Yazoo Mississippi Valley Railroad Company v. Wirt Adams, No. 35

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBrown
Citation45 L.Ed. 395,180 U.S. 1,21 S.Ct. 240
Decision Date07 January 1901
Docket NumberNo. 35
PartiesYAZOO & MISSISSIPPI VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY, Plffs. in Err. , v. WIRT ADAMS

180 U.S. 1
21 S.Ct. 240
45 L.Ed. 395
YAZOO & MISSISSIPPI VALLEY RAILROAD COMPANY, Plffs. in Err.,

v.

WIRT ADAMS.

No. 35.
Argued October 22, 23, 1900.
Decided January 7, 1901.

Messrs. Wm. D. Guthrie, Edward Mayes, James Fentres, Noct Gale, and J. M. Dickinson for plaintiffs in error.

Messrs. R. C. Beckett, J. A. P. Campbell, S. S. Calhoon, Marcellus Green, and F. A. Critz for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Justice Brown:

Page 2

This case originated in an action at law begun December 7, 1893, in the circuit court for the first district of Mississippi, by Wirt Adams, revenue agent, suing for the use of the state and of the counties through which the defendant railways pass, against the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company, incorporated under an act of the legislature of Mississippi of February 17, 1882, and also against the Illinois Central Railroad Company, as successors in interest, by consolidation, of a number of other railways, to recover taxes assessed by the railroad commission of that state for the year 1892.

Exhibits annexed to the declaration showed that the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company, as now constituted, was the result of a consolidation made October 24, 1892, between a company of the same name, chartered as above stated, February 17, 1882, and the Louisville, New Orleans, & Texas Railway Company, which latter company was itself formed by a consolidation made August 12, 1884, of the Tennesses Southern Railroad Company, the Memphis & Vicksburg Railroad Company, the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Vicksburg, & Memphis Railroad Company, and the New Orleans & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company.

On December 27, 1893, a plea was filed by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, denying certain of the allegations in

Page 3

the declaration; and a separate plea was filed by the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company, claiming in its own favor the benefit of the charter of the Louisville, New Orleans, & Texas Railroad Company exempting such company from the assessment of these taxes by reason of the payment of the same in the construction of its road, and also denying material allegations of the declaration. No Federal question appeared in either of these pleas. A demurrer to these pleas having been overruled, replications were filed.

On December 18, 1894, another action was begun against the same defendants for the taxes of 1893 and 1894, and on January 1, 1896, another for the taxes of 1895. An order was made consolidating these actions.

The three cases thus consolidated came on for trial before a jury, and resulted in a verdict and judgment July 25, 1896, in favor of the plaintiff for the taxes of 1895, and in favor of the defendants for the taxes of 1892, 1893, and 1894. Both parties moved for a new trial, which was denied. Both parties appealed to the supreme court, but neither assigned a ruling upon a Federal question as error. The supreme court reversed the judgment of the court below, and remanded the case for a new trial. 77 Miss. 194, 24 So. 200. The court June 20, 1898, filed a summary of its holdings to the effect, first, that the case of the Natchez, J. & C. R. Co. v. Lambert, 70 Miss. 779, 13 So. 33, which apparently had been set up as res judicata, was an estoppel only as to taxes for the year 1892 on property originally belonging to the Natchez, Jackson, & Columbus Railroad Company in Adams county, but not upon other property, or as to the taxes for other years; second, that the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Company was a new corporation taking its life from the date of the consolidation, and overruling the Lambert Case to the contrary; third, that the 21st section of the Mobile & Northwestern Railroad Company's charter was an effort to secure an irrepealable grant of exemption, was in violation of the Constitution of 1869, and that it would have been a violation even if it had not been irrepealable, and the case of Mississippi Mills v. Cook, 56 Miss. 40, to the contrary was overruled. 77 Miss. 305, 24 So. 318.

Page 4

A motion to strike out this 'summary of holdings' was denied November 28, 1898. 77 Miss. 302, 24 So. 317.

Meantime two new actions had been begun in the circuit court for the taxes of 1896 and 1897, which were also consolidated with the others.

