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Opinion of the Court.
the new shares were also exempt, and that che contract corered both classes of stock in the same way and to the same extent; but the judgment of the court was that neither class of stockholders was exempt from taxation on account of the shares of stock held by it, that the exemption clause applied entirely to the capital stock, and that hence the shares of stock were liable to taxation under the general laws of the State, and judgment was ordered against all the shareholders, both of the old and the new stock accordingly. Judgment at the same time went in favor of the bank decreeing its exemption from taxation under those laws of the State.
The bank and the shareholders through Mr. Omberg, their representative, sued out a writ of error from this court, and the judgment of the state court was thereby brought here for review. The claims of the parties upon that writ of error were on the part of the plaintiffs in error that the whole judgment of the state court was wrong; that neither the shareholders of the old nor of the new stock were liable to pay any amount of taxes other than the tax provided for in the charter, and that the same exemption applied to the bank. The defendants in error claimed that the whole judgment of the state court was right; that all the shareholders were properly assessed, but that if this were not so and the bolders of old shares were exempt by reason of the clause in the charter, such clause did not apply to the holders of the new shares of stock, and that they were liable in any event, and that, therefore, the judgment as against such new shareholders was right, and to that extent the judgment should be affirmed, even if it should be reversed as to the holders of the old shares of stock. This court held that, as to the holders of the old shares, the judgment was wrong, as the exemption in the charter applied to the holders of the shares of stock and not to the capital stock itself. Concerning the further question whether the judgment was right as against the holders of the neer shares of stock, the court held that it would not review the decision of the state court on that question; that as the state court had granted the exemption claimed by the holders of the new shares by virtue of the contract clause in the charter, this
Opinion of the Court.
court had no jurisdiction to review that decision, and, there fore, refused to do so. The whole judgment against all the stockholders, both of the new as well as of the old shares of stock, was reversed. In coming to that conclusion and in reversing the whole judgment we think this court inadvertently fell into error. The error consisted in mistaking a certain statement in a portion of the opinion of the court below for the judgment which it actually rendered. Instead of granting the exemption the court refused it entirely, and the judgment which it actually rendered was against all the shareholders alike, both of the old and of the new shares, but in the opinion the court stated that no difference existed between the holders of the old as compared with those of the new shares of stock, and that the bolders of the now shares were entitled to the exemption from the tax to the same extent that the holders of the old shares were, but, as the court determined, neither the old nor the new shareholders were entitled to such exemption.
The material matter in the case was the judgment, and the judgment was against all the sbareholders, so when that judgment was brought before this court by writ of error on the part of the shareholders, the question for this court was to determine whether or not there was error in that judgment. In the determination of that question no effect can be given the opinion of the state court in favor of the plaintiffs in error upon one ground, so long as it is rendered entirely immaterial by the judgment of that court against the plaintiffs in error upon another ground. It is our duty to look at the whole judgment as it comes before us, and if any portion of it be correct and is so stated as to be separable from and independent of the other portion which we find to be erroneous, it is our duty to affirm that portion in which we find no error and reverse that portion which we decide to be wrong. Therefore we think it is our duty to examine the question whether the judgment brought here for review is not right as against the holders of the new shares on the ground that they were not included in the charter clause providing for exemption from taxation, because their stock was issued since the constitution
Opinion of the Court.
of 1870 was adopted. Even if the opinions of the state court were a part of the record, as is claimed by counsel for the plaintiffs in error, no different result would follow on that account. Being a part of the record merely gives the court a right to look into these opinions for the purpose of discovering the ground upon which the judgment of the court actually proceeded. Looking at them we find, as reasons for the judgment of the state court against all the shareholders, that the exemption clause of the charter applied to the capital stock of the bank and not to the shareholders in any event. Looking further into the opinion we find the added statement that if the exemption clause had applied to the holders of the old shares it would equally have applied to the holders of the new, as they were both situated alike, and if one class were entitled to exemption the other was also. That opinion upon the latter subject is an abstract one, upon which no judgment was entered, because the state court held that neither class was entitled to exemption and directed judgment against them all. Under these circumstances it seems plain to us that in refusing to look into the question whether the judgment, so far as it affected the holders of the new shares only, was right or wrong, we failed to exercise our appropriate jurisdiction, and it is our duty, upon the question being nowy brought to our attention, to retrace our steps and examine the question and determine for ourselves whether that portion of the judgment of the state court enforcing taxation of the holders of the new shares of stock ought not to be upheld although for a different reason than that which controlled the action of that court.
