Union & Planters' Bank v. Memphis
189 U.S. 71 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Union & Planters' Bank v. Memphis, 189 U.S. 71 (1903)

Union and Planters' Bank v. Memphis

Nos. 67, 221

Submitted March 20, 1903

Decided April 13, 1903

189 U.S. 71

Syllabus

Where diversity of citizenship does not exist and the jurisdiction of the circuit court rests solely on the ground that the cause of action arose under the Constitution of the United States, an appeal lies directly to this Court under § 5 of the Judiciary Act of 1891, and if an appeal should be presented to the circuit court of appeals and there go to decree, this Court will reverse the decree not on the merits, but by reason of want of jurisdiction in that court. It is not the intention of the Judiciary Act of 1891 to allow two appeals in cases of that description.

Page 189 U. S. 72

The doctrine of res judicata, under the decisions of the highest court of Tennessee, is not applicable to taxes for years other than those under consideration in the particular case. The effect of a prior judgment of a state court as res judicata is a question of state, and not of federal, law.

Where a former judgment pleaded has no force or effect in the state courts of Tennessee as exempting a corporation from certain taxes other than as a bar to the identical. taxes litigated in that suit, the courts of the United States can accord it no greater efficacy.

The Union & Planters' Bank of Memphis was incorporated under a charter granted by the General Assembly or the State of Tennessee in 1858, which contained the following provision: "That said company shall pay an annual tax of one-half of one percent on each share of stock subscribed, which shall be in lieu of all other taxes." The corporation was located in the City of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, and that city, pursuant to an act of the Legislature of Tennessee, assessed an ad valorem tax for the year 1899, for municipal purposes, on the capital stock of the bank. The bank thereupon filed its bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western Division of the Western District of Tennessee, in which it was alleged that the law under which the assessment was made impaired the obligation of the contract created by the above-quoted clause of the charter. The bill further averred that, in a former litigation between the bank and the city, wherein it was sought to enforce a municipal assessment of taxes on the capital stock of the bank for the years 1888, 1889, and 1890, it was adjudged by the Supreme Court of Tennessee that, by the provision aforesaid, the capital stock of the corporation was exempt from all general taxation. The record and judgment in that suit were set out in full, and pleaded as a final judicial determination of the bank's exemption from the payment of ad valorem taxes on its capital stock, and it was averred that the judgment so pleaded was based on the identical claim of exemption now asserted, and on identically the same facts and conditions under which this assessment was made.

The prayer was that the assessment be cancelled, and complainant be declared to be exempt from the payment to the city of ad valorem taxes on its capital stock.

Page 189 U. S. 73

Defendants demurred, and the demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed November 6, 1900, whereupon complainant prayed and perfected an appeal to, and also took a writ of error from, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the case was docketed there on or about November 27, 1900.

On February 11, 1901, complainant prayed, and was granted an appeal from the decree of the circuit court directly to this Court, the record was filed here, March 23, 1901, and the case is now No. 67.

The case in the circuit court of appeals was heard June 10, 1901, and the decree below was affirmed October 21, 1901. 111 F. 561. Thereupon complainant, appellant in that court, prosecuted an appeal from its decree to this Court, and the case was docketed here January 13, 1902, and is now No. 221.

Both cases were submitted, as one case, on printed briefs.

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