St. Paul, M. & M. Ry. Co. v. Todd County - 142 U.S. 282 (1892)
U.S. Supreme Court
St. Paul, M. & M. Ry. Co. v. Todd County, 142 U.S. 282 (1892)
St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway Company v. Todd County
Argued and submitted December 18, 1891
Decided January 4, 1892
142 U.S. 282
A decision of the supreme court of a state sustaining as valid a statutory contract of the state exempting the property of a railway company from taxation, but deciding that a certain class of property did not come within the terms of the exemption, is not an impairment of the contract by a law of the state and is not subject to review in error here.
New Orleans Water Works Co. v. Louisiana Sugar Refining Co., 126 U. S. 18, affirmed and applied.
This was a proceeding to enforce payment of taxes on real estate remaining delinquent on the first Monday of January, 1886, for the County of Todd, State of Minnesota, and was tried in the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of that state, which made and filed findings of fact and conclusions of law and ordered judgment for the county against the railway company for the collection of the taxes in question, and the interest and penalties thereon, together with costs. The entry of judgment was then stayed by the district court, which certified its findings of fact and its decision in the case to the supreme court of the state for its consideration. The matter having been duly argued and submitted, the supreme court affirmed the order of the court below; whereupon, a remittitur having been sent down, judgment was given in favor of the county and against the railway company adjudging the lands in question liable for taxes, penalties, costs, and disbursements, and that the lands be sold unless the amounts were paid accordingly, and afterwards, an appeal having been taken to the supreme court, the judgment of the district was in all things affirmed. A writ of error from this Court was then allowed by the chief justice of the state supreme court. The opinion of that court will be found reported in 38 Minn. 163, and states the case as follows:
"This railway corporation in 1882 purchased 35,000 acres of land in Todd County which, excepting an inconsiderable portion, was timbered land. The question to be determined is as to whether these lands are exempt from ordinary taxation."
"The lands were purchased on account of their being valuable timber lands. Since 1885, the corporation has been engaged in cutting the timber and converting it into boards, plank, ties, and lumber of all kinds. The greater part of this has been used in constructing and repairing the railroad of this corporation in this state; the remainder (about one-third) has been used for a like purpose upon that part of the road which is in the Territory of Dakota. In some places where the timber has been cut, grass has grown up, a small quantity of which
has been sold. Upon a part of one tract a townsite had been platted before this land was purchased by the corporation, and a part of the lots are now owned by it."
"This corporation became the owner of a part of the line of the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, and as to its line of road succeeded to the rights, franchises, and immunities of that company, including its exemption from ordinary taxation. As to this no question is raised, nor that the charter of the Minnesota and Pacific Company is to be referred to as defining the exemption to which the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Company is entitled."
"By section 1 of this charter, Laws 1857, Ex.Sess. c. 1, corporate powers were granted, including the right to acquire, by purchase or otherwise, and to hold, convey, sell, and lease property and estates, either real or personal or mixed. Section 2 empowered the corporation to locate, construct, and operate a railroad. Section 3 authorized the appropriation, by virtue of the right of eminent domain, of a belt of land not exceeding two hundred feet in width throughout the entire length of the road, and to take property even beyond that limit for certain necessary purposes. Section 16 regranted to the corporation the lands granted to the territory by act of Congress. Section 18 provided for the annual payment to the state of three percent of the gross earnings of the railroad 'in lieu of all taxes and assessments whatever,' and that,"
"in consideration of such annual payments, the said company shall be forever exempt from all assessments and taxes whatever . . . upon all stock in the said Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, whether belonging to said company or to individuals, and upon all its franchises or estate, real, personal, or mixed, held by said company, and said land granted by said act of Congress . . . shall be exempt from all taxation till sold and conveyed by said company."
"Section 20 declared that the company should be"
"capable in law of taking and holding any lands granted by the government of the United States or of this territory, or of the future state, or by other parties, which shall be conveyed to it by this act, or by deed, gift, or purchase, or by operation of law, and may mortgage, pledge, sell, and convey the same. . . . "