Stanley v. Supervisors of Albany
121 U.S. 535 (1887)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stanley v. Supervisors of Albany, 121 U.S. 535 (1887)

Stanley v. Supervisors of Albany

Argued March 15-16, 1887

Decided May 2, 1887

121 U.S. 535

Syllabus

When the case below is tried by a court without a jury, its findings upon questions of fact are conclusive, and this Court can consider only its rulings on matters of law properly presented in a bill of exceptions, and the further question, when the findings are special, whether the facts found are sufficient to sustain the judgment rendered.

When the statutes of a state provide a board for the correction of errors and irregularities of assessors in the assessment of property for purposes of taxation, the official action of that body is judicial in character, and its judgments are not open to attack collaterally.

A party who feels himself aggrieved by overvaluation of his property for purposes of taxation and does not resort to the tribunal created by the state for correction of errors in assessments before levy of the tax cannot maintain an action at law to recover the excess of taxes paid beyond what should have been levied on a just valuation.

This case has once been before this Court, and is reported at 105 U. S. 105 U.S. 305, to which reference is made for the facts up to that time. Subsequent to that decision, the plaintiff Stanley was permitted to amend his complaint. The ground of the relief sought for, as stated in each count of the amended complaint, except the fourth, was as follows

"And plaintiff says, upon information and belief, that the said pretended assessment was illegal and void. That under the Constitution and laws of the United States, said shares of stock were not liable to assessment and taxation by state authority, except so far as permission to make such assessment was given by § 5219 of the Revised Statutes of the United

Page 121 U. S. 536

States, which provides that nothing therein shall prevent all the shares in any association from being included in the valuation of the personal property of the owner or holder of such shares in assessing taxes imposed by authority of the state within which the association is located; but that the legislature of each state may determine and direct the manner and place of taxing all the shares of national banking associations located within the state, subject only to the two restrictions, that the taxation shall not be at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of such state, and that the shares of any national banking association, owned by nonresidents of any state, shall be taxed in the city or town where the bank is located and not elsewhere."

"And plaintiff further says, upon information and belief, that the said assessors did intentionally, by a rule prescribed by themselves, assess or assume to assess the said shares of stock in said National Albany Exchange Bank at a greater rate in proportion to their actual value than other moneyed capital generally, in the hands of individual citizens of the State of New York. That the rule adopted by said assessors was to assess all shares of stock in state and national banks in said city at par, irrespective of their actual or market value, making the requisite deduction for real estate owned by said banks. That such rule necessarily resulted in imposing upon the shares of said National Albany Exchange Bank a greater rate of taxation than was assessed upon other moneyed capital generally. That there were in said sixth ward of said city at the time of said assessments, several hanks, state and national, and that the actual value of the stock of said banks varied, that of the shares of stock in the said National Albany Exchange Bank being considerably less than the stock of most of the other banks in the said city."

"That there was a large amount of moneyed capital in said City of Albany and in said sixth ward, in the year aforesaid, in the hands of individual citizens of the State of New York, and that such moneyed capital was generally assessed at a less rate than the said shares of stock in said National Albany

Page 121 U. S. 537

Exchange Bank. That the rule adopted as aforesaid by said board of assessors was not authorized by the laws of the State of New York, and was in violation of the provisions of § 5219 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, and that, for the reasons above set forth, the said pretended assessment was illegal and void, and the money thereby collected was wrongfully collected and paid into the county treasury, and belongs of right to the said Chauncey P. Williams and not to said county."

After this amendment was made, but before the trial, the plaintiff in error discontinued the action as to the 5th, 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th and 12th counts, as to which the statute of limitations had not run, and the case was retried before the court, without a jury, a jury trial having been waived by the parties, upon the counts remaining in the complaint, viz., 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 8th, 9th. Judgment for defendant, excepting as to the fourth count.

Judgment for plaintiff on the fourth count. 15 F. 453. This was the count to recover the taxes collected on the shares of one of the shareholders, viz., Chauncey P. Williams, who had made proof before the assessors that he owed debts exceeding the amount of his assessment, which question had been presented and disposed of by the previous determination of this Court. 105 U. S. 105 U.S. 316.

Page 121 U. S. 542

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