Findlay v. McAllister - 113 U.S. 104 (1885)
U.S. Supreme Court
Findlay v. McAllister, 113 U.S. 104 (1885)
Findlay v. McAllister
Submitted December 2, 1884
Decided January 12, 1885
113 U.S. 104
The confederating together of divers persons with a purpose of preventing the levy of a county tax, levied in obedience to a writ of mandamus, in order to pay a judgment recovered against the county upon its bonds and the prevention of the sale of property seized under the levy by threats, menaces, and hostile acts which deterred persons from bidding for the property levied on and intimidated taxpayers and influenced them not to pay the tax, whereby the judgment creditor was injured to the amount of his judgment, constitute good cause of action in his favor against the parties so conspiring.
The plaintiff in error was the plaintiff in the circuit court. He brought his suit against Thomas McAllister and fourteen other defendants to recover damages upon a cause of action which was stated in his petition substantially as follows:
The plaintiff, being the holder and owner of certain bonds issued by the County of Scotland, in the State of Missouri, and of certain interest coupons detached therefrom, recovered, on September 25, 1877, in the same circuit court in which the present action was brought a judgment on his coupons against the county for the sum of $4,008.86. The county failing to pay the judgment, the circuit court issued a peremptory writ of mandamus commanding the County Court of Scotland County to levy and cause to be collected a special tax upon all the taxable property within the county sufficient to pay the judgment, with the interest thereon and costs. At the same time, writs of mandamus were issued by the same circuit court directing the same
county court to levy similar special taxes to pay various other judgments rendered against the county upon like demands in favor of several other plaintiffs. In obedience to these writs, the county court levied a special tax, denominated "judgment tax," sufficient to pay off all the judgments, and caused the same to be placed on the tax books of the county and the tax books to be delivered to the collector of the county for the collection of the tax. A part of this tax so levied was levied in obedience to the writ of mandamus in the case of this plaintiff against the county and for the purpose of raising money to pay off his judgment. "Wherefore the plaintiff," the petition averred, "had a vested right and interest in said special tax to the amount of his judgment, interest, and costs."
After the special tax had been levied and the tax book placed in the hands of the collector for collection, the defendants, with about 2,000 other evil-disposed persons, residents of Scotland County, for the purpose of depreciating the value of the bonds held by the plaintiff and thereby inducing and compelling him to compromise his judgment and bonds at much less than their value, did, unlawfully and maliciously and in contempt of the orders and mandates of the circuit court, combine and conspire to hinder and prevent the county court and the collector from performing the things required by the mandate of the circuit court, to-wit, the collection and payment of the special tax.
To this end, the defendants and their confederates organized themselves into an association called "The Taxpayers' Association of Scotland County," with branch organizations in various school districts of the county, for the purpose, among other things, of resisting the collection of the special tax, and the defendants and their confederates did pledge themselves to contribute of their means and influence and to protect each other in all efforts made to resist the payment thereof.
In furtherance of their design, the defendants and their confederates, members of said association, made and published threats of violence against the attorneys of the plaintiff, who were employed to represent him in the collection of his judgment, and gave out and circulated the threat that no person
would be allowed to bid upon or purchase any property that might be offered for sale by the collector to enforce the payment of the special tax, intending thereby to intimidate any person from bidding upon or purchasing any property offered for sale by the collector for the payment thereof. To induce the taxpayers of the county to join the association and aid in carrying out their unlawful conspiracy, the defendants and their confederates falsely and fraudulently gave out and published that such bonds and special tax were illegal, null, and void, and that they were under no obligation, legal or moral, to pay the same, well knowing that such declarations were false.
During the month of February, 1878, the collector of the county, for the purpose of collecting the special tax, levied upon a large number of horses and mules and advertised them to be sold on February 28, 1878, at Memphis, in said County of Scotland, whereupon the defendants and their confederates, in order to prevent the sale of the property so levied on and prevent the payment of the plaintiff's judgment, and so to harass and wrong him as to induce him to compromise his judgment and bonds at much less than their value, assembled in vast numbers at the time and place advertised for the sale, and, by their combined influence, threats, and hostile demonstrations did so overawe and intimidate the persons who had gone to the place of sale for the purpose of and with intent to bid on the property as to prevent them from bidding when the same was offered for sale, and by reason of such combined influence, threats, and menaces, the defendants and their confederates, members of said association, acting under its orders, did prevent any person from bidding on the property when so offered for sale, and did prevent it from being sold.
The unlawful combination and conspiracy of the defendants to injure and defraud the plaintiff and prevent the collection of his judgment still exists, and by reason of the combined influence, threats, menaces, and hostile demonstrations of the defendants, the taxpayers of Scotland County are overawed and intimidated, and so influenced that they do not pay the special tax, nor has the collector, by reason of said combination
and association, been able to collect the same. The plaintiff, by reason of the premises, has been damaged to the amount of his judgment, to-wit, $4,008.86, with interest thereon from September 25, 1877, and costs; for which, with $3,000 exemplary damages, he demands judgment against the defendants.
The defendants demurred to the petition. In support of their demurrer they assigned and argued both in the circuit court and this Court the following grounds:
1. That the plaintiff had no such legal property interest in the taxes in question as to entitle him to maintain actions for conspiracy.
2. That he had sustained no legal damages by the alleged acts of the defendants.
The court sustained the demurrer and rendered a judgment for the defendants, to reverse which the plaintiff brings this writ of error.