The case of Murdoch v. City of Memphis, 20 Wall. 590, and other similar cases are not in point. The purpose of examin- . ing to see whether there is not some question other than a Federal one, decided in the case, is to sustain thereon the judgment under review. In this case the plaintiffs in error are not seeking a question of local law upon which to sustain the judgment against them. If we find the Federal questions properly decided as to one class of persons affected by the judgment we must sustain that part of it, although we come
Opinion of the Court.
to that conclusion for a different reason from that expressed by the state court, and one which upon that point is in conflict with its opinion but not with its judgment. So in the case suggested by counsel, of separate actions against the stockholders and the bank, and a decision by the state court that the holders of the new shares were exempt under the contract clause. Of course, no decision of that kind could be reviewed here because the claim was allowed by the state court, and judgment went in his favor. To make it parallel with this, the court should have beld the holder of the new shares liable and entered judgment against him, while stating in its opinion that if the holders of old shares had been exempt he would have been also exempt, but as they were not, neither was he. Upon his writ of error to this court we could say that the judgment was right, because although the holders of the old shares were exempt, yet the holders of the new shares did not stand in the same position, and they were not exempt. The judgment would be upheld although for a different
We come then to the merits of the subject. In determining the question whether the state court was right in adjudging the holders of the new shares of stock liable to assessment by reason of their ownership of that stock, (no matter for what reason such determination was reached,) it is necessary to seo what the provisions of the charter were in relation to this increase of capital stock. We see by the second section above quoted that no limitation was therein prescribed of the amount of capital stock of the bank, and the provision for the increase of the capital stock, as mentioned in section 4 of the charter, makes the depositor the person who is to decide whether the stock shall be increased or not, for by that section the depositor when depositing his moneys as a stock depositor in the bank has himself the option when the deposit amounts to $50 or more to call for and to have scrip for stock issued to him therefor. By this provision it cannot be claimed that the State entered into such a contract with future depositors who might choose to demand stock for their deposits, that the provision relating thereto could not be changed by
Opinion of the Court.
the legislature. It was a provision in relation to one of the general powers of the corporation to issue stock which might be changed from time to time as the legislature in its discretion might think proper, so long as no vested right of property accruing prior to the legislative amendment was unfavorably affected thereby. We think there was no vested right on the part of the future depositor to make a stock deposit, and claim the issuing of a similar amount of stock to him, which a legisJature could not cut off. If before making any such deposit the legislature altered that provision in the charter and prohibited any such kind of deposit thereafter, we think it clear that no vested right of a future depositor was thereby interfered with. We have held that the clause in the charter of this bank providing for taxation amounted to a contract that the shares of stock in the hands of the shareholders should be exempt from further taxation than that which is provided in the charter. Is the language in the charter to be extended to the shares of stock issued subsequently to the adoption of the constitution of 1870? In other words, does the contract obligation attach to and form a part of the stock so issued to the same extent as if the stock had been issued prior to 1870 ? We are inclined to think not. Full effect can be given to the charter by confining it to the shares of stock that might be issued under its provisions so long as the constitution of the State was not altered or a provision thereof adopted providing for the taxation of such property. Applying the rule which is always applied by this court in such cases, that the claim for exemption must rest upon language in regard to which there can be no doubt as to its meaning, and that the exemption must be granted in terms too plain to be mistaken, the claim for exemption for this subsequently issued stock cannot be maintained. This rule for the construction of exemption from taxation classes in acts of the legislature is referred to in the opinion in Phoenix Fire & Marine Insurance Co. v. Tennessee, one of these cases and decided at the same time. 161 U. S. 174.
It is true there is an unlimited right to increase the capital stock of this bank under the fourth clause in question, but