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U.S. Supreme Court

Gromer v. Standard Dredging Co., 224 U.S. 362 (1912)

Gromer v. Standard Dredging Company

No. 174

Submitted February 28, 1911

Decided April 22, 1912

224 U.S. 362


Quaere whether § 12 of the Act of Legislative Assembly of Porto Rico of March 8, 1906, providing that an injunction may issue to prevent collection of illegal tolls, applies to the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico.

Even though the bill might not be sustained because complainant has an adequate remedy or because the court has not power to issue an injunction, the court prefers, in this case, to rest its decision on the fact that the bill should be dismissed upon the merits.

Under § 13 of the Foraker Act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. 77, c.191, and the Act of July 1, 1902, 32 Stat. 731, c. 1383, the Territory of Porto Rico has jurisdiction for taxing purposes over the harbors and navigable waters surrounding Porto Rico.

The purpose of the Foraker Act was to give local self-government to Porto Rico, conferring an autonomy similar to that of the states and territories, reserving to the United States rights to the harbor areas and navigable waters for the purpose of exercising the usual national control and jurisdiction over commerce and navigation.

While the United States can reserve control over such places as it sees fit within a territory to which it gives autonomy, it does not reserve any such places unless it is so expressed in the act.

Property which has acquired a situs within the jurisdiction of the Territory of Porto Rico is not exempt from taxation by the territory simply because it is exclusively used by the owner for carrying out a contract with the government.

Where jurisdiction to tax property exists, the validity of the tax cannot be determined by an inquiry as to the extent to which the property may be benefited.

In this case, there is nothing in the record to show that the property taxed had not acquired a situs in Porto Rico or that takes it out of the rule that tangible personal property is subject to taxation by the state or territory in which it is, no matter where the domicile of the owner may be.

5 P.R. 142 reversed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 224 U. S. 363

The facts, which involve the power of Porto Rico to tax machinery and vessels in the harbor of San Juan engaged in work in pursuance of a contract with the United States, are stated in the opinion.

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