MILWAUKEE COUNTY V. M. E. WHITE CO., 296 U. S. 268 (1935)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Milwaukee County v. M. E. White Co., 296 U.S. 268 (1935)

Milwaukee County v. M. E. White Co.

No. 32

Argued November 12, 13, 1935

Decided December 9, 1935

296 U.S. 268


1. A suit by or on behalf of a State upon a judgment for taxes is a suit of a civil nature within the meaning of § 24, Jud.Code, defining the jurisdiction of the District Courts. P. 296 U. S. 270.

2. The obligation to pay taxes is not penal; it is a statutory liability, quasi-contractual in nature, enforceable, if there be no exclusive statutory remedy, in the civil courts by the common law action of debt or indebitatus assumpsit. This was the rule established in the English courts before the Declaration of Independence. P. 296 U. S. 271.

3. The objection that the courts in one State will not entertain a suit to recover taxes due to another or upon a judgment for such taxes goes not to the jurisdiction, but to the merits, and raises a question which District Courts are competent to decide. P. 296 U. S. 272.

4. Even if full faith and credit are not commanded, there is nothing in the Constitution and laws of the United States which requires a court of a State to deny relief upon a judgment recovered in another State because it is for taxes. P. 296 U. S. 272.

Page 296 U. S. 269

5. Where suits to enforce the laws of one State are entertained in the courts of another on the principle of comity, the federal District Courts sitting in that State may and should entertain them if to do so will not infringe federal law or policy. P. 296 U. S. 272.

6. Assuming that the courts of one State, and federal court therein, are not required by the Constitution, Art. IV, § 1, and the Act of Congress passed thereunder, to entertain suits to recover taxes levied under the statutes of another State, they cannot deny full faith and credit to judgments recovered in the other State for such taxes. P. 296 U. S. 275.

7. The opinion in Wisconsin v. Pelican Insurance Co., 127 U. S. 265, is disapproved insofar as it can be taken to suggest that full faith and credit are not required with respect to a judgment unless the original cause of action would have been entitled to like credit. P. 296 U. S. 278.

In answer to a question certified by the court below, on an appeal from a judgment of the District Court dismissing an action in Illinois based on a judgment for taxes recovered by the plaintiff County in Wisconsin.

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