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Statement of the Case.
solved the temporary injunctions which had been granted, sustained demurrers and dismissed the bills.
The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the cases taken to it on appeal. 37 U. S. App. 378, 399; 69 Fed. Rep. 546, 557.
The proceedings of the state board in making the assessments for 1895 and certain correspondence are set forth in the records as if exhibits to the bills. The action of the board, relative to express companies, is thus given :
“The board having given each express company doing business in Ohio, whose property in Ohio is hereinafter assessed, opportunity to appear and be heard personally by the board, and having heard all companies which desired to be heard through their officers, agents or counsel, and having carefully considered the facts set out in the returns, schedules and supplementary statements of such companies and all evidences of value and all matters bearing upon the question of the value of the property of the companies which, in the judgment of the board, would assist it in arriving at the true value, in money, of the entire property of each of said companies within the State of Ohio, on motion, the state board of appraisers and assessors unanimously fix and determine the values of the property of express companies hereinafter named in Ohio to be taxed therein at the amounts set out in the following table:
The Adams Express Company... $533,095.80
488,264.70" This valuation was made July 24, 1895. On the second of August, counsel for the companies wrote the auditor requesting to be advised of the assessments when made, in order that they might apply for a correction. On the seventh of August the secretary of the board informed counsel of the assessments. On August 10, counsel wrote asking “upon what calculation, if any, the apparently precise amounts of the assessments, especially in the case of express companies, are based and how the figures are arrived at.”
The auditor replied for the board that “the method pursued
Statement of the Case.
by the state board of appraisers and assessors this year in assessing the property in Ohio of the Western Union Telegraph Company and the express companies you represent is not different from that followed in former years, which has been sustained by the courts, and is set forth in the records of the board.”
Attention was called to certain data lacking in the companies' returns, and counsel were informed that opportunity would be afforded for a hearing on September 2 at 10 o'clock A.M.; but the three bills involving these assessments were filed August 14, 1895. Subsequently returns were filed as of May 1, 1895, showing: As to the Adams Express Company. Number of shares : 120,000. Market value: $140 to $150. Taxable value of real estate owned in Obio: $25,170. Value of personal property, including moneys and credits, owned by company in Ohio: $42,065. Total value of real estate owned outside of Ohio: $3,005,157.52. Total value of personal property owned outside of Ohio: $1,117,426.05. Entire gross receipts from whatever source received within the State for the year: $282,181. Whole length of lines of rail and water routes over which the company was doing business : 29,647 miles. Length without the State: 27,518 miles. Within the State: 2129 miles.
As to the United States Express Company. Number of shares : 100,000. Par value: $100. Market value: $10. Taxable value of real estate owned in Ohio: $22,190. Value of personal property, including moneys and credits, owned in Ohio: $28,438. Entire gross receipts from whatever source derived within the State: $358,519. Length of lines within the State over which the company was doing business : 3011 miles.
As to the American Express Company. Number of interests : 180,000. Par value: $100. Market value: $112. Taxable value of real estate in Ohio: $58,660. Value of personal property, including moneys and credits, in Ohio, $23,430. Total value real estate outside of Ohio: $4,891,259. Total value of personal property outside of Ohio: $1,661,759. Gross receipts within the State: $275,446. Whole length of lines: 35,295 miles. Length within the State : 1731 miles.
Statement of the Case.
The companies made no return of their entire gross receipts of business wherever done, nor of the terms of their contracts or arrangements for transportation.
These returns stated and the bills repeated that aside from the real estate mentioned the companies had no property in the State of Ohio “except certain horses, wagons, harness, trucks, safes and office fixtures located at different points," and that their actual value was given. That “the business of the company in the State consists in carrying packages on passenger and express trains, steamboats and stages in the care and custody of its employés who accompany the packages. The express company has no ownership of nor interest in these means of conveyance, and simply pays to the railroad companies and the owners of the steamboats and stage coaches for the passage of messengers and their accompanying packages. The horses, wagons and trucks are used by it in the collection and delivery of these packages. There is no peculiarity about this property ; it is of an ordinary kind, whose true value in money must be measured by the ordinary standards, and is easily ascertained and deterinined.”
