Dows v. City of Chicago
78 U.S. 108 (1870)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dows v. City of Chicago, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 108 108 (1870)

Dows v. City of Chicago

78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 108

Syllabus

A suit in equity will not lie to restrain the collection of a tax on the sole ground that the tax is illegal. There must exist in addition special circumstances bringing the case under some recognized head of equity jurisdiction such as that the enforcement of the tax would lead to a multiplicity of suits or produce irreparable injury, or, where the property is real estate, throw a cloud upon the title of the complainant.

Appeals from decrees of the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois in two suits, one original, the other a cross-suit. The bill in the original suit was filed by the complainant to restrain the collection of a tax levied by the City of Chicago upon shares of the capital stock of the Union national Bank of Chicago, owned by him. The bank was organized and doing business in the City of Chicago under the general banking act of Congress, and the complainant was a citizen and resident of the State of New York.

The principal grounds alleged for the relief prayed were that there was, in the tax of the shares of the bank, a want of uniformity and equality with the tax of other personal property in Illinois, as required by the Constitution of that state, and that the shares of the bank followed the person of the owner and were incapable of having any other situs than that of his domicile, and were not, therefore, property within the jurisdiction of the state.

Other objections, relating principally to the manner in which the tax lists were prepared, the want of notice of the assessment to the complainant, and the absence of any deductions for debts, were also urged, tending more to show

Page 78 U. S. 109

irregularities in the proceedings than invalidity in the tax. No special circumstances respecting the tax or its enforcement were alleged in support of the equitable jurisdiction of the court.

The bill in the cross-suit was filed by the Union national Bank of Chicago, and besides alleging the illegality of the tax assessed on various grounds, averred that if the shares were permitted to be sold, irreparable damage would not only be done to each of the shareholders, but also to the bank, which would be thereby subjected to great loss of standing and other injury for the redress of which the law afforded no remedy, and that such also would be the result if the bank paid the taxes, and was subjected to suits by each of the shareholders by reason of doing so; and that in either event a multiplicity of suits would be rendered necessary to adjust the rights of the parties. A demurrer was interposed to the bills, original and cross. The circuit court sustained the demurrers to both and, the complainants in the two cases electing to abide by their bills, the court entered decrees dismissing the bills. From these decrees, appeals were taken.

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