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CENTRAL R. CO. v. MARTIN

December 14, 1936

CENTRAL R. CO. OF NEW JERSEY
v.
MARTIN, State Tax Commissioner of State of New Jersey, et al., and six other cases



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FORMAN

These seven cases involve the assessments of the taxes on the properties of the plaintiff railroads for the year 1933.

As in the 1932 cases, the assessments made for 1933 were reviewed on appeal by the State Board of Tax Appeals which entered judgments for the defendant, the State Tax Commissioner, and against the railroads. But the railroads obtained writs of certiorari from the Supreme Court and the cases were reviewed by that court. After disposing of the railroads' contentions in a considered opinion, the Supreme Court dismissed the writs of certiorari. Central Railroad Company v. Thayer-Martin, 114 N.J.Law, 69, 175 A. 637.

 The court is of the opinion that the contention of the defendants to the effect that the District Court is prohibited from issuing an injunction in these cases by section 265 of the Judicial Code is dispositive of these cases and it is not necessary to consider other questions.

 Section 265 of the Judicial Code (28 U.S.C.A. § 379) provides: "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 in cases where such injunction may be authorized by any law relating to proceedings in bankruptcy."

 In New Jersey, the State Tax Commissioner is empowered to assess railroad property for taxation. P.L.1931, c. 336, p. 823 (N.J.St.Annual 1931, § 208 -- 37a (20) et seq.) He also has the right to review assessments and make such corrections as shall appear just. P.L.1933, c. 305 p. 819 (N.J.St.Annual 1933, §§ 208 -- 456, 208 -- 457). Unless the assessments are reviewed, the certificate of valuation of the Commissioner to the Comptroller of New Jersey is conclusive and has "the force and effect of a court of record having competent jurisdiction."

 Appeals from the Commissioner are reviewed by the State Board of Tax Appeals. It has the power "to hear, review and determine all appeals * * * to make such orders upon the final determination of such appeals as will effectuate said just determination according to law."

 The "final determination" of the Board is subject to review by certiorari in the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

 Section 13 of the Railroad Tax Act of 1888 as amended (P.L.1933, pp. 819, 823 [N.J.St.Annual 1933, § 208 -- 457]) provides, in part: "If it shall be made to appear before the Supreme Court on the writ of certiorari that the final determination of the State Board of Tax Appeals in respect to any such assessment or tax in controversy is illegal, excessive, insufficient, or that there has been illegal discrimination in the assessment, the Supreme Court shall correct, adjust and equalize such assessment and tax or refer same back to the State Tax Commissioner who shall correct, adjust and equalize the assessment and tax in accordance with the instructions or decision of the court."

 The judgment of the Supreme Court is reviewable, of course, by the Court of Errors and Appeals. Central Railroad Company v. State Tax Department, 112 N.J.Law, 5, 169 A. 489.

 The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Hill v. Martin, 296 U.S. 393, 56 S. Ct. 278, 80 L. Ed. 293, disposes of the question of the jurisdiction of this court.

 In that case, the taxing authorities of the state of New Jersey had assessed estate taxes. The executors of the estate involved appealed to the prerogative court, which affirmed the assessment. In re Dorrance's Estate, 115 N.J.Eq. 268, 170 A. 601. The executors obtained a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court of the state to review the assessment. That court dismissed the writ after its review. Dorrance v. Thayer-Martin, 176 A. 902, 13 Misc. 168. Thereupon, the executors brought a bill of complaint in the United States District Court to enjoin the collection of the taxes on the grounds that the Transfer Tax Act, as construed and applied, violated the full-faith and credit clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The District Court held that it had no jurisdiction under section 265 of the Judicial Code (28 U.S.C.A. § 379) and dismissed the bill of complaint. 12 F.Supp. 746. The case was carried to Supreme Court.

 The contention urged by the executors in that case was to the effect that section 265 did not prevent the District Court from granting the injunctions, since the proceedings in New Jersey had not passed from the administrative to the judicial stage.

 In its opinion, the Supreme Court held as follows: (1) That the action of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in reviewing the assessment on certiorari was judicial; (2) that this was so even though it was necessary after the review to take further proceedings to translate the assessment into an enforceable judgment; (3) that the prohibition of section ...


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