Louisiana v. Jumel
107 U.S. 711 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Louisiana v. Jumel, 107 U.S. 711 (1883)

Louisiana v. Jumel

Decided March 5, 1883

107 U.S. 711

Syllabus

1. By force of the act of the legislature of Louisiana known as Act No. 3 of 1814, and the constitutional amendment adopted in that year, which provided that bonds should be issued under that act in exchange for valid outstanding bonds and warrants at the rate of sixty cents in the new bonds for one dollar of the old bonds and warrants, the state entered into a formal contract, the obligation of which it was forbidden by the Constitution of the United States to impair, and thereby stipulated with each holder of the new bonds so issued that an annual tax of five and one-half mills on the dollar of the assessed value of all the real and personal property in the state should be levied and collected, and the income therefrom applied solely to the payment of the bonds and coupons; that the tax levied by the act and confirmed by the constitution should be a continuing annual tax until the bonds, principal and interest, were paid in full, that the appropriation of the revenue derived therefrom should be a continuing annual appropriation, and that no further authority than that contained in the act should be required to enable the taxing officers to levy and collect the tax, or the disbursing officers to pay out the money as collected in discharge of the coupons and bonds.

2. After the said act of 1874 was passed and the constitutional amendment sanctioning it was adopted, sundry parties, citizens of another state, exchanged

Page 107 U. S. 712

their old bonds for new coupon bonds executed pursuant to the requirements of that act and demanded of the proper state officers payment of the coupons which fell due Jan. 1, 1880, and the application thereto of the funds collected under the levy imposed by the act. Payment was refused solely on the ground that it was forbidden by the third article of the state Debt Ordinance of the new constitution adopted July 23, 1879, post, p. 107 U. S. 715, and the treasurer claimed to hold the funds only for the purposes for which they were appropriated by the terms of that constitution. The parties then brought in the state court of Louisiana a suit for a mandamus against the auditor and treasurer of state and the other members of the Board of Liquidation, requiring them to apply the funds in the treasury derived from the taxes levied or to be levied to the retirement of the bonds, and to execute the said act according to its intent and purpose. They also brought in the circuit court against the same defendants a suit praying for an injunction forbidding them to recognize as valid said ordinance, and to oppose the full execution of said act and the constitutional amendment. The suit for mandamus was removed to the circuit court.

Held:

1. That the ordinance forbade the payment of the interest due January, 1880, and withdrew from the officers of the state the means of carrying her contract into effect.

2. That the execution of the contract cannot be enforced, nor the relief sought be awarded, in a suit to which she is not a party, but which is brought against officers, who are merely obeying the positive orders of the supreme political power of the state.

3. That at the time the bonds were issued or since, no statute or judicial decision authorized a suit against Louisiana in her own courts, nor can she be sued in the courts of the United States by a citizen of another state.

4. That the money in her treasury is her property, held by her officers, not in trust for her creditors nor as their agents, but as her servants, and that the courts cannot control them in the administration of her finances, and thus oust the jurisdiction of the political power of the state.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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