CAMPBELL V. CALIFORNIA, 200 U. S. 87 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Campbell v. California, 200 U.S. 87 (1906)

Campbell v. California

No. 70

Argued November 27, 28, 1905

Decided January 2, 1906

200 U.S. 87


The California Inheritance Tax Law of 1893, as amended in 1899, which imposed a tax on inheritances of and bequests to brothers and sisters, and not on those of daughters-in-law or sons-in-law, was assailed as repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment, and, having been sustained by the highest court of the state, a writ of error from this Court was prosecuted. After the record was filed, a new inheritance tax law was enacted in 1905 which amended and reenacted prior laws on the subject and also repealed the acts of 1893 and 1899 without any clause saving the right of the state in respect to charges already accrued thereunder. Plaintiff in error contended that, as this Court had jurisdiction on the constitutional question, it should reverse the judgment on the ground that, since the repeal of the acts of 1893 and 1899, the state has no power to enforce any taxes levied thereunder. Held that:

As the federal question on which the writ of error is prosecuted has not become a moot one, and the affirmance of the judgment on that question alone will not prejudice the right of plaintiffs in error to have the purely local question of whether the state still has the right to enforce the taxes levied prior to the act of 1905 determined by the state court, it is the duty of this Court to consider and decide the federal question only, leaving the local question open for investigation in, and adjudication by, the state courts.

The Fourteenth Amendment does not deprive a the power to regulate and burden the right to inherit, but at the most can only be held to restrain such an exercise of power as would exclude the conception of judgment and discretion and would be so obviously arbitrary and unreasonable as to be beyond the pale of governmental authority, and the statutes of California therefore are not unconstitutional because near relatives by affinity are preferred to collateral relatives.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 200 U. S. 90

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