342 U.S. 299 (1952), 1, Georgia Railroad & Banking Co. v. Redwine

Docket Nº:No. 1
Citation:342 U.S. 299, 72 S.Ct. 321, 96 L.Ed. 335
Party Name:Georgia Railroad & Banking Co. v. Redwine
Case Date:January 28, 1952
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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342 U.S. 299 (1952)

72 S.Ct. 321, 96 L.Ed. 335

Georgia Railroad & Banking Co.

v.

Redwine

No. 1

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 28, 1952

Argued February 13, 1950

Continued February 20, 1950

Reargued November 26, 1951

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

Syllabus

1. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1341, it cannot be said, in the circumstances of this case, that any of the remedies suggested by the Attorney General of Georgia affords appellant the "plain, speedy and efficient remedy" in the state courts necessary to deprive the United States District Court of jurisdiction to enjoin the State Revenue Commissioner from assessing or collecting ad valorem taxes from appellant corporation contrary to an exemption in its special state charter and in violation of the prohibition of the Federal Constitution against a state passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts. Pp. 300-303.

(a) A suit for injunction in a state court cannot be said to be such a remedy, since it was tried by appellant without success in Musgrove v. Georgia R. Co., 204 Ga. 139, 49 S.E.2d 26, appeal dismissed, 335 U.S. 900. Pp. 301, 303.

(b) Nor can arresting tax executions by affidavits of illegality be said to be such a remedy when it would require the filing of over 300 separate claims in 14 different counties to protect the single federal claim asserted by appellant. P. 303.

(c) Nor can a suit against the State for refund after payment of taxes be said to be such a remedy when it is applicable only to taxes amounting to less than 15% of the total taxes in controversy. P. 303.

(d) Raising appellant's federal claim in defense of a suit by the State Revenue Commissioner to recover taxes is not a remedy that could have been invoked by appellant. P. 303, n. 11.

2. This suit in a federal district court by a corporation to enjoin a State Revenue Commissioner from assessing or collecting ad valorem taxes from the corporation contrary to an exemption in its special state charter and in violation of the prohibition of the Federal Constitution against a state passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts, is not a suit against the State which cannot be brought without the State's consent. In re Ayers, 123 U.S. 443, distinguished. Pp. 303-306.

85 F.Supp. 749 reversed and remanded.

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A three-judge federal district court dismissed appellant's suit to enjoin a State Revenue Commissioner from assessing or collecting ad valorem taxes contrary to an exemption in appellant's special state charter and the prohibition of the Federal Constitution against any state law impairing the obligation of contracts. 85 F.Supp. 749. On appeal to this Court, reversed and remanded, p. 306.

VINSON, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant was incorporated in 1833 by a Special Act of the Georgia General Assembly that included a provision for exemption from taxation.1 In 1945, the Georgia Constitution was amended to provide that "[a]ll exemptions from taxation heretofore granted in corporate charters are declared to be henceforth null and void."2 According to appellant's complaint, appellee, who is State Revenue Commissioner, is threatening to act pursuant to this amendment by proceeding against appellant for the

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collection of ad valorem taxes for the year 1939, and all subsequent years, on behalf of the State and every county, school district and municipality through which appellant's lines run.3 Appellant claims that this threatened taxation would be contrary to its legislative charter, and would impair the obligation of contract between appellant and the Georgia, contrary to Article I, Section 10 of the Federal Constitution.4

This latest phase5 of appellant's frequent litigation over the tax exemption provision [72 S.Ct. 323] of its 1833 charter began when appellant filed suit against appellee's predecessor in a Georgia state court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. Relief was denied without reaching the merits of appellant's claim when the Georgia Supreme Court held that the action was, in effect, an unconsented suit against the State which could not be maintained in the state courts. Musgrove v. Georgia Railroad & Banking Co., 204 Ga. 139, 49 S.E.2d 26 (1948). We dismissed an appeal from that judgment because it was based upon a nonfederal ground adequate to support it. 335 U.S. 900 (1949).

Thereafter, appellant filed this action in the District Court to enjoin appellee from assessing or collecting ad valorem taxes contrary to its legislative charter. Appellant also asked that appellee's threatened acts be adjudged in violation of prior decree also entered by the court below and affirmed by this Court. Wright v.

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Georgia Railroad & Banking Co., 216 U.S. 420 (1910). A court of three judges6 dismissed appellant's complaint for want of jurisdiction, holding that the State of Georgia had not submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the court so as to be barred by the Wright decree, and that this action against appellee is, in effect, an unconsented suit against the State prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment.7 85 F.Supp. 749 (1...

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