Thereupon each of the defendants July 6, 1898, filed special pleas to the declaration, setting forth at great length the exemption claimed under the charters of their constituent companies, and alleging that such exemption constituted a contract which had been impaired by the action of the state. Motion was made by the plaintiff to strike out certain of these pleas, viz., the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, as constituting no defense to the action, which was granted by the court; and all of such pleas, except the 7th, which was withdrawn, were stricken from the files. Whereupon the defendants, 'to meet the new aspect put upon the case by the decision of the supreme court herein rendered on June 20, 1898,' withdrew 'their joint plea filed by them prior to such decision, and all other pleas filed before that decision,' and also withdrew the two pleas filed by them respectively at this term (No. 2), and declined to plead further herein. They did not, however, withdraw the pleas which had been stricken out by the court. A judgment was entered the same day nil dicit against the defendants for the amount sued for in said consolidated case, amounting in all to $548,676.99. The case was again appealed to the supreme court and a new opinion rendered February 20, 1899, reiterating its former views and affirming the judgment of the court below. 77 Miss. 315, 28 So. 956. Whereupon defendants sued out this writ of error.

Page 5

Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:

Motion was made to dismiss this writ of error upon the grounds: First, that the Federal question was not raised until after the decision of the supreme court on June 20, 1898. Second, that the action of the defendants in withdrawing their pleas and permitting a judgment nil dicit to go against them, because the circuit court had struck from the files their additional pleas attempting to set up a Federal question, was an admission that they had no defense upon the facts of the case, and deprived them of any right to insist upon a Federal question. Third, that the petition for removal was not made until after the case had been tried in the state supreme court, and reversed and remanded. No claim of error in the action of the state court in this last particular was made in this court. Indeed, the point seems to have been abandoned. Fourth, that the decision of the state supreme court on the first appeal, that the alleged exemption, if it existed at all, was lost by the consolidation of October 24, 1892, raised no Federal question. Several other reasons are assigned for the motion, but they are either addressed to the merits of the case, or become immaterial in the view we have taken of those herein specified.

1. Was the Federal question raised too late? The special pleas setting up distinctly the Federal question were filed after the case had been decided by the supreme court, its mandate had gone down to the circuit court, and the case was ready for a new trial. As already stated, certain of these pleas were stricken out upon motion of the plaintiff as constituting no defense to the action, and all the pleas, except such as had been stricken out by the court, were then withdrawn, and a judgment

Page 6

nil dicit entered. On the case being again carried to the supreme court, that court held that the action of the court below 'in striking out the special pleas stricken out was correct, for the obvious reason that they presented no defense to the action, in whole or in part. The former opinion of the court in this case settled definitely and conclusively all the issues involved, and the special pleas are in effect nothing else than an effort to have the circuit court disregard that opinion. The futility of that sort of pleading needs no sort of comment. These and all the other matters of practice and procedure assigned for error were correctly settled by the court. The former opinion of this court in this cause, and its opinion on the motion to strike that opinion from the files, disposed effectively of such of these matters as are not here specifically adverted to.' 77 Miss. 315, 28 So. 956.

It is very evident that the circuit court, in striking out these pleas, took the view that the supreme court had, upon the first hearing, settled the law to be that no valid contract of exemption existed, and that if such contract existed in favor of the Louisville, New Orleans, & Texas Railway Company (hereinafter styled the Louisville Company) it had been lost by the consolidation of October 24, 1892, and that the only effect of the special pleas was to inject a claim under the Federal Constitution as an argument for reversing its ruling. These pleas evidently raised precisely the same questions that had been settled in a slightly different form. The circuit court treated this as an attempt to induce it to overrule the action of the supreme court, which, of course, was impossible. The supreme court not only held that the circuit court was correct in this view, but that, the issues having already been settled, it would itself treat them as res judicata. This accords with what seems to be the uniform practice of the Mississippi courts. Thus, in Smith v. Elder, 14 Smedes & M. 100, it was held that where a demurrer to a plea, which had been sustained in the court below, was overruled by the supreme court, all the legal questions raised by the demurrer would be considered as having been settled by the decision overruling it; and that such decision would not only be binding upon the inferior, but also upon the

Page 7

appellate, court. So also in Bridgeforth v. Gray, 39 Miss. 136, it was held that, where the...

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60 cases
  • Pizer v. Hunt
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
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    ...United States Supreme Court. Stevens v. Nichols, 157 U. S. 370, 15 S. Ct. 640, 39 L. Ed. 736;Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railway v. Adams, 180 U. S. 1, 9,21 S. Ct. 251, 45 L. Ed. 410;Central Vermont Railway v. White, 238 U. S. 507, 513, 35 S. Ct. 865, 59 L. Ed. 1433, Ann. Cas. 1916B, 252;Lee......
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