Where the land within a particular district was assessed for
taxation, each owner being liable only for the amount wherewith he
was separately charged, and the bill of complaint, filed by a
number of them, praying for an injunction against the collection of
the assessment, was dismissed, and they appealed here,
that the several amounts cannot be united to make up
the sum necessary to give this Court jurisdiction.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Stansell, the appellee, obtained a decree in the District Court
of the United States for the Northern District of Mississippi, in
June, 1879, against the Levee Board of Mississippi, District No. 1,
for $71,623.67. This decree being unsatisfied, he instituted
summary proceedings in the same court, under the provisions of the
statute creating the levee board, to obtain an assessment and
collection of the charge which was imposed on the lands in the
district for its payment. On the 7th of February, 1880, the court
entered an order which resulted in an assessment by commissioners
appointed for that purpose. In this order it was provided that any
person conceiving himself aggrieved by the action of the
commissioners might, by petition to the court, present his
grievance and obtain such redress as he should fairly be entitled
to. On the 1st of February, 1881, D. M. Russell, W. H. Stovall, and
H. P. Reid appeared, and as individuals and members of an executive
committee appointed at a mass meeting of the several owners of the
lands charged with the payment of the assessment, asked an
injunction against the collection of the assessment that had been
made, setting forth in their petition why the proceedings were
illegal and unjust. The amount with which the petitioners, as
individuals, were severally charged was as follows: Russell, $7.58;
Stovall, $205.14; and Reid, who was assessed only as an
Page 105 U. S. 304
agent or attorney, $229.29. No single individual among all the
parties represented by the committee could in any event be made
liable for an amount exceeding $2,500. On the presentation of the
petition, the court granted a preliminary injunction, but on final
hearing that injunction was dissolved and the petition dismissed.
From the last order this appeal was taken, which the appellee now
moves to dismiss because the amount in dispute between him and any
one of the several persons charged with the payment of the
assessment is less than $5,000.
While the appellants, and those whom they have been chosen to
represent, are all interested in the question on which their
liability to the appellee depends, they are separately charged with
the several amounts assessed against them. There is no joint
responsibility resting on them as a body. The proceeding on his
part was to require each of the several landowners in the levee
district to pay his separate share of the debt that had been
established against the district. The recovery was against each
owner separately. While the appellants were permitted, for
convenience and to save expense, to unite in a petition setting
forth the grievances of which complaint was made, their object was
to relieve each separate owner from the amount for which he
personally, or his property, was found to be accountable. An
injunction, if granted, would necessarily be to prevent the
appellee from collecting from each owner the amount for which he
was separately liable. It is clear that under the rulings in
Paving Company v. Mulford, 100 U.
, Seaver v.
5 Wall. 208, Rich v.
12 How. 347, Stratton v.
8 Pet. 4, and Oliver v.
6 Pet. 143, such distinct and separate
interests cannot be united for the purpose of making up the amount
necessary to give us jurisdiction on appeal. Although the amount
due the appellee from the levee district exceeds $5,000, his claim
on the several owners of property is only for the sum assessed
against them respectively. Any owner can relieve himself and his
property from all further liability for the district by paying his
part of the assessment.