Cummings v. National Bank
101 U.S. 153 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cummings v. National Bank, 101 U.S. 153 (1879)

Cummings v. National Bank

101 U.S. 153

Syllabus

The Constitution of Ohio declares that:

"Laws shall be passed taxing by a uniform rule all moneys, credits, investments in bonds, stocks, joint-stock companies, or otherwise, and also all the real and personal property, according to its true value in money."

And the legislature has passed laws providing separate state boards of equalization for real estate, for railroad capital and for bank shares, but there is no state board to equalize personal property, including all other moneyed capital. The equalizing process as to all other personal property and moneyed capital ceases with the county boards. Throughout a large part of Ohio, including Lucas County, in which A., a national bank, is located, perhaps all over the state, the officers charged with the valuation of property for purposes of taxation adopted a settled rule or system by which real estate was estimated at one-third of its true value, ordinary personal property about the same, and moneyed capital at three-fifths of its true value. The state board of equalization of bank shares increased the valuation of them to their full value. A. brought its bill against the treasurer of that county, praying that he be enjoined from collecting a tax wrongfully assessed on those shares.

Held:

1. That the statute creating

Page 101 U. S. 154

the board for equalizing bank shares is not void as a violation of the Constitution of Ohio, because if the local assessors would discharge their duty by assessing all property at its actual cash value, the operation of the equalizing board would work no inequality of taxation, and a statute cannot be held to be unconstitutional which in itself does not conflict with the constitution, because of the injustice produced by its maladministration.

2. That the rule or principle of unequal valuation of different classes of property for taxation, adopted by local boards of assessment, is in conflict with that constitution, and works manifest injustice to the owners of bank shares.

3. That when a rule or system of valuation for purposes of taxation is adopted by those whose duty it is to make the assessment, which is intended to operate unequally, in violation of the fundamental principles of the constitution, and when this principle is applied not solely to one individual, but to a large class of individuals or corporations, equity may properly interfere to restrain the operation of the unconstitutional exercise of power.

4. That the appropriate mode of relief in such cases is, upon payment of the amount of the tax which is equal to that assessed on other property, to enjoin the collection of the illegal excess.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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