305 U.S. 61 (1938), 12, Stahmann v. Vidal

Docket Nº:No. 12
Citation:305 U.S. 61, 59 S.Ct. 41, 83 L.Ed. 41
Party Name:Stahmann v. Vidal
Case Date:November 07, 1938
Court:United States Supreme Court

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305 U.S. 61 (1938)

59 S.Ct. 41, 83 L.Ed. 41




No. 12

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 7, 1938

Argued October 12, 13, 1938




1. The purpose of the Bankhead Cotton Act (April 21, 1934; repealed by Act of Feb. 10, 1936) was to restrict the production of cotton and, to that end, to levy a heavy tax in respect of that produced in excess of the farmer's quota. The burden was to fall upon the producer. The assessment of the tax against the ginner was intended to immobilize the cotton in his possession until the producer should liquidate the tax. P. 65.

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2. Where a collector, as required by this Act, assessed a tax on excess cotton against the ginner, and the producer, in order to possess himself of the cotton, paid the tax to the collector, held that he had standing, under R.S. § 3226, as amended by the Act of June 6, 1932, § 1103, to maintain an action against the collector for recovery of the amount plus interest, based upon the claim that the Bankhead Act as unconstitutional. P. 63.

93 F.2d 902 reversed.

Certiorari, 304 U.S. 552, to review the reversal of a judgment for a tax, recovered by the taxpayer in the District Court, in a case tried without a jury.

ROBERTS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are to decide whether the petitioners may maintain an action to recover from [59 S.Ct. 42] a collector of internal revenue sums paid by them as taxes assessed under the Bankhead Cotton Act.1

During the crop year 1934-1935, the petitioners were engaged in growing cotton and produced a quantity in excess of the allotment for which, under the terms of the Act, they were entitled to obtain tax exemption certificates. Petitioners delivered the excess cotton to Santo Tomas Gin Company, which ginned it and filed returns with the respondent, as collector, showing a tax of some $13,000 due on the ginning. The respondent, as directed by the Act, assessed the tax against the gin company. The latter refused to deliver the cotton to the petitioners until

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the tax was paid, and, to obtain their cotton, the petitioners, in November, 1934, and January, 1935, paid the tax to the respondent. March 6, 1935 they presented a claim for refund, which was rejected by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue August 22, 1935. Suit was brought against the respondent May 5, 1936, to recover the amount paid with interest, the petitioners alleging that the Bankhead Act was unconstitutional. This the answer denied, and set up the further defense that, under the Act, the petitioners were not liable for the tax, any payment they had made was in discharge of a liability imposed by the Act on the gin company, and, consequently, they were not entitled to maintain the action.

The District Court, a jury having been waived, held that the Act was unconstitutional, that the petitioners could maintain the action, and gave judgment for them. The Circuit Court of Appeals refused to pass upon the constitutional question, as it was of opinion that the trial court erred in sustaining the petitioners' standing, and reversed the judgment.2 On account of the importance of the case, we granted certiorari, 304 U.S. 552, limited, however, to the question whether the petitioners were the proper parties to maintain the action.

Section 20(b) of the Bankhead Act3 stated the conditions upon which a proceeding might be maintained for the recovery of any sum alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected under its terms. The Act was repealed February 10, 1936,4 prior to the institution of the instant action. The petitioners were therefore remitted for recovery of the...

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