Hendrickson v. Apperson - 245 U.S. 105 (1917)
U.S. Supreme Court
Hendrickson v. Apperson, 245 U.S. 105 (1917)
Hendrickson v. Apperson
Argued October 11, 1917
Decided November 5, 1917
245 U.S. 105
A valid judgment was recovered against Taylor County, Kentucky, upon bonds which it had issued under a refunding act. 1 Acts Ky., 1877-78, p. 554. Under the law existing when the bonds were issued (Ky.Stats., 1894, § 4131), as construed by the highest court of the state, it was the duty of the county court when the office of sheriff was vacant to appoint a single collector, under a single bond, to collect all county taxes, including those levied to pay the county's debts. An amendment (Acts 1906, p. 153, § 3), as construed by the highest court of the state, authorized the county court to appoint more than one collector, under separate bonds, each charged with the duty of collecting such part of the taxes as should be designated in his appointment -- an arrangement which made it possible to evade the satisfaction of the county's debts without interrupting its revenue for general county purposes. In a mandamus proceeding, the courts below directed the members of the fiscal court of the county to levy taxes to satisfy the judgment at the same time and by the same order which should provide for other county taxes and to place the tax bills for collection in the hands of the sheriff, and in case the sheriff, or successor, should not give bond and qualify, directed the county judge, when appointing a special collector, to include in his order of appointment a direction to collect both the levies to satisfy the judgment and all other levies of county taxes, and to continue such direction until a collector
should qualify and give bond, and to exact of him but one bond covering the collection of all the taxes. It was insisted, on behalf of the county that, under the amendment, the county judge might appoint more than one collector and that his discretion in that regard could not be controlled by mandamus. Held that the county's action in other cases, viewed with the present controversy, revealed well defined plans of its officials, in notorious operation long before the passage of the amendment, to avoid payment of the county's adjudicated indebtedness and a deliberate design to deprive its creditors of an efficacious remedy provided by law and incorporated into its contracts; that this Court could not ignore actual conditions. and ought not, through assumptions out of harmony with patent facts, to facilitate the practical destruction of admitted legal obligations; that the circumstances made it clear that the right to have taxes levied to discharge the judgment collected along with taxes for general county purposes was a substantial and valuable one, and that, accepting as this Court must the state court's construction of the laws involved, the amendment could not be sustained as a provision merely for the ordinary and orderly readjustment of administrative matters, but impaired the obligation of the contract under which the judgment creditors' bonds were. issued.
In view of the decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals declaring that an attempt to impose on the Circuit Court or judge thereof the duty of levying and collecting taxes is void under the state constitution, a provision for the satisfaction of bonds in that way, which is made in the Refunding Act of 1878, Acts 1877-78, p. 554, is ineffectual.
238 F. 473 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion.