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FORD MOTOR CO. v. DEPARTMENT TREASURY INDIANA ET AL.

decided: January 8, 1945.

FORD MOTOR CO
v.
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY OF INDIANA ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Jackson, Rutledge; Murphy took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Reed

[ 323 U.S. Page 460]

 MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This writ brings here for review an action by petitioner, a non-resident foreign manufacturing corporation, against the respondents, the department of treasury of the State of Indiana and M. Clifford Townsend, Joseph M. Robertson and Frank G. Thompson, the Governor, Treasurer and Auditor, respectively, of the State of Indiana, who "together" constituted the board of the department of treasury.*fn1 Petitioner seeks a refund of gross income taxes paid to the department and measured by sales claimed by the state to have occurred in Indiana.*fn2 Jurisdiction of the United States District Court is founded on allegations of the violation of Article I, § 8, the Commerce Clause, and

[ 323 U.S. Page 461]

     the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The state statutory procedure for obtaining a refund which petitioner followed is set forth in § 64-2614 (a) of the Indiana statutes.*fn3

The District Court denied recovery. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.*fn4 Certiorari was granted*fn5 on petitioner's

[ 323 U.S. Page 462]

     assertion of error in that the Circuit Court of Appeals decided an important question of local law probably in conflict with an applicable decision of the Supreme Court of Indiana. Department of Treasury v. International Harvester Co., 221 Ind. 416, 47 N. E. 2d 150. As we conclude that petitioner's action could not be maintained in the federal court, we do not decide the merits of the issue.

Petitioner's right to maintain this action in a federal court depends, first, upon whether the action is against the State of Indiana or against an individual. Secondly, if the action is against the state, whether the state has consented to be sued in the federal courts. Recently these questions were discussed in Great Northern Insurance Co. v. Read, 322 U.S. 47.

In that case this Court held that as the suit was against a state official as such, through proceedings which were authorized by statute to compel him to carry out with state funds the state's agreement to reimburse moneys illegally exacted under color of the tax power, the suit was one against the state. We said that such a suit was clearly distinguishable from actions against a tax collector to recover a personal judgment for money wrongfully collected under color of state law. 322 U.S. 47, 50-51. Where relief is sought under general law from wrongful acts of state officials, the sovereign's immunity under the Eleventh Amendment does not extend to wrongful individual action, and the citizen is allowed a remedy against the wrongdoer personally. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. O'Connor, 223 U.S. 280; cf. Matthews v. Rodgers, 284 U.S. 521, 528. Where, however, an action is authorized by statute against a state officer in his official capacity and constituting an action against the state, the Eleventh Amendment operates to bar suit except in so far as the statute waives state immunity from suit. Smith v.

[ 323 U.S. Page 463]

     of the state, not as individuals against whom a personal judgment is sought. The petitioner did not assert any claim to a personal judgment against these individuals for the contested tax payments. The petitioner's claim is for a "refund," not for the imposition of personal liability on individual defendants for sums illegally exacted. We have previously held that the nature of a suit as one against the state is to be determined by the essential nature and effect of the proceeding. Ex parte Ayers, 123 U.S. 443, 490-99; Ex parte New York, 256 U.S. 490, 500; Worcester County Trust Co. v. Riley, 302 U.S. 292, 296-98. And when the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are ...


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