Covington v. Covington First Nat'l Bank - 185 U.S. 270 (1902)


U.S. Supreme Court

Covington v. Covington First Nat'l Bank, 185 U.S. 270 (1902)

Covington v. Covington First National Bank

No. 604

Argued and submitted March 24, 1902

Decided April 28, 1902

185 U.S. 270

Syllabus

Matters within the pleadings in this case having been left undetermined by the court below, and the cause having been detained for the purpose of thereafter passing upon them and for the entry of a further decree, the decree entered below was not final, and this Court is without jurisdiction to pass upon it.

On July 23, 1900, the appellee herein filed a bill seeking to enjoin the threatened assessment and collection by the defendants below (appellants here) of municipal taxes under the assumed authority of an Act of the General Assembly of the State of Kentucky approved March 21, 1900, a copy of which is excerpted in the margin. *

Page 185 U. S. 271

In substance, it was averred in the original bill and in an amendment thereto that the complainant was chartered on

Page 185 U. S. 272

November 17, 1884, for a term of twenty years; that, in 1886, by the acceptance of the provisions of an Act of the General Assembly of Kentucky approved May 17, 1886, known as the Hewitt Act, a contract was entered into with the State of Kentucky, irrevocable during the existence of the charter of the bank, whereby the complainant became obligated to pay to the state taxes upon the shares of its stock, surplus, and undivided profits at a designated rate, such taxes to be in full of all other taxes (state, county, or municipal), except those levied upon its real property; that complainant had regularly made the payments stipulated in said contract up to and including the payment due July 1, 1900; that the taxes thus paid much exceeded the regular taxes imposed by the state during said period upon other real and personal property, and that the fact of the existence of an irrevocable contract had been conclusively determined by the judgment and decree of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky in a litigation between the bank and the state and the City of Covington growing out of an attempt to collect state and city taxes upon the franchise of the bank under the authority of an Act of the General Assembly of Kentucky approved November 11, 1892. It was also averred that, notwithstanding the foregoing, the General Assembly of Kentucky enacted the statute of March 21, 1900, already referred to, and that the defendants were attempting, under the assumed authority of said act, to compel complainant to list for taxation its shares of stock, and that the defendants designed and intended to assess said shares, and to collect municipal taxes thereon for the benefit of the City of Covington for the years 1893 to 1900, both inclusive.

At much length, facts were detailed in the bill and amendment regarding a reduction of the capital stock of the complainant

Page 185 U. S. 273

made in July, 1897, as to the regular payments of dividends to stockholders during the years for which the tax was sought to be assessed and collected, and as to changes in the ownership of the stock during said period. The unconstitutionality of the statute and the illegality of the threatened proceedings thereunder were asserted upon various grounds.

The defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction, and also demurred for want of equity. A motion for a temporary injunction was heard and granted, the court embodying its views in an elaborate opinion. 103 F. 523. The order for the temporary injunction concluded as follows:

"It is ordered, adjudged, and decreed by the court that the defendants and each of them, until the further order of the court, is enjoined and restrained from making, either against the complainant or any holder of its shares, any assessment or levy of any taxes upon the shares of complainant's capital stock for any purpose for any time or period previous to March 21, 1900, and the said defendants, until the further order of the court herein, are also restrained from collecting, either from the complainant or from any of the holders of the shares of its capital stock, any taxes upon said shares upon any assessment or levy to be made therefor for any time subsequent to that date. Defendants are left at liberty to make assessments of said shares for taxation for any proper time or period after March 21, 1900, but not to make any collection of the taxes so assessed until the court shall have determined from the evidence whether the taxes so assessed are at a higher rate than is permitted by law, and to what extent."

The complainant thereupon moved that the injunction be made permanent, and by stipulation, the cause was submitted to the court "upon said motion, and also upon the plea of the defendants to the jurisdiction of the court, and also upon their demurrer to the bill of complaint," it being agreed that

"if the said plea and said demurrer are both disallowed and overruled, then the cause is submitted for the judgment of the court as upon a final hearing, the bill then to be taken for confessed, and further delay thereon being waived."

On December 17, 1900, the following decree was entered:

Page 185 U. S. 274

"This cause came on to be further heard at this term, and was argued by counsel, and thereupon, upon consideration thereof and of the stipulation filed herein, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed as follows, namely:"

"First. That the plea of the defendants to the jurisdiction of the court be, and the same is, disallowed and overruled."

"Second. That the bill of complaint, as amended and to which the demurrer and plea were considered as applying, is sufficient, and contains matters of equity meet to be considered by the court, and the demurrer thereto is also disallowed and overruled."

"Third. Upon the reasons given in the opinion of the court heretofore filed herein, and upon other good and sufficient reasons appearing to the court, it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed by the court that the defendants and each of them are perpetually enjoined and restrained from making, either against the complainant or any holder of its shares any assessment or levy of any taxes upon any of the shares of complainant's capital stock for any purpose for any time or period previous to March 21, 1900, and the said defendants, until the further order of the court herein, are also restrained from collecting, either from the complainant or from any of the holders of the shares of the capital stock, any taxes upon any of said shares, upon any assessment or levy to be made therefor for any time subsequent to that date. The defendants are left at liberty to make assessments of and upon said shares for taxation for any proper time or period after March 21, 1900, but not to make any collection of taxes so assessed until the court shall have determined, upon further pleadings and evidence herein, should the defendants elect to present the same, whether the taxes so assessed are at a higher rate than is permitted by law, and to what extent."

"Fourth. And the court hereby retains control of this cause for the purpose of adjudicating and settling any question which may arise upon any assessment made upon any of the shares of the capital stock of the complainant at any time between the entry of this judgment and the expiration of the present and existing articles of incorporation of the complainant. "

Page 185 U. S. 275

An application for the allowance of an appeal was filed by the City of Covington and Middendorf, and an assignment of errors was also filed on behalf of said defendants, the grounds, as stated therein, being reproduced in the margin. *

An order allowing the appeal as prayed was made. No appeal was prayed by the complainant.



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