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U.S. Supreme Court

Board of Commissioners of Tippecanoe County v. Lucas, 93 U.S. 108 (1876)

Board of Commissioners of Tippecanoe County v. Lucas

93 U.S. 108


l. If by any direction of a supreme court of a state an entire cause is determined, the decision, when reduced to form and entered in the records of the court, constitutes a final judgment, whatever may be its technical designation, and is subject in a proper case to review by this Court. So held where, upon appeal from an interlocutory order made by a circuit court of Indiana granting a temporary injunction, the supreme court of the state reversed the order and remanded the cause to the lower court with directions to dismiss the complaint.

2. Unless restrained by provisions of its constitution, the legislature of a state

Page 93 U. S. 109

possesses the power to direct a restitution to taxpayers of a county or other municipal corporation of property exacted from them by taxation, into whatever form the property may be changed, so long as it remains in possession of the municipality. The exercise of this power infringes upon no provision of the federal Constitution.

By an act of the Legislature of Indiana, passed on the twelfth day of May, 1869, counties and townships in that state were authorized to aid in the construction of railroads, by taking stock in railroad companies, and making donations to them. Before giving the aid, it was necessary for the officers of the county, the board of commissioners, to consult the electors of the county upon the subject, and obtain their approval of the proceeding at an election called for that purpose. Such approval having been obtained from the electors of Tippecanoe County, the board of commissioners of the county, during the years 1871, 1872, and 1873, subscribed and paid for stock in the Lafayette, Muncie & Bloomington Railroad Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the state, and engaged at the time in building a railroad passing through the county. The stock thus subscribed and paid for amounted to six thousand six hundred and ten shares, of the par value of fifty dollars a share, and for them the company issued its certificates to the commissioners. The money with which the stock was paid was collected by a special tax levied for that purpose. The act provided for collecting the money before the subscription could be made.

Afterwards, on the 17th of December, 1872, the legislature passed an act

"to require railroad companies to issue stock, paid for by taxes voted in aid of the construction of their railroads, to the taxpayers or their assigns, and to issue unclaimed stock for the benefit of the common school fund."

This act provided, that, in all cases where stock had been taken by counties and paid for from taxes levied and collected under the act of May, 1869, it should be the duty of the treasurer of the proper county, upon request prior to Jan. 1, 1874, to issue to the several taxpayers living, and to the personal representatives of such as may have died, a certificate, stating the amount of tax paid by them respectively, the date of payment, and the

Page 93 U. S. 110

name of the company in aid of which the tax was paid, as the fact should appear from the proper tax duplicates and record in his office.

The certificates thus issued were made assignable, and any lawful holder could present and surrender them to the proper company previous to Jan. 1, 1874, in sums equal in amount to any number of shares, and it was made the duty of the company to issue a certificate of paid-up capital stock to the amount of the certificate of taxes paid which was surrendered. For the stock unclaimed within the time designated a certificate was to issue to different townships in the county, for the benefit of the common school fund. The act declared that the issuing of the stock to individuals or townships, as thus provided, should operate to cancel pro tanto the stock held by the county under the provisions of the act of May, 1869.

The present complaint was filed by the commissioners of the county in the Tippecanoe Civil Circuit Court, to restrain the treasurer of the county from issuing to taxpayers the certificates of taxes paid, as provided by the act of 1872. The treasurer had previously, against the remonstrance of the commissioners, issued a number of certificates to different parties, and declared his intention to issue certificates to all parties applying who were entitled to receive them under the act. In the complaint, the commissioners denied the power of the state to take the stock, or any part of it, from them and give it to individuals for their private benefit, and alleged that by the issuing of the certificates their right was made questionable, a cloud was cast upon their title, and the market value of the stock held by them was destroyed, and that they were deprived of their rights as stockholders in the company. They therefore prayed that a temporary injunction be granted against the treasurer, and that it might be made perpetual on the hearing.

The complaint was verified, and after notice and argument of counsel, an order was made granting a temporary injunction, as prayed. On appeal to the supreme court of the state, the order, or the judgment, as it is termed in the language of the record, was reversed, and the cause remanded to the lower court, with instructions to dismiss the complaint. From this judgment the cause is brought to this Court on a writ of error.

Page 93 U. S. 113

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