HERTZ V. WOODMAN, 218 U. S. 205 (1910)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hertz v. Woodman, 218 U.S. 205 (1910)

Hertz v. Woodman

No. 640

Argued April 25, 26, 1910

Decided May 31, 1910

218 U.S. 205


Where, as in this case, the certificate sufficiently states both the question and the desire of the circuit court of appeals for instructions so that it may make a proper decision, it conforms in substance to the provisions of § 6 of the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826.

The rule of stare decisis tends to uniformity and consistency of decision but it is not inflexible, and it is within the discretion of a court to follow or depart from its prior decisions.

It is the practice of this Court to affirm without opinion where the judgment under review is not decided to be erroneous by a majority of the Court sitting in the cause.

While the affirmance of a judgment by this Court by a divided court is a conclusive adjudication between the parties, it is not an authority on the principles of law involved for the determination of other cases in this or in inferior courts, and this although a different rule has been sanctioned in England.

While an unqualified repeal of a law operates to destroy inchoate rights as a release of imperfect obligations and as a remission of penalties and forfeitures dependent upon the destroyed statute, § 13, Rev.Stat., based on § 4 of the Act of February 25, 1871, c. 71, 16 Stat. 431, operates, unless the repealing act does not expressly or by implication exclude such operation, as a general saving clause for all repealing statutes and extends not only to penalties and forfeitures but to liabilities under the repealed statute. Great Northern Railway Co. v. United States, 208 U. S. 452.

Upon the passing by death of a vested right to the immediate possession or enjoyment of a legacy or distributive share, there was imposed by the inheritance tax provisions of the War Revenue Act of 1898

Page 218 U. S. 206

the tax or duty exacted upon every such right of succession which was saved by the saving clause of the repealing act of April 12, 1902. Mason v. Sargent, 104 U. S. 689, distinguished.

Although, in the statute, a time limit as to payment of a tax upon distributive hares and legacies may refer to the death of the testator, it may be construed as applying to shares in intestate estate as well as to legacies from testators, the omission being supplied by necessary implication.

The fact that the testator died within one year immediately prior to the taking effect of the repealing Act of April 12, 1902, c. 500, 32 Stat. 96, does not relieve from taxation legacies otherwise taxable under §§ 29 and 30 of the War Revenue Act of June 13, 1898, c. 448, 30 Stat. 448, as amended by the Act of March 2, 1901, c. 803, 31 Stat. 895.

The facts, which involve the construction of the Act of April 12, 1902, c. 500, 32 Stat. 96, repealing certain provisions of the War Revenue Act of 1898 relating to inheritance taxes, are stated in the opinion.

Page 218 U. S. 210

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