shall assume without deciding that its jurisdiction in respect to tax matters is administrative. If the administrative proceedings stopped with the decision of the Prerogative Court, then the executors could at that point have lawfully sought relief in a federal court from constitutional misconduct of state officials. Evidently believing the administrative proceedings did not stop there, the executors went on to the next New Jersey court -- the Supreme Court -- which they reached by certiorari. That court, in turn, affirmed the judgment of the Prerogative Court sustaining the assessment. Then it was, the executors said, the administrative proceedings came to an end, and at last they could go to the federal court. But that would be true only if the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in respect to tax matters is administrative. If judicial, the administrative proceedings ended with the Prerogative Court and the executors were too late.
We are firmly of opinion that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in reviewing the action of statutory agencies created for the purpose of assessing and collecting taxes is judicial, Dufford v. Decue, 31 N.J.Law, 302; Traphagen v. Township of West Hoboken, 39 N.J.Law, 232; Flanagan v. Treasurer of City of Plainfield, 44 N.J.Law, 118; Mayor, etc., of Jersey City v. Lembeck, 31 N.J.Eq. 255; In re Roebling's Estate, 91 N.J.Eq. 72, 108 A. 359; Black's Law of Taxation (4th Ed.) §§ 279a, 129h, p. 181, made so by the Constitution of New Jersey (article 6, § 5), and that the Court is of sufficiently high rank to be recognized and on occasion followed by courts of the United States, Erie R. Co. v. Hilt, 247 U.S. 97, 101, 38 S. Ct. 435, 62 L. Ed. 1003; that the administrative proceedings in respect to the tax ended at the latest with the judgment of the Prerogative Court and that in consequence the executors on turning to the federal district court after the judicial decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey not only encountered a plea of res judicata but were confronted by section 265 of the Judicial Code (28 USCA § 379) which, going directly to the jurisdiction of this Court to grant the relief asked for, provides that: "The writ of injunction shall not be granted by any court of the United States to stay proceedings in any court of a State, except."
It is intimated that because the Supreme Court of New Jersey had come to a judgment, the proceedings in that court similarly had come to an end, leaving the executors free to seek relief where they chose, whether by appeal to the New Jersey Court of Appeals or by suit in the United States District Court. But we are constrained to hold that having passed by the ending of the administrative proceedings in respect to the tax and having thereafter entered a state judicial tribunal, the executors must abide the consequences, one of which is that proceedings in the state courts were not ended by the judgment of the Supreme Court. The prohibition of section 265 of the Judicial Code denying the right of any court of the United States to stay proceedings in any court of a state is not limited to proceedings in a court of a state "up to and including final judgment only, but [estends] to the entire proceedings from the commencement of the suit until the execution issued on the judgment or decree is satisfied." Leathe v. Thomas (C.C.A.) 97 F. 136, 138; Wayman v. Southard, 10 Wheat. 1, 22, 6 L. Ed. 253. What may happen in consequence of the decision by the Supreme Court of New Jersey remains to be seen. The executors may appeal to the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals or the State may proceed to collect the tax validated by the New Jersey Supreme Court decision. The latter, in this state of the case, is not subject to interference by a federal district court; the former constitutes a remedy at law with admittance finally to the Supreme Court of the United States if a valid constitutional question is involved.
Adverting finally to their main insistence, we are constrained to differ from the position of the executors that in all material respects the instant case parallels and is controlled by the City Bank Farmers' Trust Co. v. Schnader et al., 291 U.S. 24, 54 S. Ct. 259, 78 L. Ed. 628. While both cases concern the situs of and therefore the right to tax personal property of a decedent, the point of departure between the cases is that in the Schnader Case resort was made to a federal court at the very end of the administrative proceedings or at what the court regarded as its equivalent and before judicial proceedings had been commenced in the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, while in the instant case the taxpayers moved to the federal court not at the end of the administrative proceedings but intermediate the judicial proceedings.
Elinor Dorrance Hill v. J. H. Thayer Martin, State Tax Commissioner.
Elinor Dorrance Hill, daughter of John T. Dorrance, the decedent, and a beneficiary under his will, has brought an independent suit in the United States District Court on the theory that, though not a party to the tax proceedings in the two states and not a party with the executors in their suits in the State courts, she needs, is entitled to, and therefore seeks federal relief from a threatened taking of her property by taxing officials of New Jersey in violation of her constitutional rights. Though not a party, she certainly was privy to those proceedings and suits. They concerned in part property which some day will be hers and with respect to which the executors presently hold title and have possession with rights to administer, including payment of lawful taxes. Her grievance against what she conceives to be threatened misconduct by New Jersey officials and her right to relief therefrom are no higher and no greater than, and indeed no different from the grievance and the right of the executors litigating for her benefit. We cannot see how the legal circumstances of the case cast upon her a right to maintain this suit for preliminary injunction when they deny such a right to the executors with respect to the same property coming from the same source and involving the same questions of fact and law. A grant of her prayer for a preliminary injunction would be as plain a violation of section 265 of the Judicial Code as a grant of the like prayer of the executors.
Holding that this court is without jurisdiction in the premises, the prayers of the bills for preliminary injunctions are denied and the cases set over for final hearing on motion of counsel.
Statements of fact and declarations of law in the aforegoing opinion shall be regarded as findings of fact and conclusions of law in the respective cases within Equity Rule 70 1/2 (28 USCA following section 723).
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