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SURPLUS TRADING COMPANY v. COOK

decided: June 2, 1930.

SURPLUS TRADING COMPANY
v.
COOK, SHERIFF



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS.

Hughes, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone

Author: Van Devanter

[ 281 U.S. Page 649]

 MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was a suit by the sheriff and collector of taxes of Pulaski County, Arkansas, to enforce payment by the Surplus Trading Company of taxes for the years 1922 and 1923, with penalties, upon certain personal property. The chancery court, in which the suit was brought, gave a decree for the defendant, and on appeal the Supreme Court of the State affirmed the decree as to the tax for 1923 and reversed it as to the tax for 1922 with a direction that a decree be entered for the plaintiff for the amount of that tax and the penalty, both of which were specified in the record, 174 Ark. 507.

The defendant resisted the collection of the tax for 1922 on the ground that the personal property on which it was laid was located within Camp Pike -- an army mobilization, training and supply station of the United States lying within the exterior limits of Pulaski County -- the lands in which had been purchased by the United States, with the consent of the legislature of the State, for the purpose of establishing, erecting and maintaining such an army station; and that the tax laws of the State could not be applied to property so located

[ 281 U.S. Page 650]

     without bringing them, in that regard, into conflict with Article I, ยง 8, cl. 17 of the Constitution of the United States, which prescribes that the Congress shall have power --

"To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings; . . ."

The property attempted to be taxed consisted of a large quantity of woolen blankets which the defendant, a New York concern, purchased from the United States at an advertised sale a few days before the day fixed by the state law for listing personal property for taxation, and which in much the greater part was on that day in the army storehouses within Camp Pike awaiting shipment therefrom.

The Supreme Court of the State, although recognizing that the status of Camp Pike was as just stated and that the property on which the tax was laid was in much the greater part located therein, rejected the contention that the tax laws of the State could not be applied to property so located consistently with the constitutional provision cited.

It is not unusual for the United States to own within a State lands which are set apart and used for public purposes. Such ownership and use without more do not withdraw the lands from the jurisdiction of the State. On the contrary, the lands remain part of her territory and within the operation of her laws, save that the latter cannot affect the title of the United States or embarrass it in using the lands or interfere with its right of disposal.

[ 281 U.S. Page 651]

     A typical illustration is found in the usual Indian reservation set apart within a State as a place where the United States may care for its Indian wards and lead them into habits and ways of civilized life. Such reservations are part of the State within which they lie and her laws, civil and criminal, have the same force therein as elsewhere within her limits, save that they can have only restricted application to the Indian wards. Private property within such a reservation, if not belonging to such Indians, is subject to taxation under the laws of the State. Another illustration is found in two classes of military reservations within a State -- one where the reservation, although established before the State is admitted into the Union, is not excepted from her jurisdiction at the time of her admission; and the other where the reservation, although established after the admission of the State, is established either upon lands set apart by the United States from its public domain or upon lands purchased by it for the purpose without the consent of the legislature of the State. In either case, unless there be a later and affirmative cession of jurisdiction by the State, the reservation is a part of her territory and within the field of operation of her laws, save that they can have no operation which would impair the effective use of the reservation for the purposes for which it is maintained. If there be private property within such a reservation which is not held or used as an incident of military service it may be subjected to taxation like other private property within the State.

As respects such a military reservation -- that is, one which is neither excepted from the jurisdiction of the State at the time of her admission nor established upon lands purchased therefor with the consent of her legislature -- the State undoubtedly may cede her jurisdiction to the United States and may make the cession either absolute or qualified ...


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