265 U.S. 96 (1924), 275, New York, Philadelphis & Norfolk Telegraph Company v. Dolan

Docket Nº:No. 275
Citation:265 U.S. 96, 44 S.Ct. 450, 68 L.Ed. 916
Party Name:New York, Philadelphis & Norfolk Telegraph Company v. Dolan
Case Date:May 12, 1924
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 96

265 U.S. 96 (1924)

44 S.Ct. 450, 68 L.Ed. 916

New York, Philadelphis & Norfolk Telegraph Company

v.

Dolan

No. 275

United States Supreme Court

May 12, 1924

Argued May 2, 1924

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE

Syllabus

The charter of Wilmington, Delaware, provides for the assessment for taxation of telegraph lines in the city at not less than $6,600 nor more than $7,300 for each mile of the streets used, the rate of tax being the same as in other cases. Held, not a property, but a privilege tax, within the power of the state as applied to a local corporation, and not repugnant to the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 97.

121 A. 18 affirmed.

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Delaware affirming a recovery by a tax collector in an action to collect a tax.

Page 97

HOLMES, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a suit brought by the collector of taxes, the defendant in error, to recover taxes due to the City of Wilmington for the years 1913 to and through 1918. The defendant telegraph company, the plaintiff in error, demurred to the declaration on the ground that the statute imposing the taxes deprived it of its property without due process of law and denied to it the equal protection of the laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The demurrer was overruled and judgment was rendered for the plaintiff by the superior court and the judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state. 121 A. 18.

The statute in question is an Act of April 7, 1913, amending § 80 of the charter of the City of Wilmington. It authorizes an assessment of telegraph lines in the city at not less than six thousand and six hundred dollars and not more than seven thousand three hundred dollars for each mile of the streets used. The rate of taxation on these sums is the same as that for other taxes, and neither that nor the modes of determining the amount between the limits fixed is complained of. But it is argued that this is a property tax upon the company's poles and lines, and that it fixes an arbitrary valuation upon them without giving the company a chance to be heard at any time before the tax is levied. It is argued further that the company is denied the equal protection of the laws when...

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