KENTUCKY UNION CO. V. KENTUCKY, 219 U. S. 140 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kentucky Union Co. v. Kentucky, 219 U.S. 140 (1911)

Kentucky Union Company v. Kentucky

Nos. 22, 47, 48

Argued October 28, 31, 1910

Decided January 3, 1911

219 U.S. 140


A state may choose its own methods of taxation and form and method of enforcing payment so far as federal power is concerned, subject only to the restrictions of the federal Constitution.

Where the highest court of the state has held that provisions that might render an act unconstitutional are inoperative, and the elimination of those provisions does not affect the remainder of the act, this Court is bound by such construction, and will construe the act as though stripped of such provisions.

An ex post facto law and a retroactive law are different things.

Laws of a retroactive nature imposing taxes or providing remedies for their assessment and collection and not impairing vested rights are not forbidden by the federal Constitution. League v. Texas, 184 U. S. 156.

Ex post facto laws prohibited by the federal Constitution are those relating to criminal punishment, and not retrospective laws of a different nature. Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386; Orr v. Gilman, 183 U. S. 278.

As the Kentucky statute involved in this case, as construed by the highest court of that state, does not impose penalties or punishments of a criminal nature, it is not an ex post facto law within the meaning of the federal Constitution.

Summary procedure in the assessment and collection of taxes, if not arbitrary or unequal, and which allows opportunity to be heard, does not deny the property owner due process of law simply because it is summary.

A state statute requiring owners to register lands and pay taxes thereon but which only forfeits them for noncompliance therewith after judicial proceeding and opportunity to be heard does not deny the property owner due process of law.

Page 219 U. S. 141

A time not unreasonably short for beginning actions, fixed, in view of particular conditions, by the legislature, does not deny due process of law, Terry v. Anderson, 95 U. S. 628, and a state statute of limitations as to actions between individuals cannot affect the right of the state to determine by statute a reasonable period within which property owners must register their land, provisions being made for notice and opportunity to be heard.

Where the state court has held that, although a sale may be ordered of an entire tract, there is opportunity, if less than the whole is to be sold, to be heard, and have an ascertainment of the parts to be sold, the property owner is not deprived of his property without due process of law.

An offer to compromise not in accord with the terms of the statute under which lands have been declared forfeited does not amount to an offer to pay the taxes properly assessed thereunder.

Whether lands are properly described in a petition for sale thereof under a statute presents no federal question unless the ruling sustaining it is so arbitrary and baseless as to deny due process of law.

While the Virginia-Kentucky Compact of 1789 protects the holders of grants under Virginia from acts by Kentucky, cutting down substantial rights, Green v. Biddle, 8 Wheat. 1, it does not render them immune from constitutional enactments of Kentucky in regard to the taxation or registration of their property. Hawkins v. Barney, 5 Pet. 457.

A state may classify subjects so long as all persons similarly situated are treated alike. Michigan Central R. Co. v. Powers, 201 U. S. 245.

A state taxing statute applicable to certain counties is not unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because its operation is confined to those counties. Florida R. Co. v. Reynolds, 183 U. S. 471.

The doctrine of innocent purchasers does not apply against the power of the state to assess and collect back taxes and provide for registration of titles in favor of one purchasing after delinquencies; such a purchaser is not deprived of his property without due process of law, because the state exercises its rights in a constitutional manner. Citizens' National Bank v. Kentucky, 217 U. S. 443.

Where one seeks to recover under a grantor deed which does not convey all the land within the boundary described, he must show that the land sought to be recovered is within the boundary, and not within the exclusions.

The provisions of the Revenue and Taxation Act of Kentucky of

Page 219 U. S. 142

March 5, 1906, involved in this action, are not unconstitutional as depriving landowners affected thereby of their property without due process of law or denying them equal protection of the law, nor do such provisions violate the provision of the Virginia-Kentucky Compact of 1789.

127 Ky. 667, 128 Ky. 610, 111 S.W. 36 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality of certain provisions as to taxation and registration of land of the Revenue and Taxation Act of Kentucky of March, 1906, are stated in the opinion.

Page 219 U. S. 143

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