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CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF THE COLVILLE INDIAN RESERVA

February 22, 1978

CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF the COLVILLE INDIAN RESERVATION, Lummi Indian Tribe and Makah Indian Tribe, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF WASHINGTON, Charles Hodde, Individually and as Director of the State of Washington Department of Revenue, Jack G. Nelson, Individually and as Director of the State of Washington Department of Motor Vehicles, and Robert S. O'Brien, Individually and as Washington State Treasurer, Defendants. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF WASHINGTON, Defendant, Confederated Bands & Tribes of the Yakima Indian Nation, Intervenor-Plaintiff



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EAST

EAST, District Judge:

 These causes, Nos. 3868 and 3909, were by stipulation of the parties consolidated for hearing and submitted to the Court on their respective merits following oral argument at Seattle, Washington on March 28, 1977.

 CAUSE NO. 3868

 PARTIES :

 The plaintiffs are Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, Lummi Indian Tribe, and Makah Indian Tribe (Tribes).

 JURISDICTION :

 We note jurisdiction of these causes pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1362, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, and 28 U.S.C. § 2281. *fn1"

 HISTORY OF PROCEEDINGS :

 This action was commenced on May 17, 1973, and District Judge Powell on November 5, 1973, in conformity with 28 U.S.C. § 2284, issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the State from enforcing its cigarette and tobacco products taxes against the Tribes. By stipulation, the parties agreed to the continuance of the restraining order pending review by the full three-judge District Court. On September 6, 1974, the full Court converted the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction. During the ensuing months, discovery proceeded until this Court stayed further proceedings pending the Supreme Court's decisions in Moe v. Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, 425 U.S. 463, 96 S. Ct. 1634, 48 L. Ed. 2d 96 (1976), and Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373, 96 S. Ct. 2102, 48 L. Ed. 2d 710 (1976). Following the Supreme Court's disposition of those cases and after extensive discovery proceedings and briefing, the causes with the issues refined were submitted for decision upon stipulated facts as supplemented by deposition testimony and affidavits.

 THE TRIBES' CAUSE :

 The Tribes now seek declaratory relief, with injunctive enforcement, from the State's statutes and administrative regulations imposing taxes and collection procedures upon on-reservation sales to nonmembers of the Tribes by tribally licensed retailers (Dealers) of cigarettes (R.C.W. 82.24) and tobacco products (R.C.W. 82.26), and from the State's statutes and administrative regulations imposing taxes upon motor vehicles (R.C.W. 82.44) and mobile homes, travel trailers and campers (R.C.W. 82.50) owned by the Tribes and/or their members residing within the reservations. In addition, the Tribes seek damages against the State arising out of actions taken to enforce assessments of the challenged cigarette taxes. The Tribes also seek declaratory relief, with injunctive enforcement, from the State's exercise of civil and criminal jurisdiction over the Tribes and their members residing on the reservations (R.C.W. 37.12).

 STATE'S DEFENSE AND CAUSE :

 The State generally contests the Tribe's claims and seeks declaratory relief of lawful enforcement of its challenged taxing schemes as presently administered.

 FACTS :

 A. Tribes :

 Each of the Tribes is a United States Government recognized sovereign Indian tribe governed by a business or tribal council under a constitution and bylaws approved by the Secretary of Interior. *fn2"

 The Colville Indian Reservation was established by Presidential Executive Order on July 2, 1872, 1 Kapler, Indian Affairs, Laws and Treaties, 916 (2d Ed. 1904), and encompasses 1.3 million acres in the northeastern section of the state. Approximately 3,200 of the Tribe's 5,800 enrolled members live on the reservation, constituting about 46 percent of the total population.

 The Makah Indian Reservation was established by treaty in 1855, 12 Stat. 939, and encompasses 28,000 acres at the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Approximately 900 of the Tribe's 1,000 members live on the reservation, constituting about 63 percent of the total population of the reservation.

