What the duty of a county officer is under the law of the which
he is an instrument is a local question and this Court has no
jurisdiction under § 237, Judicial Code, to review the judgment of
the state court.
A county officer has no personal interest in a litigation
brought to compel him to apply public moneys in his hands in
accordance with the state law, and he cannot defend such a suit on
the ground that the statute is unconstitutional as depriving him as
an individual or as a taxpayer of his property without due process
of law or denying him the equal protection of the law.
Municipalities of the state are creatures of the state, and the
power of the state thereover is very broad, and may be exercised in
many ways affecting the property of, and giving rise to
inequalities between, municipalities without encountering the due
process and equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth
The statute of Kansas requiring counties to reimburse
municipalities of the first class, but not of other classes, for
rebates allowed for prompt payment of taxes is not unconstitutional
under the due process or equal protection provisions of the
Writ of error to review 90 Kan. 846 dismissed.
The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of this Court under §
237, Judicial Code, to review a judgment of the state court in a
case involving the rights and duties of a county officer, are
stated in the opinion.
Page 239 U. S. 15
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the Court.
This action originated in a petition for mandamus filed in the
District Court of Wyandotte county, Kansas, by defendant in error
against plaintiff in error, to require the latter to account for
the sum of $30,840.24, alleged to be due defendant in error under
certain taxing statutes of the state.
Judgment was entered for defendant in error, which was affirmed
on appeal by the supreme court of the state. The case was then
Motion is made to dismiss, on the ground that no federal
question was raised or passed on by the state court, or
alternatively to affirm the judgment.
The controversy is stated by the supreme court of the state as
"The question in dispute concerns the disposition of the
penalties imposed by law for delinquency in the payment of taxes
levied by and for the city. In substance it is this: is the county
required to reimburse a city of the first class for the amount by
which the taxes collected for the city are reduced by rebates
granted for prompt payment, and at the same time to pay over to the
city the amount collected as penalties for delay in the payment of
taxes levied by the city, while in the case of taxes levied by
cities of the second and third classes, and by townships and school
districts, the rebates are charged to the county and the penalties
credited to it?"
The question was answered in the affirmative, citing and
construing the state statutes, and upon a consideration of the
legislative power of the state over its municipal subdivisions.
Plaintiff in error urged and now urges that the
Page 239 U. S. 16
statutes so construed deprive taxpayers of the county who reside
outside of cities of the first class of property without due
process of law, and deny them the equal protection of the law.
Plaintiff in error is not impleaded as a taxpayer, nor does he
defend as such. He is sued as a county officer, and defends by
virtue of the exercise of his functions as a county officer. In
other words, he defends by virtue of laws of which he is an
instrument. Constituted by the laws of the state, he yet attempts
to resist one of its laws. Whether he may do so is purely a local
question. Smith v. Indiana, 191 U.
. He certainly has no personal interest in the
litigation. Braxton County Court v. West Virginia,
208 U. S. 192
McCandless v. Pratt, 211 U. S. 437
Marshall v. Dye, 231 U. S. 250
If, however, plaintiff in error is not estopped by that
consideration, he encounters another. It is manifest that the
statute assailed was enacted by the state in regulation of its
municipalities, and the power to do this is very broad. It was said
in Railroad Company v. County of
16 Wall. 667, that
"counties, cities, and towns exist only for the convenient
administration of the government. Such organizations are
instruments of the state, created to carry out its will."
This power of creation and control may be exercised in many
ways, and may give rise to actual or asserted inequalities. It has
been exercised to enlarge or contract the boundaries of municipal
corporations, invest them with special powers, divide and apportion
their property. Kies v. Lowrey, 199 U.
; Braxton County Ct. v. West Virginia,
It would be difficult to define the restrictions upon
this power of control and keep it efficient. It is very certain
that the Kansas statute does not transcend the limitations. We
think the questions raised are more formal than substantial, and
the writ of error is