Chalker v. Birmingham Ry Co

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation39 S.Ct. 366,63 L.Ed. 748,249 U.S. 522
Docket NumberNo. 283,283
PartiesCHALKER et al. v. BIRMINGHAM & N. W. RY. CO. et al
Decision Date21 April 1919

Messrs. C. E. Pigford, of Jackson, Tenn., and Watson E. Coleman, of Washington, D. C., for plaintiffs in error.

Mr. R. F. Spragins, of Jackson, Tenn., for defendants in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 523-525 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The point for determination is the liability of J. W. Wright, Jr., a citizen and resident of Alabama with his chief office therein, who engaged in the business of constructing a railroad in Tennessee, for the tax prescribed by section 4 of 'An act to provide revenue for the state of Tennessee and the counties and municipalities thereof,' approved May 1, 1909 (Acts of Tenn. 1909, c. 479, pp. 1726, 1727, 1735), which provides:

'Sec. 4. Be it further enacted, that each vocation, occupation, and business hereinafter named in this section is hereby declared to be a privilege, and the rate of taxation on such privilege shall be as hereinafter fixed, which privilege tax shall be paid to the county court clerk as provided by law for the collection of revenue.

* * *

'Each foreign construction company, with its chief office outside of this state, operating or doing business in this state, directly or by agent, or by any subletting contract, each, per annum, in each county . . . $100.00

'Each domestic construction company and each foreign construction company, having its chief office in this state, doing business in this state, each, per annum, in each county . . . $25.00

'The above tax shall be paid by persons, firms, or corporations engaged in the business of constructing bridges, waterworks, railroads, street-paving construction work, or other structures of a public nature.'

Replying to the claim that the statute in effect discriminates against citizens of other states the Supreme Court of Tennessee, in Wright v. Jackson Const. Co., 138 Tenn. 145, 152, 153, 196 S. W. 488, 490, said:

'The determining feature in the legislation quoted is the having of one's chief office in this state. Any citizen of this state, as well as any citizen of a foreign state, who has his chief office out of the state, must pay the $100 tax; so of any domestic corporation, as well as foreign corporation, having its chief office out of the state. Any foreign corporation or citizen of another state, or firm, as well as domestic corporations, citizens of this state, and firms of this state having its or their chief office in this state, are all alike entitled to carry on a railroad construction business here on the payment of $25. There is no discrimination at all.'

With this conclusion we are unable to agree. Accepting the construction placed upon it by the Supreme Court, we think the quoted section does discriminate between citizens of Tennessee and those of other states by imposing a higher charge on the latter than it does on the former, contrary to section 2, art. 4, of the federal Constitution:

'The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in...

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