Supervisors v. Durant

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

76 U.S. 415

Supervisors  v.  Durant

ERROR to the Circuit Court for Iowa, the case being thus:

In 1853, 1854, and 1858, the county judge of Washington County, Iowa, submitted to the voters of that county propositions to subscribe certain sums, and issue bonds accordingly, to aid the making of certain railroads; and a majority of the voters voted in favor of the propositions. The vote required the levy by the county officers of yearly taxes to pay the interest. The bonds were issued, and several of them passed into the hands of one Durant. In April, 1860, certain taxpayers of the county filed a bill against the board of supervisors of the county; Durant, with other holders of the bonds, afterwards appearing and opposing, to enjoin the supervisors (the proper officers to lay taxes) from laying any taxes to pay either principal or interest of these bonds; the ground of the injunction being that the bonds were illegal and void, and that the county officers had no authority to levy and collect taxes to pay either the principal or interest of them. And the board of supervisors were enjoined accordingly. The interest being now unpaid, Durant sued the county in the Circuit Court of the United States for Iowa to compel payment of it. The county set up, by way of plea, the injunction in the State court against it, and the plea being overruled, and the case being fully heard on a case stated, judgment was given in the Federal court against the county. Execution having issued without satisfaction, an alternative writ of mandamus to levy a tax was asked for and obtained by Durant against the county. By way of showing cause against a peremptory writ, the county here again pleaded the injunction from the State court. The plaintiff demurred; assigning as one cause among others, that this court having jurisdiction to render the judgment, had jurisdiction to enforce it, and that no State court could prevent it. The demurrer being sustained, the county brought the case here.

Mr. Henry Strong, for the plaintiff in error, argued elaborately, with numerous citations of cases, [1] that the question was one of jurisdiction, and that in the administration of the powers of the Federal court, it was recognized as a fundamental principle, that the judgment of the State court is binding upon the Federal court, when the State court had jurisdiction of the parties and subject-matter, and the controversy arises out of a contract created under the laws of the State; that the Federal courts are powerless to reverse, modify, or in any manner interfere with such a judgment of the State court, and cannot relieve a party from obedience to a writ issued thereon; that a conflict of jurisdiction was always to be avoided; that it had accordingly passed into an unquestionable principle, that where a court has jurisdiction, it has a right to decide every question that occurs in the cause, and that whether its decision were correct or not, its judgment, until reversed, was to be regarded as binding upon every other court; that 'these rules had their foundation not merely in comity, but in necessity; for that if one court might enjoin, the other could retort by injunction, and thus the parties be without remedy; being liable to a process for contempt in the one, if they dared to proceed in the other.'

He sought to distinguish the case from Riggs v. Johnson County, [2] since there the relator was not a party to the suit for injunction, while here he was.

Mr. Grant, contra, submitted that there was nothing for him to argue to sustain the judgment for the peremptory writ; that the judgment on the coupons was conclusive, and that no defence could be made to the action after that under pretence of State court proceedings.

Mr. Justice STRONG delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  Taylor v. Carryl, 20 Howard, 583; Elliot v. Piersol, 1 Peters, 328; Leffingwell v. Warren, 2 Black, 599; Randall v. Howard, 2 Id. 585.

^2  6 Wallace, 166.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).