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U.S. Supreme Court

Kersh Lake Drainage Dist. v. Johnson, 309 U.S. 485 (1940)

Kersh Lake Drainage District v. Johnson

No. 595

Argued March 8, 1940

Decided March 25, 1940

309 U.S. 485


1. A decision by the highest court of a State as to the jurisdiction, under the state law, of an inferior court of the State is binding here. P. 309 U. S. 489.

2. In a suit in a state court of Arkansas brought by the commissioners of a drainage district of that State to collect drainage taxes, the suit having been instituted pursuant to a federal court decree compelling extension and collection of such taxes to satisfy certificates of indebtedness issued by the district, prior state chancery court decrees adjudging a landowner's drainage taxes fully paid and his lands free from any further liability therefor were treated as res judicata.


(1) Certificate holders were not deprived of their property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, even though they were not parties to and had no notice of the chancery court proceedings. Pp. 309 U. S. 490-491.

The certificate holders were charged with notice of and bound by relevant statutes of the State in existence when the certificates were issued. Those statutes provided for determination of proportionate liabilities of lands in the district by chancery proceedings between the commissioners and landowners, with no requirement of notice to creditors of the district. The commissioners, as parties to the proceedings in the chancery court, had appropriately asserted the lien for benefit of the certificate holders, and the latter are bound by the decrees.

(2) Issues of fraud and collusion in this case raise no questions which the highest court of the State was not competent finally to decide, and the decision of that court that no fraud or collusion was shown is accepted here. P. 309 U. S. 492.

(3) Irrespective of whether the drainage district was empowered to represent the landowners when the extension of taxes as a whole was ordered, the federal court judgment did not foreclose personal defenses which individual landowners might plead in suits for collection, and the refusal of the state court to accept the federal court judgment as determinative of the individual landowner's

Page 309 U. S. 486

liability did not deny full faith and credit to such judgment. P. 309 U. S. 492.

198 Ark. 743, 131 S.W.2d 620, affirmed.

Certiorari, post, p. 642, to review the reversal of a decree against a landowner in a suit to enforce collection of drainage district taxes.

Page 309 U. S. 487

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