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I.M. DARNELL & SON COMPANY v. CITY MEMPHIS.

decided: January 20, 1908.

I.M. DARNELL & SON COMPANY
v.
CITY OF MEMPHIS.



IN ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE.

Author: White

[ 208 U.S. Page 115]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

Article 2 of the Tennessee constitution of 1870 provides:

"SEC. 28. All property, real, personal or mixed, shall be taxed, but the legislature may except such as may be held by the State, by counties, cities or towns, and used exclusively for public or corporation purposes, and such as may be held or used for purposes purely religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational, and shall except one thousand dollars' worth of personal property in the hands of each taxpayer, and the direct product of the soil in the hands of the producer and his immediate vendee.

"SEC. 30. No article manufactured of the produce of this State shall be taxed otherwise than to pay inspection fees."

By chapter 258, p. 632, of the acts of Tennessee for 1903 it was, among other things, provided:

"SEC. 1. That all property, real, personal and mixed, shall be assessed for taxation for State, county and municipal purposes, except such as is declared exempt in the next section.

"SEC. 2. That the property herein enumerated, and none other, shall be exempt from taxation. . . . Sub-sec. 5. All growing crops of whatever nature and kind, the direct product of the soil of this State in the hands of the producer and his immediate vendee, and manufactured articles from the produce of the State in the hands of the manufacturer."

In the recent case of Benedict v. Davidson County, 110 Tennessee, 183, 191, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held as follows:

"We are of opinion that, under the facts in this record, the logs upon the yard, in the hands of the mill-operating manufacturer and his property, and lumber, rough and smooth, cut by him from such logs grown on Tennessee soil, are articles manufactured from the produce of the State, and exempt under the provisions of section 30, article 2, of the constitution; and the demurrer was therefore properly overruled, and complainants, under the allegations of their bill, are entitled

[ 208 U.S. Page 116]

     to recover back the taxes paid the State, and to perpetually enjoin the taxes assessed by the county and city."

For more than three years prior to January 30, 1905, the I.M. Darnell & Son Company, a corporation of Tennessee, was domiciled in Memphis, in that State, and there owned and operated a lumber mill. Shortly prior to the date just named, pursuant to chapter 366 of the acts of Tennessee for 1903 (Acts Tenn., 1903, pp. 1097-1101), the value of the personalty of the Darnell Company was assessed for taxation by the city of Memphis at $44,000. Of this amount $19,325 was the value of logs cut from the soil of States other than Tennessee, which the company had brought into Tennessee from other States and were held by the company as the immediate purchaser or vendee awaiting manufacture into lumber, or consisted of lumber already manufactured by the company from logs which had been acquired and brought into the State from other States, as above mentioned, and all of which lumber was lying in the mill yard of the company awaiting sale. The Darnell Company protested against this assessment, asserting that it was not liable to be taxed on said sum of $19,325, the value of the property owned by it as the immediate purchaser of logs brought from other States, or lumber, the product thereof. The ground of the protest was that the property represented by the valuation in question could not be taxed without discriminating against it, as like property, the product of the soil of Tennessee, was exempt from taxation under the constitution and laws of that State, and therefore to tax its said property would violate the commerce clause, section 8, Article I, of the Constitution and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The protest was overruled. Thereupon threat of distress and sale was made by the collecting officer, unless the taxes on all the property were paid. On January 30, 1905, the Darnell Company filed in the Chancery Court of Shelby County its bill against the city of Memphis and the collecting officer to enjoin the enforcement of the tax as to the logs brought in from other

[ 208 U.S. Page 117]

     States, and the lumber, the product thereof as above stated, on the ground of the repugnancy of the tax to the commerce clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, because of the foregoing alleged discrimination. At the same time it paid into court the amount of the taxes which were not in dispute. The sufficiency of the bill was challenged by demurrer, asserting in substance that the assessment complained of did not constitute an unlawful discrimination and was not repugnant either to the constitution of Tennessee or of the United States. Subsequently, by leave of court, an additional demurrer was filed, which, in effect, asserted that, as the plaintiff company was a citizen of Tennessee, it could not be heard to complain of the tax, and that the enforcement of the same was not repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment, and that as the property sought to be taxed was not in transit or awaiting shipment out of the State, but on the contrary had reached its destination and was in the hands of the consignee and owner, who was a citizen of Tennessee, and had become a part of the general property of the State, the assessing of the same for taxation was not an interference with commerce between the States. The chancellor overruled the demurrer and decided the case in favor of the Darnell Company, because the court, as stated in the decree, was of the opinion "that the tax in controversy is in contravention of the rights of complainant as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, and particularly the interstate commerce clause thereof, and the Fourteenth Amendment thereof, as set out in the complainant's original bill."

On appeal the Supreme Court of Tennessee, in considering the demurrer, held the disputed tax not to be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, and reversed the decree of the Chancery Court. 116 Tennessee, 424. The court entered a decree against the Darnell Company and H. D. Minor, the surety on the appeal bond, for the amount of the ...


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