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PITTSBURGH v. BACKUS.

decided: May 26, 1894.

PITTSBURGH, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO AND ST. LOUIS RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
BACKUS.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF INDIANA.

Author: Brewer

[ 154 U.S. Page 425]

 MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The decision of the Supreme Court of the State removes from this case all questions of conflict between the act and the constitution of the State, and the only matter remaining for our consideration is whether there is in the act as administered any trespass upon rights which the Federal Constitution secures to the plaintiff. Notwithstanding the elaborate attack made both in brief and argument upon this act, it seems to us that its constitutionality has been practically settled by decisions of this court, especially those in State Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U.S. 575, and Kentucky Railroad Tax Cases, 115 U.S. 321. In both of those cases legislation providing for the assessment of railroad property by a state board, while all other property in the State was assessed by county officials, was held to be obnoxious to no provision in the Federal Constitution. Counsel deny the applicability of those two cases, on account of differences between the constitutions of Illinois and Kentucky and that of Indiana, the constitution of Illinois expressly authorizing the legislature to classify property for taxation, and only requiring uniformity as to the class of property upon which the particular law operates, and that of Kentucky containing no provision requiring taxes to be levied by a uniform method upon all descriptions of property.A sufficient answer to this is that the decision of the Supreme Court of Indiana in this case is conclusive upon us that the constitution of that State authorizes just the method of assessment adopted in this case.

It is contended specifically that the act fails of due process of law respecting the assessment, in that it does not require notice by the state board at any time before the assessments are made final, and several authorities are cited in support of the proposition that it is essential to the validity of any proceeding by which the property of the individual is taken that notice must be given at some time and in some form, before

[ 154 U.S. Page 426]

     the final adjudication. But the difficulty with this argument is that it has no foundation in fact. The statute names the time and place for the meeting of the assessing board, and that is sufficient in tax proceedings; personal notice is unnecessary. In State Railroad Tax cases, page 610, are these words, which are also quoted with approval in the Kentucky Railroad Tax cases:

"This board has its time of sitting fixed by law. Its sessions are not secret. No obstruction exists to the appearance of any one before it to assert a right, or redress a wrong; and, in the business of assessing taxes, this is all that can be reasonably asked."

Again, it is said that the act does not require the state board to grant to the railroad companies any hearing or opportunity to be heard for the correction of errors at any time after the assessments have been agreed upon by the board, and before they are made final and absolute, or before the final adjournment of the board, and also that it gives to the board arbitrary power to deny to plaintiffs any hearing at any time; but the fact and the law are both against this contention. The plaintiff did appear before the board, and was heard, by its counsel and through its officers, and the construction placed by the Supreme Court of the State on the act -- a construction which is conclusive upon this court -- is that the railroad companies are given the right to be present and to be heard.

It is urged that the valuation as fixed was not announced until shortly before the adjournment of the board, and that no notice was given of such valuation in time to take any steps for the correction of errors therein. If by this we are to understand counsel as claiming that there must be notice and a hearing after the determination by the assessing board as well as before, we are unable to concur with that view. A hearing before judgment, with full opportunity to present all the evidence and the arguments which the party deems important, is all that can be adjudged vital. Rehearings, new trials, are not essential to due process of law, either in judicial or administrative proceedings. One hearing, if ample, before judgment,

[ 154 U.S. Page 427]

     satisfies the demand of the Constitution in this respect. It not unfrequently happens in this, as in all other courts, that decisions are announced and judgments entered on the last day of the term, and too late for the presentation or consideration of any petitions for rehearing or motions for a new trial. Will any one seriously contend that a judgment thus entered is entered in defiance of the requirements of due process of law, and that a party, having been fully heard once upon the merits of his case, is deprived of the constitutional protection because he is not heard a second time?

Equally fallacious is the contention that, because to the ordinary taxpayer there is allowed not merely one hearing before the county officials, but also a right of appeal with a second hearing before the state board, while only the one hearing before the latter board is given to railroad companies in respect to their property, therefore the latter are denied the equal protection of the laws. If a single hearing is not due process, doubling it will not make it so; and the power of a State to make classifications in judicial or administrative proceedings carries with it the right to make such a classification as will give to parties belonging to one class two hearings before their rights are finally determined, and to parties belonging to a different class only a single hearing. Prior to the passage of the Court of Appeals act by Congress, in 1891, a litigant in the Circuit Court, if the amount in dispute was less than $5000, was given but a single trial and in that court, while if the amount in dispute was over that sum the defeated party had a right to a second hearing and in this court. Did it ever enter into the thought of any one that such classification carried with it any denial of due process of law?

Again the act is challenged as permitting and requiring the assessment and valuation of property outside the State. This contention is based largely on the provision in section 80 that the "rolling stock shall be listed and taxed in the several counties . . . in the proportion that the main track used or operated in such county . . . bears to the length of the main track used or operated by such person, company, or corporation," and the requirement in the schedule to be returned to

[ 154 U.S. Page 428]

     the auditor of State of a statement of the amount of capital stock and indebtedness. We do not think that the matters referred to justify any such imputation. It is not to be assumed that a State contemplates the taxation of any property outside its territorial limits, or that its statutes are intended to operate otherwise than upon persons and property within the State. It is not necessary that every section of a tax act should in terms declare the scope of its territorial operation. Before any statute will be held to intend to reach outside property the language expressing such intention must be clear. Section 79, which refers to the matter of "railroad, track," in terms provides that "the value of 'railroad track' shall be listed and taxed in the several counties, townships, cities, or towns in the proportion that the length of the main track in such county, township, city, or town bears to the whole length of the road in this State, except the value of the side or second track, and all the turnouts, and all station-houses, depots, machine shops, or other buildings belonging to the road, which shall be taxed in the county, township, city, or town in which the same are located." And while section 80, treating of rolling stock, does not repeat this express limitation, yet it is manifestly implied, not merely from its following immediately after section 79, and from the general scope of the act, but also from the schedule required to be returned to the auditor of State, the first and second clauses of which are as follows:

"First. Of the property denominated 'railroad track,' giving the length of the main and side or second tracks and turnouts, and showing the proportions in each county and township, and the total in the State.

"Second. The rolling stock, whether owned or hired, giving the length of the main track in each county, and the entire length of the road in this State."

It is obvious that the intent of this act was simply to reach the property of the railroad within the State, and these provisions in respect to apportionment relate simply to apportionment between the different counties, townships, towns, cities, ...


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