Smith v. Hunter
48 U.S. 738 (1849)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Smith v. Hunter, 48 U.S. 7 How. 738 738 (1849)

Smith v. Hunter

48 U.S. (7 How.) 738

Syllabus

Where a complainant alleged that a school tax, which was levied upon his land, was contrary to the spirit and meaning of a law of the State of Ohio which exempted his property from all state taxes, and conflicted also with the terms and conditions of the leases by which he held his land, and the state court dismissed the bill, this decision of the state court cannot be reviewed by this Court by a writ of error issued under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act.

The rules which regulate cases brought up to this Court under that section again examined and affirmed.

The facts were these:

By the fourth section of the Act of Congress of 3 March, 1803, to enable the State of Ohio to form a state constitution, 2 Stat. 226, a township of land, to be laid off in the Cincinnati Land District, was granted to the State of Ohio for the purpose of establishing an academy.

On 17 February, 1809, the Legislature of the State of Ohio passed an act entitled "An act to establish the Miami University." Pamphlet acts of 1809, page 184.

That act incorporated the university, provided for its support, government &c. Section tenth vested the above-mentioned township in the corporation, for the use and support of the university, and authorized the corporation to divide the township into lots, and lease them out for the term of ninety-nine years, renewable forever, subject to a valuation every fifteen years. The thirteenth section exempts the township from all state taxes. It reads in these words:

"That the lands appropriated and vested in the corporation, with the buildings which may be erected thereon for the accommodation of the president, professors, and other officers, students, and servants of the university, and any buildings appertaining thereto, and also the dwelling house and other buildings which may be built and erected on the lands,

Page 48 U. S. 739

shall be exempt from all state taxes."

Under this act the university lands were divided into lots and leased out, the plaintiff in error being the lessee of a part of them.

On 16 March, 1839, the Legislature of Ohio passed an act entitled "An act providing for the levying of a school tax in Oxford Township, in Butler County." Local Laws of Ohio 235 of Pamphlet acts.

The township here named is the university township. The first section of the act directs the county commissioners of that county to appoint appraisers in the Township of Oxford "to appraise the lands held under permanent leases in said township at their true value in money, considered in their natural state," taking into view the rent encumbrance upon the same, payable to the university.

The second section of the act is in these words:

"Said commissioners shall, in addition to the levying of a tax on personal property in said township, authorize the levying of a school tax annually upon the ad valorem amount of appraisement in said township, the property of blacks and mulattoes excepted, not exceeding one mill on the dollar, which assessment shall be made by the county auditor, and collected by the county treasurer, in the same manner as other county, township, or state taxes are levied and collected."

The third section provides that

"The taxes so levied and collected under the provisions of this act shall be appropriated exclusively for the support of common schools in the respective districts in the Township of Oxford; and in the disbursement of the same, the provisions of the act entitled 'An act for the support and better regulation of common schools, and to create permanently the office of superintendent,' passed March 7, 1838, shall be conformed to, at least so far as it is practicable to carry out the objects of this act, having in view the support of common schools in the said Township of Oxford."

Under this last-named act, a tax for the support of common schools in Butler township was levied on the university lands, and, among others, on the lands of the plaintiff in error. Whereupon he filed his bill in chancery in the Court of Common Pleas for said County of Butler, setting out in substance the facts as above stated, and praying that the treasurer and auditor of the county might be enjoined from collecting said tax on the ground that it was imposed in contravention of the terms of his lease, and of the Act of 17 February, 1809, to establish the Miami University.

The defendants demurred to this bill, and on the hearing the demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed. From this decree of the common pleas the plaintiff appealed to the Supreme

Page 48 U. S. 740

Court of Ohio, where, upon hearing on the demurrer, the bill was again dismissed. From this last decree the plaintiff sued out a writ of error into this Court.

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