Moran v. New Orleans
Annotate this Case
112 U.S. 69 (1884)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Moran v. New Orleans, 112 U.S. 69 (1884)
Moran v. New Orleans
Submitted April 15, 1884
Decided November 3, 1884
112 U.S. 69
A municipal ordinance of the City of New Orleans to establish the rate of license for professions, callings, and other business which assesses and directs to be collected from persons owning and running towboats to and from the Gulf of Mexico and the City of New Orleans is a regulation of commerce among the states, and is an infringement of the provisions of Article I, Section 8, paragraph 3, of the Constitution of the United States.
This was an action to recover a license tax.
The City of New Orleans was authorized by a law of the state (Acts Extra Session 1870, p. 37 § 12), for the purposes of the act,
"to levy, impose, and collect a license upon all persons pursuing any trade, profession, or calling, and to provide for its collection, and said license shall not be constituted to be a tax on property."
The same act, § 21, provides that "all licenses imposed by the city, not paid on the 31st day of July, shall be seizable, after thirty days' publication in the official journal," in certain courts of record in the city,
"and upon the prayer of the city, through its proper representatives, any court of competent jurisdiction shall enjoin the said person or persons so liable to pay a license tax, and who shall refuse or neglect to pay the same, from continuing to carry on such business or profession until he shall have paid the same, and all costs and charges for the recovery and enforcement of the claim therefor."
The Council of the City of New Orleans passed an ordinance "to establish the rate of licenses for professions, callings, and
other business for the year 1880" which assessed and directed to be collected the sums specially set forth -- among others:
"SEC. 39. Every member of a firm or company, every agency, person, or corporation owning and running tow boats to and from the Gulf of Mexico, five hundred dollars. Every member of a firm or company, every agent, person, or corporation owning and running job boats within the corporate limits, fifty dollars."
Joseph Cooper was the owner of two steam propellers, each measuring over 100 tons, duly enrolled and licensed at the port of New Orleans, under the laws of the United States, to be employed in the coasting trade, and employed them as tow boats in taking vessels from the sea up the river to New Orleans, and from that port to the sea. The City of New Orleans brought its action against him in the Third District Court for the Parish of Orleans to recover the license tax under the ordinance and obtained a judgment in its favor which, on appeal, was affirmed by the supreme court of the state.