ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA.
MR. JUSTICE GRAY delivered the opinion of the court.
Upon the fact most properly and frankly admitted in open court by the Attorney General of the State of California, there can be no doubt that this writ of error must be dismissed, because the cause of action has ceased to exist. Any obligation of the defendant to pay to the State the sums sued for in this case, together with interest, penalties and costs, has been
extinguished by the offer to pay all these sums, and the deposit of the money in a bank, which by a statute of the State have the same effect as actual payment and receipt of the money. And the State has obtained everything that it could recover in this case by a judgment of this court in its favor. The duty of this court, as of every judicial tribunal, is limited to determining rights of persons or of property, which are actually controverted in the particular case before it. When, in determining such rights, it becomes necessary to give an opinion upon a question of law, that opinion may have weight as a precedent for future decisions. But the court is not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare, for the government of future cases, principles or rules of law which cannot affect the result as to the thing in issue in the case before it. No stipulation of parties or counsel, whether in the case before the court or in any other case, can enlarge the power, or affect the duty, of the court in this regard.
The case at bar cannot be distinguished in principle from previous cases in which writs of error have been dismissed by this court under similar or analogous circumstances. Lord v. Veazie, 8 How. 251, 255; Cleveland v. Chamberlain, 1 Black, 419; Wood Paper Co. v. Heft, 8 Wall. 333; San Mateo County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 116 U.S. 138; Little v. Bowers, 134 U.S. 547; Singer Manuf. Co. v. Wright, 141 U.S. 696. See also Elgin v. Marshall, 106 U.S. 578.
STATEMENT OF CASE FOOTNOTES
1 SEC. 4. A mortgage, deed of trust, contract or other obligation, by which a debt is secured shall, for the purposes of assessment and taxation, be deemed and treated as an interest in the property affected thereby. Except as to railroad and other quasi public corporations, in case of debts so secured, the value of the property affected by such mortgage, deed of trust, contract or obligation, less the value of such security, shall be assessed and taxed to the owner of the property; and the value of such security shall be assessed and taxed to the owner thereof in the county, city or district in which the property affected thereby is situate. The taxes so levied shall be a lien upon the property and security, and may be paid by either party to such security; if paid by the owner of the security, the tax so levied upon the property affected thereby shall become a part of the debt so secured; if the owner of the property shall pay the tax so levied on such security, it shall constitute a payment thereon, and to the extent of such payment a full discharge thereof: Provided, that if any such security or indebtendness shall be paid by any such debtor or debtors, after assessment and before the tax levy, the amount of such levy may likewise be retained by such debtor or debtors, and shall be computed according to the tax levy for the preceding year.
SEC. 10. All property, except as hereinafter in this section provided, shall be assessed in the county, city, city and county, town, township or district in which it is situated, in the manner prescribed by law. The franchise, roadway, roadbed, rails and rolling stock of all railroads operated in more than one county in this State shall be assessed by the State Board of Equalization, at their actual value; and the same shall be apportioned to the counties, cities and counties, cities, towns, townships and districts in which such railroads are located, in proportion to the number of miles of railway laid in such counties, cities and counties, cities, towns, townships and districts.
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