 Each of the reservations is isolated and underdeveloped; most essential goods and services are located off the reservations. *fn3" Most Indian households on the reservations own at least one automobile, and the Tribes own numerous motor vehicles. While some of the tribally and individually owned vehicles are operated exclusively on the reservation, others are operated on and off the reservation. Many Indian families reside in mobile homes on the reservations, and other Indian families are obligated for the purchase or have planned the future purchase of mobile homes for on-reservation location. The Colville and Makah Tribes are plagued by unemployment rates of 33 percent and 60 percent, respectively, and all of the Tribes are desirous of economically developing their reservations to stimulate employment and generate additional tax revenues to help fund programs run by the tribal governments. These programs are designed to improve the economic well-being, health, education and social welfare of the Tribes' members.

 B. State's Enforcement of the Statutes :

 The State has for a period of nine years attempted to tax cigarettes and tobacco products sold by Indians on the Tribes' reservations. Presently the cigarette tax amounts to $1.60 per carton. The tax is imposed by requiring Dealers to sell only cigarettes to which tax stamps have been affixed. Dealers are permitted to purchase either prestamped cigarettes or a supply of stamps from the State which are affixed to the cigarettes by the Dealer prior to sale, in which case the Dealer is entitled to a specified rate of reimbursement from the State. However, WAC 458-20-192 (Rule 192) and excise tax bulletin ETB 504.08.192, November 24, 1976, restrict the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products to sales to non-Indians by Indian tribes and Indians, as defined therein. That is, the State construes the taxes as being inapplicable to sales to Indians for their own use or for on-reservation resale to other Indians. *fn4"

 Under R.C.W. 82.24.090, 82.32.070, Rule 192 and the excise tax bulletin, Dealers are required to keep certain specified records related to taxable and nontaxable transactions. Neither the Tribes nor their Dealers have sought authorization from the State to possess unstamped cigarette products and each has professed that it will not comply with State's cigarette and tobacco product taxing scheme.

 On December 19, 1972, in an effort to enforce the cigarette taxing scheme, the State issued orders to tribal outlets on each reservation assessing unpaid taxes alleged to be due under R.C.W. 82.24, and in April, 1973, resorted to seizures of unstamped cigarettes in the stream of interstate commerce and bound for the Tribes' reservations. Furthermore, the State declared its intention to continue such seizures in the future; however, such seizures were temporarily enjoined as above delineated.

 Each Tribe, during the pretrial development of the ultimate issues in these causes, enacted ordinances regulating the sale, distribution and taxation of cigarettes and tobacco products on its reservation. Each tribal ordinance was approved by the Secretary of Interior of the United States. Pursuant to the respective ordinances, the Tribes have established one or more tobacco outlets on their respective reservations.

 The Dealer at each tribal tobacco outlet is a federally licensed Indian trader and a tribally licensed dealer who manages the tribally owned tobacco business outlet. Simultaneously, the Dealer at each tribal tobacco outlet, except at the Makah Resort, manages his own separate business of selling a variety of merchandise at retail. As remuneration for managing a tribal tobacco outlet, each Dealer is entitled to retain the gross revenue derived from sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in excess of the wholesale distribution price and excise tax levied by the respective Tribe.

 All cigarettes and tobacco products are purchased with federally restricted tribal funds and from authorized wholesalers outside the state, which are shipped directly to the respective Tribes by sealed cargo trucks of Interstate Commerce licensed carriers. Distribution is made to the Dealers when tribal cigarette taxes fixed by the tribal or business council are collected.

 The tribally levied cigarette tax ranges from forty to fifty cents per carton. Tribal ordinances read that the cigarette tax imposed by each Tribe is a tax upon distribution of cigarettes on the reservation by the respective Dealers, and the tax must be added to the retail selling price. The Tribes' cigarette taxes are an important source of revenue for the funding of the Tribes' sponsored programs for social and economic development. For example, from 1972 through 1976, during which time the Tribes refused to impose the State's cigarette taxes, the Colville Tribe earned approximately $265,760 from its cigarette tax while the Lummi and Makah Tribes earned approximately $54,440 and $13,490, respectively, from their cigarette taxes.