Each of the bills in Nos. 398, 399 and 400 alleged that the scheme of taxation contemplated by the act, “ while professing to provide for taxation of property in the State of Ohio, does not, in fact, do so, inasmuch as it directs the state board of appraisers, in determining the value of the property of express companies in said State for the purpose of taxation, to be ‘guided by the value of said property as determined by the value of the entire capital stock of said company in the proportion which the same (viz., the property of the companies within the State) bears to the entire property of said companies, as determined by the value of the capital stock thereof?”; that “the value of the capital stock or shares of said company and of express companies generally is determined not so much by the value of the property and appliances which they use in carrying on their business, as by the skill, diligence, fidelity and success with which they conduct their business. Said company employs many thousands of men who are constantly engaged in carrying express pack
Mr. Maxwell's Argument for the Express Companies.
ages, many of them of great value, from one part of the country to another, and its income and the value of its shares are largely the result of their efforts, fidelity and integrity and of skilful management and supervision of the business. Said company furthermore owns real and personal property of great value aside from the appliances of its express business, which is not held or taxable in the State of Ohio, and some of which is not taxable at all, all of which, however, together with the business connections of the company and the reputation and good will which it has earned in the course of more than fifty years of public service, enter largely into the value of its capital shares”; that the market price of the company's shares does not “afford any fair, reasonable or just method of estimating the value of its property or fixing the basis of value for the purpose of taxation, because the market price is speculative and variable, depending upon financial conditions not at all connected with this company, its business, or its property; and your orator insists that said scheme of taxation is unfair, illegal, unjust and unequal and is a regulation of and a tax upon interstate commerce and a taking of its property without due process of law”; that the act and the assessments made thereunder are in contravention of the Constitution of the United States because the act provides for the assessment of, and the assessments embrace, property not situated within the jurisdiction of the State of Ohio, and the property of the companies is, therefore, taken without due process of law; and that the scheme as a special one imposes an illegal burden on interstate commerce, and denies the equal protection of the laws.
Mr. Lawrence Maxwell, Jr., for the express companies. (Mr. Clarence A. Seward for the Adams Express Company; Mr. James C. Carter for the American Express Company; and Mr. Frank II. Platt for the United States Express Company were on his brief.)
It has been decided by this court that express companies “have no tangible property, of any consequence, subject to
Mr. Maxwell's Argument for the Express Companies.
taxation under the general laws.” Pacific Express Co. v. Seibert, 142 U. S. 339, 354.
Plaintiffs assign for error that the Circuit Court erred in sustaining the demurrers to the bills and in dismissing the bills, insisting especially that the assessments complained of are not in fact assessments against the plaintiffs in respect of their property held or owned by them in the State of Ohio, or within the taxing jurisdiction of that State, but that the assessments are really an attempt, under the guise of taxing the plaintiffs' property within the State, to enforce against them the payment of a tax upon their business, which is largely interstate commerce, or for the privilege of doing such business in the State of Ohio, by placing a fictitious and artificial value upon their property; and that the assessments, and the statute of Ohio purporting to authorize them, are therefore in contravention of the Constitution of the United States, especially the interstate commerce clause of Art. 1, Sec. 8, of Art. 4, Sec. 2 and of Art. 14, Sec. 1.
We do not concede that the assessments complained of in the bills are authorized by the Nichols law, or that the Supreme Court of Ohio would justify them if they were before that court. But the Circuit Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals held that the assessments complained of had been made in pursuance of a definite rule or principle of appraisement, recognized and established by the Nichols law, as construed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Our argument, therefore, is addressed to the question whether that rule is valid under the Federal Constitution.
I. The cases raise a Federal question, viz., whether the rule of assessment prescribed by the Ohio statute, and adopted by the state board, for the taxation of express companies contravenes the Federal Constitution.
Taking the allegations of the bills in connection with the returns made by the express companies to the state board, and the transcript of the proceedings of the state board upon those returns, it is manifest that what the board did, and what the demurrers to the bills admit that they did, was not to assess the defendants on the basis of the market value of