Insurance Company v. Ritchie - 72 U.S. 541 (1866)
U.S. Supreme Court
Insurance Company v. Ritchie, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 541 541 (1866)
Insurance Company v. Ritchie
72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 541
The jurisdiction of the circuit courts in original suits between citizens of the same state in internal revenue cases conferred or made clear by the Act of June 30, 1864, "to provide internal revenue," &c., 13 Stat
at Large 241, was taken away by the Act of July 13, 1866, "to reduce internal taxation and to amend an act to provide internal revenue," &c., 14 id. 172. And suits originally brought in the circuit courts, and pending at the passage of this act, fell.
This was an appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court for Massachusetts dismissing a bill in equity filed by the Merchants' Insurance Company, a corporation created by the laws of Massachusetts and having its place of business in the City of Boston in that state against James Ritchie and E. L. Pierce, the assessor and collector of internal revenue for the third collection district of that same commonwealth, and both citizens of it, praying that they might be enjoined from the distraint and sale of the complainant's property for nonpayment of a certain tax. The defendants demurred for the reason that the bill disclosed no ground for equitable relief. The demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed.
Coming here, the case was elaborately argued by Mr. Stanbery, A. G., and Mr. Ashton, Assistant A. G., for the assessor and collector, and by Messrs. S. Bartlett and F. W. Palfrey (by brief) for the Insurance Company, the argument turning chiefly on the matter of public policy, on the one hand, in allowing officers of the government to be embarrassed in the prompt collection of its revenues by the strong and summary process of injunction, and on the other hand on the matter of private rights of the citizen in precluding him from adequate remedy against clearly illegal proceedings of government agents in the assessment and collection of these revenues.
But a preliminary question, the question namely whether the suit as an internal revenue case could, under the statutes of the United States as now existing, be maintained at all -- the parties all being citizens of the same state -- cut off decision on these points, and renders a report of the principal argument irrelative.