Morgan v. Town Clerk

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

74 U.S. 610

Morgan  v.  Town Clerk

By the law, as settled in Wisconsin, a provision in a statute under which a town issued its bonds to a railroad, that a tax requisite to pay the interest on these bonds should be levied by the supervisors of the town, is not exclusive of a right in the town clerk to levy the tax under a general statute making it his duty to lay a tax to pay all debts of the town; a mandamus having issued under the first act, but after efforts to make it productive, having produced nothing.

ERROR to the Circuit Court for Wisconsin.

In 1853, the legislature of Wisconsin authorized the town of Beloit to issue its coupon bonds for the benefit of a certain railroad. The town did issue them accordingly; and a number of them, with coupons unpaid, having got in the hands of the Morgan, he brought suit and obtained judgment against the town.

The statute which authorized the town to issue the bonds thus enacted:'The board of supervisors of the town of Beloit, whenever the same shall become necessary, shall annually levy a tax upon the taxable property of said town, sufficient to pay the interest upon such bonds.'

The legislature of the same State in 1858 enacted thus:

'No execution shall issue on any judgment against a town, but the same shall be collected in the manner hereinafter provided.

'Whenever an exemplified copy of any final judgment, rendered by any court of this State, against any town in this State, together with an affidavit, &c., shall be filed in the office of the town clerk of the town against which such judgment may have been rendered, it shall be the duty of the town clerk to proceed to assess the amount thereof, with interest from the date of such judgment to the time when the warrant for the collection thereof will expire, upon the taxable property of said town; and the same proceedings shall be had thereon, and the same shall be collected and returned in the same manner as other town taxes, and shall be paid to the party entitled thereto.'

Morgan having obtained, under the act of 1853, a mandamus, attachment, &c., against different boards of supervisors, which, however, from their resignations, vacation of office, &c., produced no fruit, he applied to the court below, having first filed the required exemplification, affidavit, &c., for a mandamus of the town clerk, under the last quoted act, to compel him to levy a tax. The court below refused to grant the mandamus asked for, on the ground, as was said, that the act of 1853 provided a special remedy exclusive of the general one of the act of 1858. Whether it did so or not, was now the question on appeal.

Mr. Carpeter, for the plaintiff in error, contended that he had exhausted his remedy under the act of 1853; and that he might seek relief under both acts until he obtained one satisfaction.

Messrs. Palmer and Ryan, contra:

This is not a case of alternative remedies, of which the relator has an election. He can have but one payment, levied by one tax, once assessed. And if it be the duty of the supervisors to levy the tax, it cannot be the duty of the clerk. The special act providing for the special tax, to pay these special liabilities, to be levied by the supervisors, takes this judgment out of the general act, providing for the assessment of a tax by the clerk, to pay other judgments against towns. The relator should have applied in the court below for mandamus against the supervisors, and not against the clerk.

Mr. Justice SWAYNE delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).