U.S. Supreme Court
Patton v. United States, 159 U.S. 500 (1895)
Patton v. United States
Argued October 16, 1895
Decided November 1l, 1895
159 U.S. 500
The plaintiffs in error imported into the port of New York in November, 1888, a quantity of wool which had been scoured, which was then put upon a comb from which it came in long lengths known as slivers or stubbing; which was then put through a process called gilling, which formed the slivers into a less number of slivers of greater thickness, and which was then taken into the drawing room and finished, from whence it tame out in the form of round balls called tops. The collector first classed the goods as waste, and fixed the duty at ten cents a pound under the Act of March 3, 1883, c. 121, 22 Stat. 488, which duty was paid, but subsequently the collector imposed on the whole importation, under the same act, a duty of ten cents a pound as wool of the first class costing under thirty cents per pound in the unwashed condition, then trebled that duty because imported scoured, and then doubled the result upon the ground that the tops had been changed in their character or condition for the purpose of evading the duty. The importer declined to pay the excess of duty so imposed, and the United States commenced this action to recover it. Held that the duty of sixty cents a pound was properly imposed, and that there was no error in the rulings of the trial court which are set forth in the opinion of this Court.
This was an action by the United States in the district court against the importing firm of George W. Patton & Co. to recover certain duties claimed to be due on thirty-three bales of merchandise entered by the importers as "wool waste," and claimed by them to be dutiable at ten cents per pound under the following clause of Schedule K of the Tariff Act of 1883: "Woolen rags, shoddy, mungo, waste, and flocks, ten cents per pound." At the time of the importation (November, 1888) the duties were accordingly assessed and paid at this rate.
The appraiser subsequently returned the goods as "scoured wool, broken tops, class 1, costing under thirty cents per pound in the unwashed condition, sixty cents per pound." The collector accordingly fixed the duty at sixty cents per chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
pound under the following paragraphs of the Act of March 3, 1883, c. 121, 22 Stat. 488, 508:
"All wools . . . shall be divided for the purpose of fixing the duties to be charged thereon, into the three following classes:"
"Class one, clothing wools -- that is to say, merino . . . wools,"
"The duty on wools of the first class which shall be imported washed shall be twice the amount of the duty to which they would be subjected if imported unwashed, and the duty on wools of all classes which shall be imported scoured shall be three times the duty to which they would be subjected if imported unwashed."
"The duty upon wool . . . which shall be imported in any other than ordinary condition, as now and heretofore practiced, or which shall be changed in its character or condition for the purpose of evading the duty . . . shall be twice the duty to which it would be otherwise subject."
The collector first imposed a duty of ten cents a pound upon this as wool of the first class, costing under thirty cents per pound in the unwashed condition, then trebled this duty, because they were imported scoured, and again doubled the result upon the ground that they had been changed in their character or condition for the purpose of evading the duty. This made the aggregate duty sixty cents per pound, which appears to have been greater than the whole value of the goods. To recover the difference paid upon the entry and the duty imposed by the collector, the United States brought this suit.
Upon trial before a jury, the court charged that the importation in question could not be considered as wool waste, as it did not consist of refuse or broken particles thrown off in the process of manufacture, and was made intentionally by tearing up what are called "wool tops," which consist of wool which has been subjected to several processes, and prepared for spinning, and that it could not be considered as a manufacture of wool, and hence the court left it to the jury to say whether the wool was imported scoured, and in a condition other than that in which such wool was customarily imported in March, chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
1883, and previously. The court expressed the opinion that the plaintiff was entitled to recover the amount of the duties assessed, but submitted the case to the jury upon the evidence.
The jury found a general verdict for the plaintiff in the sum of $10,887.26, and further found, in answer to a special question submitted to them by agreement,
"that the tops which were broken into fragments constituting this importation were so broken for the purpose of changing the condition of the wool from tops into the fragments resembling waste, for the purpose of evading the duty to which the wool in the form of tops would be subjected on importation into this country or evading duty to which the importers believed the tops would be liable."
Judgment having been entered upon this verdict, defendant sued out a writ of error from the circuit court of the United States, which affirmed the judgment of the court below. Defendants thereupon sued out a writ of error from this Court.