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U.S. Supreme Court

American Sugar Refining Co. v. New Orleans, 181 U.S. 277 (1901)

American Sugar Refining Company v. New Orleans

No. 535

Argued and submitted March 18, 1901

Decided April 29, 1901

181 U.S. 277


The circuit courts of appeals have power to review the judgments of the circuit courts in cases where the jurisdiction of the circuit court attaches solely by reason of diverse citizenship, notwithstanding constitutional questions may have arisen after the jurisdiction of the circuit court attached.

But in any such case, where a constitutional question arises on which the judgment depends, a writ of error maybe taken directly from this Court to revise the judgment of the circuit court, although the case may nevertheless be carried to the circuit court of appeals, but if so, and final judgment is there rendered, the jurisdiction of this Court cannot thereafter be invoked directly on another writ of error to the circuit court.

When the plaintiff invokes the jurisdiction of the circuit court on the sole ground that the suit arises under the Constitution or laws or some treaty of the United States, as appears on the record from his own statement of his cause of action, in legal and logical form, and a dispute or controversy as to a right which depends on the construction of the Constitution, or some law or treaty of the United States, is determined, then the appellate jurisdiction of this Court is exclusive.

This was a petition for a writ of certiorari requiring the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to certify to this Court for its review and determination the case of American Sugar Refining Company v. New Orleans, No. 920, November Term, 1899, 104 F. 2, or, in the alternative, for a writ of mandamus to command the judges of said court to hear, try, and adjudge said cause.

The petition alleged that, on June 14, 1899, the City of New Orleans brought suit by rule in a civil district court for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, against the American Sugar Refining Company for a city license tax for the year 1899 for the sum of $6,250, with interest thereon, claiming said license tax chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 278

solely by virtue of the laws of Louisiana and an ordinance of the City of New Orleans, as an occupation tax for carrying on the business of refining sugar and molasses in that city; that the American Sugar Refining Company petitioned the district court for an order removing the suit to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District for Louisiana, the petition for removal being based solely upon the ground that the defendant was a corporation of New Jersey, and the plaintiff a corporation of Louisiana; which petition was granted, the bond required given, a certified copy of the record filed, and the suit docketed in the circuit court.

That thereafter, by order of the court, the city reformed its pleadings in some parts,

"the only difference of substance between said reformed petition and the original rule being that said reformed petition omitted the formal prayer for a recognition of a lien and privilege on defendant's property, and for an injunction against defendant carrying on its business."

That the defendant answered:

"First. That it was a manufacturer, and as such exempt from license taxation under article 229 of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana of 1898, which exempts all manufacturers from state and municipal license taxation, except those of distilled, alcoholic, and malt liquors, tobacco, cigars, and cottonseed oil; and --"

"Second. That the ordinance of the City of New Orleans under which said tax was claimed was based upon act No. 171 of the General Assembly of Louisiana of 1898, and that the said act was in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in that it exempted from license taxation planters and farmers who refine their own sugar and molasses, and thereby sought to make an illegal discrimination against those sugar refiners who were not planters and farmers, and denied to defendant, as one of such sugar refiners, the equal protection of the laws of the State of Louisiana, and that the said act and city ordinance based thereon were therefore unconstitutional and void as to defendant."

That the suit was tried before the court and a jury, and evidence was adduced showing the nature and character of chanrobles.com-red

Page 181 U. S. 279

defendant's business in support of its claim that it was a manufacturer, which evidence of the defendant was uncontradicted in every particular, and also showing that the gross receipts of defendant's business were of such amount that, if liable at all for license tax, it was liable for the sum claimed, and defendant also filed an exception of no cause of action.

That, at the close of the evidence, defendant requested the court to direct the jury to render a verdict in its favor, which the court refused to do, and charged in plaintiff's favor, and plaintiff obtained a verdict and judgment. On defendant's application, a bill of exceptions was duly settled and signed by the presiding judge, and the case carried on error to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The cause was there heard, and on May 29, 1900, judgment was rendered by the circuit court of appeals dismissing the writ of error on the ground of want of jurisdiction. 104 F. 2. Petitioner thereupon applied for a rehearing, which was denied November 20, 1900.

Petitioner prayed for the writ of certiorari, or for the writ of mandamus as before stated. Leave was granted to file the petition, and a rule to show cause was thereupon entered, to which due return was made.


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