Wilson v. Cook
327 U.S. 474 (1946)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wilson v. Cook, 327 U.S. 474 (1946)

Wilson v. Cook

No. 328

Argued January 11, 1946

Decided March 4, 1946*

327 U.S. 474

Syllabus

An Arkansas statute, Act 118 of 1923, Pope's Digest, Arkansas Statutes (1937), §§ 13371-13375, imposes a tax on the severance of timber from the soil; requires payment of the tax in the first instance by the person actually engaged in severing the timber from the soil, but, in general terms and without excepting the United States, requires the severer to collect or withhold the amount of the tax from the price paid to the owner of the timber at the time of the severance, and gives the State a lien upon all timber severed from the soil. A contractor contracted with the United States for the purchase and severance of timber on national forest reserves located within the State, some of which were public lands of the United States when Arkansas was admitted to statehood and some of which were acquired by the United States by purchase with consent of the State. The contract provided that "title to all timber . . . shall remain in the United States until it is paid for, and scaled, measured or counted." The contractor severed timber from the forest reserves in question; execution was issued for collection of the tax, and the contractor sued to enjoin collection.

Held:

1. Since the record in No. 328 does not show that appellants presented for decision to the State Supreme Court any federal question, and since that court, in holding the tax constitutional, did not necessarily pass on the constitutional validity of the statute, this Court is without jurisdiction of the appeal under § 237(a) of the Judicial Code, but the appeal is treated as a petition for certiorari, as required by § 237(c), and certiorari is granted. Pp. 327 U. S. 480-482.

2. Having treated the appeal in No. 328 as a petition for certiorari, as required by § 237(c) of the Judicial Code, and having granted certiorari, this Court can pass only on the federal questions passed upon by the State Supreme Court. P. 327 U. S. 482.

3. The contractor, being taxed by the State on his activities in severing timber from Government lands under contract with the

Page 327 U. S. 475

Government, cannot claim the benefit of implied constitutional immunity of the Federal Government from taxation by the State. Pp. 327 U. S. 482-483.

4. Since the point is made for the first time here, this Court is not free to consider an attack on the state statute on the ground that it requires the severer to collect the tax from the owner of the timber at the time of severance and gives the State a lien on the land from which the timber is severed and a lien upon the severed timber, even though title to the severed product has not passed to the taxpayer, and that the statute thus purports to place a forbidden tax directly on the United States. P. 327 U. S. 483.

5. This Court is not now concerned with the Government's liability to the statutory lien or for the payment of the tax, since it will be time enough to consider those questions when some effort is made to enforce the lien or collect the tax from the United States. P. 327 U. S. 484.

6. The State has territorial jurisdiction to lay the tax upon activities carried on within the forest reserve purchased by the United States. P. 327 U. S. 486.

(a) The Arkansas statute consenting to the purchase of forest lands by the United States (Pope's Digest, Arkansas Statutes, § 5646) made no express grant or reservation of legislative power over the areas purchased and cannot be taken as having yielded or intended to surrender to the Federal Government the state legislative jurisdiction over the area in question, so far as exercise of that jurisdiction is consistent with federal functions. P. 327 U. S. 486.

(b) By § 12 of the Act of March 1, 1911, 16 U.S.C. § 516, authorizing the purchase of forest reserves, Congress in effect has declined to accept exclusive legislative jurisdiction over forest reserve lands, and expressly provided that the State shall not lose its jurisdiction in this respect nor the inhabitants "be absolved from their duties as citizens of the State." P. 327 U. S. 486.

7. The State has legislative jurisdiction over the federal forest reserve lands located within it which were public lands of the United States when Arkansas was admitted to statehood. P. 327 U. S. 487.

(a) Upon admission of Arkansas to statehood upon an equal footing with the original States, the legislative authority of the State extended over the federally owned lands within the State, to the same extent as over similar property held by private owners, except that the State could enact no law which would conflict with the powers reserved to the United States by the Constitution. P. 327 U. S. 487.

Page 327 U. S. 476

(b) Such authority did not pass to the United States by virtue of the provision of Article I, § 8, cl. 17 of the Constitution, which authorizes it "to exercise exclusive Legislation . . over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be." P. 327 U. S. 488.

(c) Since the United States did not purchase the lands with the consent of the State, it did not acquire exclusive jurisdiction under the constitutional provision, and there has been no cession of jurisdiction by the State. P. 327 U. S. 488.

(d) Although Arkansas has conferred on Congress power to pass laws for the administration and control of lands acquired by the United States in Arkansas, it has not ceded exclusive legislative jurisdiction either over lands reserved by the United States from the public domain or over lands acquired in the State. P. 327 U. S. 488.

208 Ark. 459, 187 S.W.2d 7, reversed in part and affirmed in part.

A contractor who had contracted with the United States for the purchase and severance of timber on national forest reserves in the Arkansas sued to enjoin collection of a tax levied by the State on the severance of timber from the soil. The state chancery court enjoined collection of the tax. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arkansas modified the judgment, holding that the State was without authority to lay a tax on the severance of timber from lands which were public lands of the United States when Arkansas was admitted to statehood; that the authority of the State to lay the tax extended to transactions occurring on the forest reserve acquired by the United States by purchase, and that the tax assessed against the contractor for the severance of timber on forest reserves of the latter class did not lay an unconstitutional burden on the United States. 208 Ark. 459; 187 S.W.2d 7. Each party appealed from that part of the decision which was adverse to him. On submission of jurisdictional statements, this Court postponed consideration of its jurisdiction of the contractor's appeal (No. 328), but dismissed the Tax Commissioner's appeal (No. 329) for want of jurisdiction, treated the papers as

Page 327 U. S. 477

a petition for certiorari, and granted certiorari. 326 U.S. 685. Reversed in part and affirmed in part, p. 327 U. S. 489.

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