Iasigi v. The Collector
68 U.S. 375 (1863)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Iasigi v. The Collector, 68 U.S. 1 Wall. 375 375 (1863)

Iasigi v. The Collector

68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 375

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR

THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS

Syllabus

1. While goods remain in the ownership of the importer, the collector of the customs has a reasonable time to fix their true dutiable value, and his right to reappraise them under the Act of May 28, 1830, in any case where, from neglect or want of evidence on the part of the appraisers, the appraisement has been under the proper dutiable value, is not lost merely because they have gone through one form of appraisement and been delivered to the importer with a memorandum on the invoice that the entry was "right." But the Court expresses no opinion on a case where the goods "had passed beyond the reach of the collector."

2. In a suit to recover duties levied on a reappraisement of goods under the Act of May 23, 1830, § 2, and paid under protest -- one ground of the suit being that the reappraisement was not made by the persons authorized by the act to make it -- it is necessary that the objection be specified in the protest. Otherwise it will not be heard here.

3. An appraisement is conclusive upon the fact whether the appraisement of the goods imported was or was not made, as the Act of March 3, 1851, § 1, directs that it shall be, as "of the actual market value or wholesale price thereof in the principal markets of the country, from which the same shall have been imported." If the importer alleges that it was not so made, and is dissatisfied, his remedy is by appeal to the "merchant appraisers." He cannot use the fact in a suit to recover the money paid as duties under protest.

Iasigi & Goddard imported a cargo of wool from the Cape of Good Hope to Boston, which was invoiced, and, on the 16th March, 1860, entered at a price or value at the place of exportation of less than twenty cents per pound, and hence duty free under the Act of 3 March, 1857. * Certain packages -- the "examination packages," as they are called -- were examined by the appraisers, and the invoice certified "Right," and sent to the collector. All but the examination packages were delivered to the importers under the general bond at once -- that is to say on the day of entry, March 16, and the examination packages on the next day. Subsequently, one of the general appraisers at New York, having come to Boston, informed the collector there that there had been

Page 68 U. S. 376

"some neglect," and in consequence of "information" now given to him, the collector directed a reappraisement. A certain Crocker, "one of the principal appraisers of the United States at the port of Boston," assisted by Mr. Bausch, a wool examiner of New York, accordingly, went to work to reappraise the wool. They found it in the warehouse of the importers, and having put the word "Not" before the word "Right" on the original invoice, returned it to the collector, with the following direction for reappraisement.

"Add, to make market value at Port Elizabeth at date of exportation, on 186 bales, three farthings per pound; on 614 bales, 1/2d. per pound."

"CROCKER, Appraiser"

This addition brought the wool above twenty cents. A duty was accordingly imposed, and this being approved by the collector, notice was given to the importers of the reappraisement, with a demand for the redelivery of the wool under the bond. The importers declined to redeliver the wool, and having made protest, paid the duty, $16,571. The protest contained sixteen grounds of objection to what was done. Among them were these:

1. That the appraisement was not made as of the market value of the principal markets of the country from which the wool came (which statute requires it to be).

2. That it was not made (as statute also requires it to be) as of the date of exportation to the United States, a fact, however, upon which the court did not read the evidence as the counsel did.

No objection was made, in terms, to the fact that the reappraisement was not made "by the principal appraisers, or by three merchants," in which way alone, it was contended, as will be seen hereafter, by the counsel of the importers, that it should have been made. But the protest did set forth and object that the appraisement was "unauthorized by law and illegal in form and substance," and that it was made

"under the influence, direction and dictation of a person not holding the office of an appraiser for the port of Boston or any other port, and who was not authorized by

Page 68 U. S. 377

law to make any examination of the merchandise, or to make and direct any appraisement thereof."

Suit having been brought against the collector to recover the duties paid to him under protest, the court instructed the jury that, on the whole case, the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover, and the correctness of this instruction was the question on error here.

Page 68 U. S. 382

MR. JUSTICE NELSON, after stating the chief facts, delivered the opinion of the Court:

The only question of any difficulty in the case is whether or not the collector has the power to order a reappraisement of goods imported, after one appraisement, and permit of delivery to the importer, and the actual delivery of the same?

The act of 2 May, 1830, authorizes the collector to order a reappraisement, either by the principal appraisers or by three merchants &c. The board of officers to make the

Page 68 U. S. 383

examination and appraisal of the goods imported may have been changed, but this power of the collector remains unaltered.

It is true that the appraisal and ascertainment of the dutiable value of the goods are made final and conclusive both upon the importer and the government. But the question still remains what appraisal or ascertainment of the value is to be regarded as final? It is admitted if the appraisal was infected with fraud or imposition, it could not be, and the collector would not only be justified, but it would be his duty to order reappraisement, even under the circumstances in which the present one was made.

The interest of the government as well as a proper regard for the rights of the honest importer require it. And it seems to us but reasonable if, from neglect or want of proper evidence or information on the part of the appraisers, the appraisal be under the proper dutiable value, this power of the collector should be permitted to correct the error. It is true the exercise of it is usually, and doubtless with few exceptions, previous to the permit to deliver the goods, and must be so, generally, in order to be effective. But the act of Congress conferring the power on the collector, fixes no limit to the period within which it may be exercised, and we think a reasonable discretion should be allowed him.

We see no hardship to the importers in giving a liberal interpretation to this power, for in practice and in point of fact the permit his become more a matter of form than of substance. The bulk of the goods are usually delivered in the hands of the importer on their arrival and previous to the permit under the delivery bond, and though, as a mere question of law, the collector doubtless possesses the power to recall the goods, yet he usually looks to the bond for the security of the duties.

It is not denied but that the goods found in the warehouse of the importer and reappraised were the same that had been entered at the customs and from which packages had been selected for examination, and we think it would be too limited and rigorous a construction of the power of the

Page 68 U. S. 384

collector to hold that under the circumstances of the case he was not authorized to make the order complained of. If the goods had passed beyond the reach of the collector, a different question might have been presented. We express no opinion upon such a case.

It has been argued that the reappraisal was not made by the proper officers. The answer is that although the protest is quite voluminous, this objection is not specified. If it had been, it doubtless would have been answered by the proofs.

It is further argued that the appraisal was not made as of the market value of the principal markets of the country from whence the wool was imported. The answer is the appraisement is conclusive upon this fact and the court cannot go behind it. The remedy is an appeal by the importers to the merchant appraisers.

It is further said the date of the period of exportation was not the time adopted by the appraisers in ascertaining the dutiable value. This is a misapprehension. The report of the appraisers, endorsed on the invoice, confines the appraisal at date of exportation.

Judgment affirmed.

* 11 Stat. at Large 194.

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