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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Philadelphia & Reading R. Co., 123 U.S. 113 (1887)

United States v. Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company

Argued October 25, 1887

Decided November 7, 1887

123 U.S. 113


At a trial by jury in a court of the United States, the judge may express to the jury his opinion upon questions of fact which he submits to their determination.

A claim of the United States against a railroad corporation for taxes on undivided profits during a certain period was, after full examination of the books of the corporation by officers of the government and argument before the assessor of internal revenue for the district, settled and adjusted by agreement between the assessor and the corporation at a certain sum, which the corporation paid and took the collector's receipt for. Nearly twelve years afterwards, an internal revenue agent made another examination of the books of the corporation, resulting, as he testified, in charging it with a further sum for taxes during the same period. In a suit to recover this sum, the judge, in charging the jury, told them that the first assessment, the payment of money in pursuance of it, and the acquiescence of the government for so long a time since, raised a presumption that the assessment was correct, and that the money paid covered the defendant's entire liability; that the burden was thus cast upon the government of proving, by such evidence as to fully satisfy the mind, that the assessment was erroneous; that whether it had done so was for the jury to determine, and that the judge did not desire to control their finding, but was of opinion that under the circumstances they should not return a verdict for the government. Held, no error.

Assumpsit for internal revenue taxes. Plea, "nonassumpsit, payment and setoff, with leave &c." Verdict and judgment for the defendant. The United States excepted to the judge's charge to the jury and sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 123 U. S. 114

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