Gunter v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co.
Annotate this Case
200 U.S. 273 (1906)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Gunter v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 200 U.S. 273 (1906)
Gunter v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company
Argued December 1, 4, 1905
Decided January 15, 1906
200 U.S. 273
A suit against state officers to enjoin them from enforcing a tax alleged to be in violation of the Constitution of the United States is not a suit against a state within the prohibition of the Eleventh Amendment.
While a state may not, without its consent, be sued in a circuit court of the United States, such immunity may be waived, and if it voluntarily becomes a party to a cause and submits its rights for judicial determination, it will be bound thereby.
An appearance "for and on behalf of the state" by the Attorney General, pursuant to statutory provisions, in an action brought against county officers but affecting state revenues, in this case amounted to a waiver by the its immunity from .suit, and such immunity could not be invoked in an ancillary suit subsequently brought against the successors of the original defendants to enforce the decree.
A decree of the circuit court of the United States having jurisdiction of the cause and in which the state appeared that a charter exemption existed in favor of a railroad company by virtue of a contract within the meaning of the impairment of obligation clause of the federal Constitution is binding upon the state as to the existence and effect of the contract during the period of exemption, and the rule that a decree enjoining the collection of a tax is not res judicata as to the right to collect for a subsequent year does not apply.
Neither the Eleventh Amendment nor § 720 Rev.Stat. controls a court of
the United States in administering relief where it is action in a matter ancillary to a decree rendered in a cause over which it had jurisdiction; nor is a circuit court debarred from enforcing its decree by ancillary suit in equity restraining improper prosecutions of actions in the state courts because there is an adequate remedy at law by interposing defense in those actions. The rule that the collection of a tax should not be enjoined unless the amount admitted to be due is tendered does not apply where the amount due is for a period not covered by the injunction or affected by the decree.
The facts are stated in the opinion.