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CALIFORNIA v. TEXAS

decided: June 22, 1978.

CALIFORNIA
v.
TEXAS



ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A BILL OF COMPLAINT.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 437 U.S. Page 601]

 The motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, concurring.

I agree with MR. JUSTICE STEWART and MR. JUSTICE POWELL that "in light of Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974), this Court's decision in Worcester County Trust Co. v. Riley, 302 U.S. 292 (1937), no longer can be regarded as a bar against the use of federal interpleader by estates threatened with double death taxation because of possible inconsistent adjudications of domicile." Post, at 615.

I am not so sure as they that Texas v. Florida, 306 U.S. 398 (1939), was wrongly decided. But, whatever the case, I would still deny California's motion to file a bill of complaint at this time. If we have jurisdiction at all, that jurisdiction certainly does not attach until it can be shown that two States may possibly be able to obtain conflicting adjudications of domicile. That showing has not been made at this time in this case, since it may well be possible for the Hughes estate to

[ 437 U.S. Page 602]

     obtain a judgment under the Federal Interpleader Statute, 28 U. S. C. § 1335, from a United States district court, which would be binding on both California and Texas. In this event, the precondition for our original jurisdiction would be lacking. Accordingly, I would deny California's motion, at least until such time as it is shown that such a statutory interpleader action cannot or will not be brought.

MR. JUSTICE STEWART, with whom MR. JUSTICE POWELL and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS join, concurring.

California seeks to invoke the original and exclusive jurisdiction of this Court to settle a dispute with the State of Texas over the question of which State has the power to collect death taxes from the estate of the late Howard Robard Hughes. The Court today, without explanation of any kind, evidently concludes that California's complaint does not state a claim within our original and exclusive jurisdiction. This conclusion seems to me squarely contrary to a longstanding precedent of this Court, the case of Texas v. Florida, 306 U.S. 398. I have joined in the order denying California's motion for leave to file this complaint only because I think Texas v. Florida was wrongly decided and should be overruled.

I

According to the complaint, California imposes an inheritance tax on the real and tangible personal property located within its borders, and upon the intangible personalty wherever situated, of a person domiciled in the State at the time of his death, and Texas follows precisely the same policy.*fn1

[ 437 U.S. Page 603]

     The complaint alleges that the taxing authorities in each State are claiming in good faith that the decedent Hughes was domiciled in their State at the time of his death, and have instituted proceedings to tax all the assets of the estate within the jurisdiction, as well as the intangibles (consisting of shares of stock in a single holding company) that constitute the great bulk of the estate's assets.*fn2

The common law in both States recognizes, as a theoretical matter, that a person has only one domicile for purposes of death taxes. Nevertheless, the complaint alleges, since neither Texas nor California is or will become a party to the proceedings in the other's courts, neither will be bound by an adverse determination of domicile in the other's forum. Finally, and at the crux of the dispute, the complaint alleges that if both California and Texas obtain judgments for estate taxes in their respective courts and impose their taxes on the basis of the valuation of assets set forth in the federal estate tax return, the estate's total liability for federal and state taxes will exceed its net value. Thus, the complaint alleges that if the United States and Texas were to collect the taxes claimed by them, and if the California courts should ultimately determine that Hughes was a domiciliary of California at the time of his death, then California would be left with an entirely valid tax judgment that would be uncollectible to the extent of about $21 million.

In sum, the complaint alleges that "because there is no other means by which the conflicting tax claims of Texas and California can be resolved, this Court is the only forum which can determine the question of decedent's domicile in a manner that will bind the interested parties and assure that the state of domicile, if California or Texas, will be able to collect the tax." California invokes the original and exclusive jurisdiction

[ 437 U.S. Page 604]

     of this Court on the authority of Texas v. Florida, supra.

II

In Texas v. Florida this Court accepted original jurisdiction of Texas' complaint "in the nature of a bill of interpleader, brought to determine the true domicile of [a] decedent as the basis of rival claims of four states for death taxes upon his estate . . . ." 306 U.S., at 401. Texas and each of the three defendant States claimed that the decedent, Colonel Edward Green, son of the legendary Hetty Green,*fn3 was its domiciliary and that it was entitled to collect death taxes upon his intangible property wherever located, as well as upon his tangible property within the State. None of the States had reduced its tax claim to judgment, but all conceded that the decedent's estate was insufficient to satisfy the total amount of taxes claimed: that is, if all four States were successful in their own courts and obtained judgments for taxes in the full amount claimed, the estate would be insufficient to cover all of the claims.*fn4

Although none of the parties raised any question of this Court's jurisdiction, the Court considered the question sua sponte. It held that since the suit was between States, Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution conferred original jurisdiction to ...


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