 Due to the competitive advantage enjoyed by the Tribes over retailers who do impose the State's tax, nearly 90 percent of the Tribes' sales are made to non-Indians. The State tacitly concedes the Tribes' source of cigarette tax revenue would dry up if they were forced to add the State tax to the cost of their cigarettes. The facts dictate that the tribal taxes could not be a continuing source of income if tribal cigarette sales to non-Indians are also subject to State's cigarette tax; tribal cigarette sales to non-Indians would be eliminated and the cigarette sales commerce between the Tribes and non-Indians would be destroyed. Thus, each Tribe's ability to fund its sponsored programs would suffer substantial interference. *fn5"

 The Tribes' ordinances exercised police power as well as taxing power. The respective ordinances provide:

 
(a) The tobacco products, including cigarettes, shall remain the property of the Tribe until sold to the ultimate customer;
 
(c) A Dealer shall not sell tobacco products, including cigarettes, to minors, nor more than a limited number of cartons of cigarettes per non-Indian sale; and
 
(d) For violation penalties.

 In short, each ordinance reads as a comprehensive scheme for the licensing, regulation and taxation of the sale of cigarettes on the reservations.

 D. State's Assumption of Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction :

 State's assumption of civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indians and Indian tribes has been previously discussed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Confederated Bands and Tribes of Yakima Indian Nation v. Washington, 552 F.2d 1332 (9th Cir. 1977) (Yakima 2); Confederated Bands and Tribes of Yakima Indian Nation v. Washington, 550 F.2d 443 (9th Cir. 1977) (Yakima 1); and Quinault Tribe of Indians v. Gallagher, 368 F.2d 648 (9th Cir. 1966). We find no need here for elaboration of those discussions.

 We take judicial notice that prior to 1953, the Federal Government exercised exclusive jurisdiction over Indian tribes and their reservations. *fn6" In 1953, Congress enacted the Act of August 15, 1953, Pub.L. No. 83-280, Ch. 505, 67 Stat. 588-90, which provided five named states with criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indians and Indian reservations and provided that certain other "option" states (including the State), with constitutional or statutory disclaimers of Indian jurisdiction, could assume such jurisdiction by amending their constitutions or statutes where necessary to do so.

 The State's legislature has asserted civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indians and Indian reservations pursuant to the authority of Laws of 1957, Ch. 240, as amended by Laws of 1963, Ch. 36, codified as R.C.W. 37.12. In the absence of a tribe's consent, the State assumed jurisdiction over Indians on nontrust land and non-Indians on trust and nontrust land to the fullest extent permissible under Pub.L. No. 280. *fn7" With respect to trust land, the State assumed jurisdiction over Indians only as to eight subject matter areas. *fn8" As to consenting tribes, the State obligated itself to assume jurisdiction "to the same extent that this state exercises civil and criminal jurisdiction or both elsewhere within the state." R.C.W. 37.12.021. The Colville Tribe has so consented, while the Makah and Lummi Tribes have not. Accordingly, the State asserts "total" jurisdiction over the Colville Tribe, but only "partial" jurisdiction over the Makah and Lummi Tribes.

 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS :

 A. Jurisdictional Issues :

 (1) State's Assumption of Indian Reservation Jurisdiction :

 At the outset, we are faced with the State's contention that this Court, as a statutory three-judge District Court, has no jurisdiction over the Tribes' claim that the State's assumption of Indian reservation jurisdiction, pursuant to R.C.W. 37.12, was, inter alia, violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 Prior to the enactment of Pub.L. No. 94-381, 28 U.S.C. § 2281 required the designation of a statutory three-judge District Court whenever an action based upon a substantial United States constitutional question sought to enjoin the enforcement of a state statute of state-wide application. A claim is constitutionally insubstantial only if it is "essentially fictitious," "obviously frivolous," "wholly insubstantial" or "obviously without merit"; that is, "if its unsoundness so clearly results from the previous decisions of this court as to foreclose the subject and leave no room for the inference that the questions sought to be raised can be the subject of controversy." Goosby v. Osser, 409 U.S. 512, 518, 93 S. Ct. 854, 859, 35 L. Ed. 2d 36 (1973). The decision in Yakima 2 forecloses the State's contention that the Tribes' Fourteenth Amendment claim is insubstantial.

