Milwaukee v. Koeffler
116 U.S. 219 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Milwaukee v. Koeffler, 116 U.S. 219 (1886)

Milwaukee v. Koeffler

Submitted December 18, 1885

Decided January 4, 1886

116 U.S. 219

Syllabus

A bill in equity to set aside and restrain the collection of a personal tax, or a tax levied upon personal property by a municipal corporation, cannot be maintained on the sole ground of the illegality of the tax by reason of the nonresidence within the limits of the municipality of the person against whom the tax is levied.

This is an appeal from the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The bill, originally filed in a state court and afterwards removed into the circuit court of the United States, prayed for an injunction to restrain the collection of a tax assessed by the City of Milwaukee against Koeffler. The tax was assessed against him as a resident of that city on account of his personal property, and his complaint alleges that he did not reside in Milwaukee in the year for which the tax was levied against him, nor for some years before or since, and that the assessment is therefore void. The answer of defendants, filed in the state court before the removal of the case, denies complainant's allegation as to nonresidence and, averring his citizenship and residence there, adds:

"And for a further and separate answer and defense, the defendants allege and show unto the court that the plaintiff, if he is able to prove the allegations of his complaint herein, has a complete and sufficient remedy at law, and that for this reason this court, as a court of equity, should not and will not interfere, assume, or take jurisdiction of this action, and the defendants object for that reason to any and all interference of this Court, as a court of equity, in the matter of which plaintiff complains, and asks that this action be dismissed."

Replication being filed, the case was heard on these issues, and on a considerable mass of testimony as to the question of residence in Milwaukee.

Page 116 U. S. 220

On the hearing, it appears that the judges of the circuit court, assuming that complainant was not a resident of that city, were divided in opinion on the question of the jurisdiction of the court, as a court of equity, to grant relief. This question they present to us in the following certificate:

"The case coming on to be heard at this term upon the pleadings and proofs, it occurred as a question whether a bill in equity to set aside and restrain the collection of a personal tax or a tax levied upon personal property by a municipal corporation can be maintained on the sole ground of the illegality of the tax by reason of the nonresidence within the limits of such municipality of the person against whom the tax is levied."

"On which question the opinions of the judges were opposed."

"Whereupon, on motion of the plaintiff, by his counsel, that the point on which the disagreement hath happened may during the term be stated under the direction of the judges and certified under the seal of the court to the supreme court to be finally decided, it is ordered that the foregoing state of the pleadings and the following statement of facts, which is made under the direction of the judges, be certified according to the request of the plaintiff by his counsel, and the law in that case made and provided, to-wit:"

"That Charles A. Koeffler, the plaintiff, in 1882, when the assessment and levy of tax against him on account of personal property were made, was not, and for several years prior thereto had not been, a resident of the City of Milwaukee, but was and had been a resident of the Town of Wauwatosa in the County of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "

Page 116 U. S. 222

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