147 US 147 Jennings v. Coal Ridge Imp Coal Co

147 U.S. 147

13 S.Ct. 282

37 L.Ed. 116


No. 98.

January 3, 1893.

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Action by W. W. Jennings, in the court of common pleas of Northumberland county, Pa., against the Coal Ridge Improvement & Coal Company, to recover $600, as 6 months' interest due on $20,000 of its bonds held by him. This interest was due December 1, 1887; and, on demand made therefor, the company sent to Mr. Jennings a certificate of deposit of $570, being the amount of 6 months' interest due December 1st, less $30 for 6 months' taxes at 3 mills per annum, which was deducted under the provisions of the fourth section of the act of June 30, 1885. Mr. Jennings returned the certificate, declining to allow the reduction of 3 mills tax, and claiming that the bonds were not worth more than 75 cents on the dollar of their par value, and that it was unjust to require him to pay a tax on them at their par value, but would consent to a reduction upon the taxes, based upon a fair valuation of the bonds. The treasurer of the company held that the officers of the company had no discretion in the matter, under the requirements of the act of June 30, 1885, and, as the state claimed the tax upon the nominal or par value of the bonds, declined to pay more that $570. In thus deducting the tax, the treasurer was acting under the fourth section of said act, which makes it the duty of the treasurer of each private corporation doing business in the state, 'upon the payment of any interest on any scrip, bond, or certificate of indebtedness issued by said corporation, to assess the tax imposed and provided for state purposes upon the nominal value of each and every said evidence of debt,' deduct the same from the interest paid, and turn it into the state treasury.


The trial court rendered judgment in favor of plaintiff for the full amount of interest claimed, and in so doing affirmed the following point, which substantially presents the questions now at issue:


'By the first section of the act of 1885, all bonds, mortgages, etc., owned by residents of Pennsylvania, are made taxable at three mills upon their actual value. Under the general laws of the commonwealth, all such property is to be assessed at its actual value, with notice to the owner, and the right of appeal to the county commissioners, whose action is, in turn, reviewed by the state board of revenue commissioners, except as to bonds and mortgages issued by corporations created by or doing business in Pennsylvania, which are, by the provisions of the fourth section of the said act, drawn out from the general plan of assessment, and required to be assessed arbitrarily at their nominal or par value. By reason of the discrimination thus made between the assessment of mortgages issued by corporations of the state of Pennsylvania and those issued by individuals and foreign corporations, and by reason of the arbitrary assessment of bonds and mortgages issued by Pennsylvania corporations, whose actual value is less than their nominal or par value, as in the case of plaintiff, at the same price as other bonds issued by Pennsylvania corporations, whose actual value is much greater than their nominal or par value, the said fourth section is in conflict with section 1 of article 14 of the amendments to the constitution of the United States, which provides that 'no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."


The defendant took the case to the supreme court of the state, which reversed the ruling below, and accordingly reduced the judgment to $570. See 17 Atl. Rep. 986, 127 Pa. St. 397. To review this judgment, plaintiff sued out a writ of error from this court


M. E. Olmsted, for plaintiff in error.


S. P. Wolverton, for defendant in error.



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The judgment is affirmed, on the authority of Railroad Co. v. Pennsylvania, 134 U. S. 232, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 533.