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U.S. Supreme Court

Henrietta Mills v. Rutherford, 281 U.S. 121 (1930)

Henrietta Mills v. Rutherford

No. 270

Argued March 5, 1930

Decided April 14, 1930

281 U.S. 121


1. A suit to enjoin the collection of a state tax, as violative of the Fourteenth Amendment, upon the ground that the taxing officials, in making the assessment, arbitrarily and intentionally valued the plaintiff's property much above its true value, while assessing all other property in the county at only 60% of true value, will not lie in the federal court if the plaintiff has a plain, adequate and complete remedy at law. Jud.Code § 267; U.S.C. Title 28, § 384. P. 281 U. S. 123.

2. It must appear that the enforcement of the tax would cause irreparable injury, or that there are other special circumstances bringing the case under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction, before the aid of a federal court of equity can be invoked. P. 281 U. S. 124.

3. The mere fact that the validity of the tax may be tested more conveniently by a bill in equity than by an action at law does not justify resort to the former. Id.

4. In this case, under § 7979, Consolidated Statutes of North Carolina, the taxpayer had an adequate remedy at law by first paying the tax and then suing to recover it. P. 281 U. S. 125.

5. The Act of Congress cited supra, has reference to the adequacy of the remedy on the law side of the federal courts. P. 281 U. S. 126.

6. The enforcement in the federal courts of new equitable rights created by states is subject to the qualification that such enforcement must not impair any right conferred, or conflict with any inhibition imposed, by the Constitution or laws of the United States. P. 281 U. S. 127.

7. A state statute conferring a merely remedial right to enjoin collection of invalid taxes cannot enlarge the right to proceed in a

Page 281 U. S. 122

federal court sitting in equity, and the federal court may therefore be obliged to deny an equitable remedy which the plaintiff might have had in a state court. P. 281 U. S. 127.

8. The Act of Congress, supra, though it does not extend to the jurisdiction of the federal court, governs the proceedings in equity, and, unless the case is one where the objection may be treated as waived by the party entitled to raise it, the prohibition is not to be disregarded. P. 281 U. S. 128.

3 F.2d 570 affirmed.

Certiorari, 280 U.S. 541, to review a decree of the circuit court of appeals which affirmed a decree of the district court dismissing a bill to enjoin the collection of a state tax.

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