TYLER V. CASS COUNTY, 142 U. S. 288 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tyler v. Cass County, 142 U.S. 288 (1892)

Tyler v. Cass County

No. 1320

Submitted November 23, 1891

Decided January 4, 1892

142 U.S. 288


The Northern Pacific Railroad Company sold to a purchaser a tract included in the original grant to it which had never been patented, and on which the costs of survey had never been paid. The tract was sold for nonpayment of taxes while Dakota was a territory, and the purchaser paid therefor. The Supreme Court of North Dakota held that the land was not taxable when the tax was levied and assessed, and that nothing passed by the sale. The purchaser brought this action in the state court of North Dakota to recover back the purchase money paid at the tax sale. A judgment in plaintiff's favor was reversed by the supreme court of the state, no question being made as to the regularity of the tax sale and proceedings. Held that the exemption of the land from taxation having been recognized by the state court, no federal question was involved, and the writ of error must be dismissed.

Motion to dismiss. The Court stated the case as follows:

Plaintiff presented a claim to the Board of County Commissioners of Cass County, Dakota Territory, to recover moneys paid by him as the purchase price of certain lands sold by the county treasurer for delinquent taxes at a tax sale in 1885. The claim was rejected, and plaintiff appealed to the District Court of Cass County, where the cause was tried upon an agreed statement of facts without a jury, and resulted in a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant preserved proper exceptions to the rulings and action of the court and carried the case by appeal to the supreme court of the territory.

After the admission of North Dakota as a state, the appeal was heard and decided by the state supreme court, which had succeeded to the jurisdiction of the territorial supreme court. The opinion will be found reported, in advance of the official series, in 48 N.W. 232. The judgment below was reversed, with instructions to dismiss the case, and thereupon a writ of error was taken out from this Court.

Page 142 U. S. 289

Counsel agree that the facts appearing of record are substantially as follows: that the lands in question were part of the original grant by the United States to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company; that the company had, prior to the levy and tax sale, disposed of said lands to private parties by deeds and contracts, and such parties were in possession; that no patents had been issued; that the company earned the lands after the passage of the Act of Congress approved July 15, 1870, in regard to payment of the cost of surveying; that they were surveyed at the expense of the United States government after the date of the act, and no part of the cost and expense of the survey had been repaid by the company to the United States; that in 1884 and prior thereto, the taxing officers of Cass County assessed the lands, and levied taxes thereon, which remained unpaid October 6, 1885, on which date the treasurer of the county proceeded to sell them for delinquent taxes, and plaintiff became the purchaser, and it was to recover the purchase money so paid that the action was brought. No question is made as to the regularity of the tax sale or the proceedings leading thereto.

Page 142 U. S. 290

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