 Idlewild Bon Voyage Liquor Corp. v. Epstein, 370 U.S. 713, 715, 82 S. Ct. 1294, 8 L. Ed. 2d 794 (1962), teaches that in order for such jurisdiction to be appropriate, there must be some basis for injunctive relief. Failure to name any individual official with enforcement responsibility has in the past influenced the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in upholding a District Court's refusal to convene a three-judge court. Sellers v. Regents of University of California, 432 F.2d 493, 497-98 (9th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 981, 91 S. Ct. 1194, 28 L. Ed. 2d 333 (1971). The State argues the Tribes have failed to name "as defendants any state officers with significant responsibility for enforcing the full range of state civil and criminal laws on plaintiff's reservations" and that as a consequence this Court "probably" lacks jurisdiction over the appropriate officials which would render any injunction issued "largely illusory." We take this to be a claim that three-judge District Court jurisdiction is lacking because there is no basis for injunctive relief.

 The only state officers named as defendants in this action are the State Treasurer, the Director of the State Department of Revenue, and the Director of the State Department of Motor Vehicles. These defendants were named because they have enforcement responsibility over the challenged taxation statutes. It is now clear that the validity of State's assumption of Indian reservation jurisdiction has no relationship to the validity or invalidity of its cigarette and tobacco products taxing schemes as applied to sales by Dealers. Cf. Bryan.

 Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(d) provides that an order granting an injunction binds, among others, "the parties to the action, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys." The State has been made a party to this action and, except for the immunity guaranteed it by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, any injunctive enforcement issued by this Court would bind State's officers who have the requisite enforcement responsibility.

 The State has statutorily waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity to suit in its own courts, R.C.W. 4.92.100. However, such a waiver does not extend to federal court actions. Ford Motor Co. v. Dept. of Treasury of Indiana, 323 U.S. 459, 65 S. Ct. 347, 89 L. Ed. 389 (1945). Furthermore, the State has not authorized its court counsel to waive the immunity. Skokomish Indian Tribe v. France, 269 F.2d 555 (9th Cir. 1959). See also Ford Motor Co. Nevertheless Congress, in the exercise of its enumerated powers, may strip a state of its Eleventh Amendment immunity. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 96 S. Ct. 2666, 49 L. Ed. 2d 614 (1976); Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S. 184, 84 S. Ct. 1207, 12 L. Ed. 2d 233 (1964). Given the rationale used by the Court in Moe, 425 U.S. at 472-75, 96 S. Ct. 1634, 48 L. Ed. 2d 96 in construing 28 U.S.C. § 1362, we must conclude that Congress has removed the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity when a suit is brought by an Indian tribe. Aquilar v. Kleppe, 424 F. Supp. 433, 436 (D.Alaska 1976). We conclude the State is a proper party defendant in this Court and any injunctive enforcement issued against it would run against its officers charged with the requisite enforcement responsibility.

 (2) Tax Claims :

 The parties agree that this Court has jurisdiction over the Tribes' attack on State's cigarette and tobacco products taxing schemes; however, a footnote in Moe necessitates a comment. The Tribes' only "constitutional" attack on the validity of the State taxing measures themselves is that those measures are violative of the Indian commerce provision of the Commerce Clause. U.S.Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3. *fn9" Note 17 in Moe states that after Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones, 411 U.S. 145, 93 S. Ct. 1267, 36 L. Ed. 2d 114 (1973), and McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Comm'n, 411 U.S. 164, 93 S. Ct. 1257, 36 L. Ed. 2d 129 (1973), attacks on the validity of state statutes imposing taxes upon reservation Indians raise only Supremacy Clause issues which do not fall within the scope of 28 U.S.C. § 2281. *fn10" Nevertheless, in Moe a three-judge court had properly been convened because the case had been filed prior to the decisions in Mescalero and McClanahan. Similar treatment here is precluded because this action was commenced approximately seven weeks after those decisions.

