Mager v. Grima - 49 U.S. 490 (1850)
U.S. Supreme Court
Mager v. Grima, 49 U.S. 8 How. 490 490 (1850)
Mager v. Grima
49 U.S. (8 How.) 490
By a law of the State of Louisiana, every person not being domiciliated in that state, and not being a citizen of any state or territory in the Union, who shall be entitled, whether as heir, legatee, or donee, to the whole or any part of the succession of a person deceased shall pay a tax to the state of ten percent of the value thereof.
This law is not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.
The Widow Collard, who was the plaintiff in error, resided at Metz in the Kingdom of France, and was the universal legatee of her brother, Jean Mager, who died in Louisiana. There was a statement of facts in the court below, which explains the whole case.
"Statement of Facts agreed"
"Succession of John Mager, on the opposition of Alexandrine Collard"
"to the tableau filed by the testamentary executor"
"1st. The tableau filed by the executor is made part of this case, to show that the executor retains from the opponent, the universal legatee of John Mager, the sum of eight thousand dollars and upwards, being the amount of the tax imposed by the fourth section of the act of the Legislature of the State of Louisiana, passed on 26 March, 1842, on property or estates inherited by foreigners within the State of Louisiana, and which is in the words and figures following:"
" SEC. 4. Be it further enacted &c. that each and every person, not being domiciliated in this state, and not being a citizen of any state or territory in the Union, who shall be entitled, whether as heir, legatee, or donee, to the whole or any part of the succession of a person deceased, whether such person shall have died in this state or elsewhere, shall pay a tax of ten percent on all sums, or on the value of all property, which he may actually receive from said succession, or so much thereof as is situated in this state, after deducting debts due by said successions. When the said inheritance, donation, or legacy consists of specific property, and the same has not been sold, the appraisement thereof in the inventory shall be considered
as the value thereof. Every executor, curator, tutor, or administrator, having the charge or administration of succession property belonging, in whole or in part, to a person residing out of this state, and not being a citizen of any other state or territory, shall be bound to retain in his hands the amount of the tax imposed by this act, and to pay over the same to the state treasurer, if the succession be opened in the Parish of Orleans or Jefferson, or to the sheriff, if the succession be opened in any other parish, in default whereof every such executor, curator, tutor, or administrator, and his securities, shall be liable for the amount thereof. It shall be the special duty of the judges of the courts of probate to see that the tax imposed by virtue of this section be collected and paid over; and each of said judges shall be bound to furnish to the treasurer, once a year, a statement or list of the successions opened in his parish, whereof persons who are neither residents of this state, nor citizens of any other state or territory in the Union, are heirs, legatees, or donees, in whole or in part, and of the amount accruing to such persons; and any judge failing to furnish such statement shall be subject to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars for each and every such omission; and that he be responsible to the state for the amount due; and that the sheriffs of the different parishes throughout the state, except those of the Parishes of Orleans and Jefferson, shall pay over the taxes thus received from successions in the same manner, and be subject to the same penalties, as in the payment of other taxes, and that the taxes thus received be taken view in the execution of the sheriff's bond."
"2d. It is agreed that, by the laws of France, a tax or duty of six and a half percent would be levied by the French government on an inheritance falling to an American citizen, in the same degree of relationship to a deceased French subject as the opponent and universal legatee in this case bore to the deceased John Mager, the testator."
"3d. The testator, John Mager, was a natural-born Frenchman, who had emigrated to the United States after the cession of Louisiana to France, and died in the City of New Orleans."
"4th. The opponent, Agathe Alexandrine Mager, Widow Collard, is the sister of the testator, and his universal legatee, according to his last will and testament, duly recorded in this Court, and admitted to probate, and is a French subject residing in France."
"5th. The last will of the testator, John Mager, and all the mortuary proceedings in this Court, make part of this case, and may be referred to, and used in whole or in part, by either party. "
"If upon this case the law of the State of Louisiana aforesaid, imposing the tax aforesaid, be valid, and not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, then the oppositing of the opponent to be dismissed, and the tableau homologated and approved. If, on the contrary, the said law imposing said tax is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, then the opposition shall be maintained, and the item of eight thousand dollars and upwards, as aforesaid, retained as the amount of said tax, shall be expunged, and the same merged in the succession of the said John Mager, to be paid over to his universal legatee."
"[Signed] ISAAC T. PRESTON, Attorney General"
"H. R. DENIS, Attorney for Opponent"
The court of probate dismissed the opposition of the Widow Collard, and ordered the account of the executor (retaining the tax) to be homologated. An appeal was carried to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which affirmed the judgment of the court of probates, and the case was then brought up to this Court under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act.