The state of Massachusetts instituted an original proceeding against the state of Missouri and individual citizens of Missouri for leave to file a bill of complaint, alleging that M. B. Blake died domiciled in Massachusetts; that she had created three trusts of securities, reserving a power of revocation over two; that the securities were held in Missouri where the trustees resided; that both states had statutes subjecting to taxation property passing by deed, grant or gift, made or intended to take effect in possession or enjoyment after the donor's death; that the Massachusetts statute taxed intangible property only when owned by inhabitants; that the Missouri statute exempted intangibles of residents of states extending reciprocal exemptions to Missouri; that both states claimed the exclusive right to impose inheritance taxes on such trusts; that Missouri intended to exercise jurisdiction over the trustees and corpus to the exclusion of Massachusetts; that the estate in Massachusetts had been exhausted by federal taxes and administration costs; that Massachusetts claimed $137,000 if such trusts were taxable, $127,000 if they were not. Claiming no other adequate remedy, Massachusetts asked that it be determined which state had the "jurisdiction and lawful right to impose transfer, succession or inheritance taxes" on the trusts; coupled with this was a general prayer for relief by injunction. Held, the motion for leave to file the proposed bill of complaint should be denied since the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain this original suit. No justiciable controversy was presented between states since it appeared that the property in Missouri was sufficient to satisfy the claims of both and, therefore, Massachusetts was not injured by the collection of the Missouri tax. Moreover, no controversy arose over the enforcement of the reciprocal provisions, for the Missouri statute conferred no contractual right upon Massachusetts. Furthermore, Massachusetts could not invoke the jurisdiction of this Court for the benefit of its citizens on the theory that they were entitled to the immunities so offered. Neither could jurisdiction be sustained as a controversy between Massachusetts and citizens of Missouri, i.e., the trustees, for the bill was not so framed as to present such a controversy independent of a controversy between states. Massachusetts v. Missouri, 308 U.S. I, 60 S. Ct. 39 (1939).
Benjamin W. Franklin,
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - ORIGINAL JURISDICTION OF UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT - AVAILABILITY AS A PROCEDURAL REMEDY TO AVOID MULTIPLE TAXATION,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol38/iss5/12