 Notwithstanding the language in Moe, we conclude this Court has jurisdiction over the Tribes' challenge of the State's statutes providing for the enforcement of its taxing measures through the declaration and seizure as contraband of unstamped cigarettes moving in interstate commerce. That claim raises a substantial federal question under the Commerce Clause. *fn11"

 The State's assertion that it may seize such shipments depends on the validity of the imposition of taxes in the first instance. Thus, a valid challenge to the validity of the taxes could vitiate the need to review the constitutionality of the enforcement provisions. It is clear that a three-judge District Court properly convened has the power to dispose of a case on any ground presented to it. Florida Lime & Avocado Growers v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132, 83 S. Ct. 1210, 10 L. Ed. 2d 248 (1963); United States v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 371 U.S. 285, 83 S. Ct. 397, 9 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1963). Not only does the Court have jurisdiction to adjudicate such issues but to do so furthers the well established principle of deciding constitutional issues only if necessary. Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 94 S. Ct. 1372, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577 (1974); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 90 S. Ct. 1207, 25 L. Ed. 2d 442 (1970); King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 88 S. Ct. 2128, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1118 (1968); and Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288, 347, 56 S. Ct. 466, 80 L. Ed. 688 (1936). Finally, since this Court has expended substantial judicial time with the issues, it is in the interest of "judicial economy, convenience and fairness to [the] litigants" ( United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S. Ct. 1130, 1139, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218 (1966)) to retain jurisdiction over these claims.

 (3) State's Claims for Relief :

 The State seeks a declaratory judgment that its statutes and regulations pertaining to the taxation of retail on-reservation sales of cigarettes, tobacco products and other reservation produced products are valid. Such claim is largely superfluous since, with the exception of the retail sales tax question, the substantive issues raised by these claims must be met by the Court in passing upon the claims of the Tribes. The Tribes have not, however, challenged the validity of the State's general retail sales tax, R.C.W. 82.08. It has been long recognized that absent congressional authorization or possibly their own consent, Indian tribes enjoy immunity from suit in federal, state or tribal courts. Puyallup Tribe v. Washington Game Dept., 433 U.S. 165, 97 S. Ct. 2616, 53 L. Ed. 2d 667 (1977); Turner v. United States, 248 U.S. 354, 39 S. Ct. 109, 63 L. Ed. 291 (1919); Hamilton v. Nakai, 453 F.2d 152, 158-59 (9th Cir. 1972). This immunity extends to freedom from suit on cross claims. United States v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 309 U.S. 506, 60 S. Ct. 653, 84 L. Ed. 894 (1940). Since the Tribes have not consented to suit, this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the State's claims for declaratory relief. *fn12"

 The fact that State might by way of recoupment reduce its liability does not grant it a right of action for affirmative relief. Bull v. United States, 295 U.S. 247, 55 S. Ct. 695, 79 L. Ed. 1421 (1935).

 B. Subject Matter Issues :

 (1) Cigarette Tax Issues :

 A decision in this case has been delayed because at one time the parties thought the Supreme Court's forthcoming decisions in Bryan and Moe would be dispositive of the issues presented here. Bryan, in eliminating the State's claim that the grant of civil jurisdiction in Pub.L. No. 280 was a congressional grant of authority to the states to impose taxes upon reservation Indians, did help to narrow the issues presented here. However, Moe has generated more confusion or disagreement between the parties than it eliminated. The State maintains that Moe resolved most of the remaining issues in its favor while the Tribes argue that Moe is distinguishable in some respects and that the Supreme Court reserved decision in others.

