Insurance Company v. Ritchie
THIS was an appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court for Massachusetts, dismissing a bill in equity, filed by the Merchants' Insurance Company, a corporation created by the laws of Massachusetts, and having its place of business in the city of Boston in that State, against James Ritchie, and E. L. Pierce, the assessor and collector of internal revenue for the third collection district of that same commonwealth, and both citizens of it, praying that they might be enjoined from the distraint and sale of the complainant's property for non-payment of a certain tax. The defendants demurred, for the reason that the bill disclosed no ground for equitable relief. The demurrer was sustained, and the bill dismissed.
Coming here, the case was elaborately argued by Mr. Stanbery, A. G., and Mr. Ashton, Assistant A. G., for the assessor and collector, and by Messrs. S. Bartlett and F. W. Palfrey (by brief) for the Insurance Company; the argument turning chiefly on the matter of public policy on the one hand, in allowing officers of the government to be embarrassed in the prompt collection of its revenues by the strong and summary process of injunction; and on the other hand, on the matter of private rights of the citizen in precluding him from adequate remedy against clearly illegal proceedings of government agents in the assessment and collection of these revenues.
But a preliminary question, the question namely, whether the suit as an internal revenue case could, under the statutes of the United States as now existing, be maintained at all,-the parties all being citizens of the same State,-cut off decision on these points, and renders a report of the principal argument irrelative.
The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.