Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Louisville
166 U.S. 709 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Louisville, 166 U.S. 709 (1897)

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company v. Louisville

No. 261

Argued April 1, 1897

Decided April 26, 1897

166 U.S. 709

Syllabus

After the trial court and the superior court had disposed of this case without any federal question's having been raised, the railroad company moved to set the judgment aside and transfer the case to the Court of Appeals on the ground that the statutes, as construed by the state court in its opinion, were invalid and in violation of the Constitution. This motion being denied an appeal was granted to the Court of Appeals, where it was claimed in argument that the state statute as construed impaired the obligation created by the charter of the company and denied the equal protection of the laws in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment. Held that the record did not show that a federal question had been raised below in time and in a way to give this Court jurisdiction.

This was a case instituted in the Louisville Chancery Court by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company against the City of Louisville by the filing of an agreed case under the following provisions of the Civil Code of Practice of the Kentucky:

"SEC. 637. Parties to a question which might be the subject of a civil action may, without action, state the question and the facts upon which it depends, and present a submission thereof to any court which would have jurisdiction, if an action had been brought. But it must appear by affidavit that the controversy is real and the proceedings in good

Page 166 U. S. 710

faith to determine the rights of the parties. The court shall thereupon hear and determine the case and render judgment as if an action were pending."

"SEC. 638. The case, the submission, and the judgment shall constitute the record."

"SEC. 639. The judgment shall be with costs, and may be enforced, and shall be subject to reversal, in the same manner as if it had been rendered in an action, unless otherwise provided in the submission."

The agreed case commenced as follows:

"The Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company and the City of Louisville hereby state to the court the facts hereinafter presented, and submit to the court for decision the question hereinafter stated."

Then followed a statement of facts, and the stipulation thus proceeded:

"Upon the foregoing facts, was the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company entitled to a discount -- and, if so, then to what discount -- upon the tax bills mentioned herein on February 4, 1892, when it offered to pay said bills less a discount, or on February 6, 1892, when it paid the amount of said bills under protest?"

"If the court shall be of the opinion that the railroad company, at the time of the said tender or payment, was entitled to a discount upon the amount of said tax bills, then judgment may be entered for the amount of such discount, with interest from February 6, 1892, until paid, in favor of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company against the City of Louisville for the amount of such discount and the costs of this proceeding; but if the court shall be of the opinion that said railroad company was not entitled to any discount on said bills on said day of tender or payment, then judgment may be entered dismissing the case and giving judgment for costs of this proceeding in favor of the City of Louisville against the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company. The right of appeal from the judgment of the Louisville Chancery Court is not waived."

The case was heard, and the chancellor entered the following judgment:

Page 166 U. S. 711

"This agreed case having been submitted in chief, and the court, being sufficiently advised, delivered a written opinion, which is now filed, and in accordance therewith it is considered by the court that plaintiff, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, had no right to any discount on its tax bill when it paid or tendered payment of same as shown in said agreed case, and that this said action be, and it is therefore, dismissed, and that defendant recover of plaintiff its costs herein expended."

The plaintiff excepted and carried the case by appeal to the superior court of Kentucky, and the judgment of the chancellor was affirmed.

Opinions were delivered by the chancellor and by the superior court.

After the judgment of affirmance, the railroad company "moved the court to set aside the submission and judgment, and transfer this case to the Court of Appeals or to grant an appeal to the Court of Appeals" on these grounds:

"This day came appellant, by counsel, and stated to the court that it believes the statutes involved in this action, as to the taxation of railroad property in the City of Louisville, as construed by the court in its opinion lately delivered herein, to be invalid, and to be in violation of the Constitutions of the State of Kentucky and of the United States, and that it desired to be heard on the question of the validity of said statutes, and thereupon moved the court to set aside its judgment and the order of submission herein and to transfer this action to the Court of Appeals, and came appellant further, by counsel, and moved the court to grant it an appeal from its judgment herein to the Court of Appeals in the event the court should overrule the preceding motions above set forth."

The superior court overruled the motion to set aside the judgment and submission, and transfer the cause, but granted the appeal to the Court of Appeals, which being duly prosecuted, the judgment was again affirmed. 29 S.W. 865.

A writ of error was allowed from this Court by the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals.

Page 166 U. S. 712

The assignment of errors in the brief of counsel is as follows:

"1st. That the statutes involved, according to the construction put upon them by the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, do, in substance and effect, impose a different rate of taxation upon the property of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company from that which is imposed upon other property, either real or personal, in the City of Louisville; and"

"2d. That this violates the obligation of the contract contained in the charter of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, whereby it was agreed that its property should not be assessed higher than other real property, thus conflicting with the provision of the Constitution of the United States which forbids any state to pass a law impairing the obligation of a contract; and"

"3d. That, independently of the question of contract, these statutes, as construed by the Court of Appeals, impose a different rate of taxation upon the property of railroad companies from that which is imposed upon property of the same kind, in the same place, and under the same circumstances when owned by any other class of persons than railroad companies, and that therefore it comes within the inhibition of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

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