  In Moe, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes and some of their members brought two actions seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Montana's cigarette and personal property taxes and vendor licensing statutes as applied to tribal members living on the reservation. The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the three-judge District Court, holding that "the personal property tax on personal property located within the reservation; the vendor license fee sought to be applied to a reservation Indian conducting a cigarette business for the Tribe on reservation land; and the cigarette sales tax, as applied to on-reservation sales by Indians to Indians, conflict with the congressional statutes which provide the basis for decision with respect to such impositions. McClanahan, supra; Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones, 411 U.S. 145, 93 S. Ct. 1267, 36 L. Ed. 2d 114 (1973)." Id. 425 U.S. at 480-81, 96 S. Ct. at 1644. The Court also upheld the District Court's ruling that Montana's cigarette sales tax was valid as applied to on-reservation sales by Indians to non-Indians and that Montana could with respect to such sales "require the Indian proprietor simply to add the tax to the sales price and thereby aid the State's collection and enforcement" ( id. at 483, 96 S. Ct. at 1646) of the tax without placing an unconstitutional burden on tribal self-government or conflicting with any congressional statute. Since the Court found that the Montana cigarette tax was levied upon the non-Indian consumer rather than the tribe or the Indian retailer, the holding did not conflict with the general rule that absent congressional consent, taxation of "Indian reservation lands or Indian income from activities carried on within the boundaries of the reservation" is impermissible. Mescalero, 411 U.S. at 148, 93 S. Ct. at 1270.

 In its attempt to distinguish Moe, we are met at the outset with the Tribes' contention that unlike in Moe, the tax here must fail because the legal incidence of the tax is imposed directly upon the Tribe or Indian retailer rather than the non-Indian consumer. The State concedes that if the statute is so construed, the tax must fail. The State, however, pointing to the language of its retail sales tax enactment, a recent amendment to its cigarette tax Act, and judicial and administrative construction thereof, argues that at least with respect to sales by Indian retailers, the legal incidence of the tax falls upon the non-Indian consumer.

 In situations wherein federal immunity is affected by a determination as to which party to a transaction bears the legal incidence of a state tax, the federal courts "are not bound by the state court's characterization of the tax." First Agricultural Bank v. Tax Comm'n, 392 U.S. 339, 347, 88 S. Ct. 2173, 2177, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1138 (1968). For purposes of deciding federal constitutional questions, "where a State requires that its sales tax be passed on to the purchaser and be collected by the vendor from him, this establishes as a matter of law that the legal incidence of the tax falls upon the purchaser." United States v. Mississippi Tax Comm'n, 421 U.S. 599, 608, 95 S. Ct. 1872, 1878, 44 L. Ed. 2d 404 (1975). See also First Agricultural Bank; Kern-Limerick v. Scurlock, 347 U.S. 110, 74 S. Ct. 403, 98 L. Ed. 546 (1954); Alabama v. King & Boozer, 314 U.S. 1, 62 S. Ct. 43, 86 L. Ed. 3 (1941). This is true notwithstanding the fact that the seller is legally liable for payment of the tax. Mississippi Tax Comm'n, 421 U.S. at 607, 95 S. Ct. 1872, 44 L. Ed. 2d 404.

 The State in arguing that the legal incidence of the cigarette tax falls upon the non-Indian buyer, rather than tribal sellers, relies by analogy on the provisions of State's general sales tax. R.C.W. 82.08. Such reliance is misplaced. The sales tax statute specifically provides that the sales tax shall be paid by the buyer to the seller, that each seller shall collect the tax from the buyer, and that the amount of the tax "shall constitute a debt from the buyer to the seller." In addition, it provides that the tax shall be stated separately from the selling price and not be included in the sales price of an item. R.C.W. 82.08.050. Under the standards announced by the Supreme Court, such terms would appear to require a finding that the legal incidence of the tax, as a matter of law, falls upon the purchaser. The cigarette tax by contrast does not have similar provisions. Of particular importance is ...


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