CARTER V. GREENHOW, 114 U. S. 317 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Carter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 317 (1885)

Carter v. Greenhow, 114 U.S. 317 (1885)

Argued Mar. 20, 23-25, 1885

Decided April 20, 1885


The 16th clause of § 629 Rev.Stat., authorizing suits, without reference to the sum or value in controversy or the citizenship of the parties, to be brought in the circuit courts of the United States to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of any right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution of the United States in violation of § 1979 Rev.Stat., does not embrace an action of trespass on the case in which the plaintiff seeks a recovery of damages against a tax collector in Virginia, who, having rejected a tender of tax receivable coupons, issued under the Act of March 30, 1871, seeks to collect the tax for which they were tendered by a seizure and sale of personal property of the plaintiff.

Although the right to have such coupons received in payment of taxes is founded on a contract with the state, and that right is protected by the Constitution of the United States, Art. I, Sec. 10, forbidding the state to pass any laws impairing the obligation of the contract, the only mode of redress in case of any disturbance or dispossession of property, or for other legal rights based on such violation of the contract, is to have a judicial determination, in a suit between individuals, of the invalidity of the law under color of which the wrong has been committed. No direct action for the denial or the right secured by the contract will lie.

Page 114 U. S. 318

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