of Virginia, on the first day of December, 1882; that the defendant, Samuel C. Greenhow, was the treasurer of the city of Richmond, and as such is charged by law with the duty of collecting taxes due to the state of Virginia by all residents of said city; that on the twenty-fifth day of April, 1883, the defendant, as such treasurer and collector of taxes, made upon the plaintiff demand for the payment of the taxes due by him to the state as aforesaid; that the plaintiff, when demand was so made for payment of his taxes, tendered to the defendant in payment thereof 45 cents in lawful money of the United States, and coupons issued by the state of Virginia under the provisions of the act of the general assembly of that state of March 30, 1871, entitled 'An act to provide for the funding and payment of the public debt;' that said coupons so tendered by plaintiff were all due and past maturity, and amounted in the aggregate to $12, and were all cut from bonds issued by the said state of Virginia under the provisions of the said act of March 30, 1871; that the said coupons and money so tendered by the plaintiff amounted together to exactly the sum so due the state by the plaintiff for taxes; that the defendant refused to receive the said coupons and money so tendered in payment of the plaintiff's taxes; that the defendant, after said tender was made, as he deemed himself required to do by the acts of assembly of Virginia, entered the plaintiff's place of business in said city,

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and levied upon, and took possession of the desk, the property of the plaintiff now sued for, for the purpose of selling the same to pay the taxes due from him; and that the said desk is of the value of $30, and still remains in possession of the defendant for the purpose aforesaid, he having refused to return the same to the plaintiff on demand.

The hustings court was of the opinion that the police justice erred in deciding that he had no jurisdiction, and that the issue in the action might have been tried by him, and that it should be tried by that court on the appeal; but it was also of the opinion that in tendering to the defendant, as part of the tender in payment of the plaintiff's taxes, the coupons mentioned and described, the plaintiff did not tender what the law required, nor what the defendant was, as treasurer, obliged to or should have received in payment of the plaintiff's taxes, under the provisions of the act of the general assembly ov Virginia, approved January 26, 1882, entitled 'An act to provide for the more efficient collection of the revenue to support government, maintain the public schools, and to pay interest on the public debt;' that the plaintiff's remedy for the failure of the defendant, as treasurer, to receive coupons in payment of taxes, was to be found in the provisions of said act of January 26, 1882; and that, therefore, the defendant does not unlawfully or wrongfully detain the plaintiff's property levied on by the defendant, as treasurer of the city of Richmond, for the plaintiff's taxes; and judgment was accordingly rendered for the defendant.

It appears from the record that there was drawn in question the validity of the said act of the general assembly of Virginia, approved January 26, 1882, and of the eighteenth section of the act of the general assembly of the state of Virginia, approved April 1, 1879, which authorizes the collection of delinquent taxes by distraint of personal property, upon the ground that these acts are repugnant to section 10 of article 1 of the constitution of the United States, which declares that no state shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts, the judgment of the court being in favor of the validity of said acts and against the rights claimed by the plaintiff under the

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constitution of the United States. The hustings court is the highest court of the state to which the said cause could be taken.

The act of January 26, 1882, the validity of which is thus questioned, is as follows:

[5 S.Ct. 906] 'Be it enacted by the general assembly of the state of Virginia, that the several tax collectors of this commonwealth shall receive, in discharge of the taxes, license taxes, and other dues, gold, silver, United States treasury notes, national bank currency, and nothing else; provided that in all cases in which an officer charged by law with the collection of revenue due the state, shall take any steps for the collection of same, claimed to be due from any citizen or tax-payer, such person against whom such step is taken, if he conceives the same to be unjust or illegal, or against any statute, or to be unconstitutional, may pay the same under protest, and under such payment the officer collecting the same shall pay such revenue into the state treasury, giving notice at the time of such payment to the treasurer that the same was paid under protest. The person so paying such revenue may, at any time within 30 days after making such payment, and not longer thereafter, sue the said officer so collecting such revenue in the court having jurisdiction of the parties and amounts.

'If it be determined that the same was wrongfully collected, for any reason going to the merits of the same, then the court trying the case may certify of record that the same was wrongfully paid and ought to be refunded; and, thereupon, the auditor of public accounts shall issue his proper warrant for the same, which shall be paid in preference to other claims on the treasury, except such as have priority by constitutional requirement.

'There shall be no other remedy in any case of the collection of revenue, or the attempt to collect revenues illegally, or the attempt to collect revenue in funds only receivable by said officers under this law, the same being other and different funds than the tax-payer may tender or claim the right to pay, than such as are herein provided; and no writ for the prevention of any revenue claim, or to hinder or delay the collection

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of the same, shall in anywise issue, either injunction, supersedeas, mandamus, prohibition, or any other writ or process whatever; but in all cases, if, for any reason, any person shall claim that the revenue so collected of him was wrongfully or illegally collected, the remedy for such person shall be as above provided, and in no other manner. In all such cases If the court certify of record that the officer defendant acted in good faith and diligently defended the action, the necessary costs incurred by him shall be taxed to and paid by the state, as in criminal cases. The commonwealth attorney for the county or corporation in which suit is brought, shall appear and represent the defense. In every case where judgment is rendered for the defendant, a fee of five dollars shall be taxed in favor of said attorney and against the plaintiff; and whenever the court shall refuse to certify the good faith and diligence of the officer defending the case, a like fee of five dollars shall be taxed against said officer. Any officer charged with the collection of revenue, who shall receive payment thereof in anything other than that hereinbefore provided, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined not less than one hundred nor more than five hundred dollars, in the discretion of the court; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to subject any officer of the state to any suit, other than as hereinbefore provided, for any refusal on his part to accept in payment of revenue due the state any kind or description of funds, security, or paper not authorized by this act.

'(2) This act shall be in force from and after the first day of December, eighteen hundred and eighty-two.'

The eighteenth section of the act of April 1, 1879, (Acts 1878-79, p. 318,) so far as material, is that 'it shall be the duty of the treasurer, after the first day of December, to call upon each person chargeable with taxes and levies, who has not paid the same prior to that time, or upon the agent of such person resident within the county or corporation, and, upon failure or refusal of such person or agent to pay the same, he shall proceed to collect by distress or otherwise.' Goods and chattels distrained by an officer, by provisions of [5 S.Ct. 907] other statutes then in force, were required to be sold at public sale after due notice, as prescribed.

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The act of January 26, 1882, was amended by an act which was passed and took effect March 13, 1884, by the addition of the following sections:

'Sec. 2. Whenever any...

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