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Williams v. Board of Supervisors of the County of Albany

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

122 U.S. 154

Williams  v.  Board of Supervisors of the County of Albany

This is an action to recover the amount of certain taxes alleged to have been illegally collected from the plaintiff and others on sundry shares of stock held by them in the National Albany Exchange Bank, in the city of Albany, New York, and paid into the treasury of the county. The stockholders other than the plaintiff assigned to him their respective claims before its commencement. Their demands were originally embraced in an action brought by one Edward N. Stanley against the board of supervisors, he being at the time assignee of their claims. In that action, judgment was recovered by him. The case being brought to this court, the judgment was reversed, and the cause remanded, with leave to the court below, in its discretion, to hear evidence upon the point whether the shares were habitually and intentionally assessed higher, in proportion to their actual value, than other moneyed capital generally, and, if necessary, to allow an amendment of the pleadings that the point might be properly presented. Supervisors v. Stanley, 105 U.S. 305. When the case was remanded, on application to the court below, all the counts of the complaint, except the fourth, were amended. Subsequently, however, Stanley discontinued the action as to the claim for the taxes assessed and collected for the years 1876, 1877, and 1878. The plaintiff then took an assignment of the claim for those taxes from Stanley, and commenced the present action. He contends that the assessment for those years upon the shares of the stock of the bank was illegal, on these grounds: (1) Because it was not made within the period required by law, which was before the first of September of each year, but after that date; (2) because it was not accompaniedb y the oath of the assessors that it had been made at the full and true value of the shares, subject only to certain specified deductions allowed by law; (3) because it was higher, in proportion to the actual value of the shares, than the assessment of other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of the state was to its actual value. The defendant answered these grounds by a general denial, and by setting up an act of the legislature of New York, passed April 30, 1883, legalizing and confirming the assessment.

The issues were tried by the court, without the intervention of a jury, by consent of parties. The court found the facts as admitted by the pleadings and by stipulation of the parties, from which it appeared, among other things, that no entry of any assessment of the shares of the stockholders of the bank was made upon the assessment roll of 1876, 1877, and 1878, until after the first day of September of those years, and after the time provided by law for revising and correcting the assessment; that the oath of the assessors, annexed to the assessment of each year, was defective in its averment respecting the estimated value of the real estate assessed, but was correct in its averment of the estimated value of the personal property; that there were several banks, state and national, located in the city of Albany, and that the actual value of their shares during those years, with one exception, was above par, varying in that respect from 10 to over 100 per cent., and yet the value of all of them was assessed at par; that the actual value of shares in the National Albany Exchange Bank was from 25 to 30 per cent, above par; that the assessment of the shares of some of the other banks was higher and of some of them lower than this figure; and that the assessment at par was not made by the assessors with the intent of discriminating against the holders of national bank shares, or in favor of the holders of state bank shares, or other moneyed capital. As a conclusion of law, the court found that the assessments were illegal because not made in conformity with the laws of the state, but that they were legalized and confirmed by the act of its legislature of April 30, 1883, and that they were not in violation of any law of the United States. 22 Blatchf. 302, 21 Fed. Rep. 99. Judgment was accordingly rendered for the defendant, and the plaintiff has brought the case here for review.

Matthew Hale, for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 158-162 intentionally omitted]

S. W. Rosendale and W. H. Peckham, for defendant in error.



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).