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Commissioners of Wicomico County v. Bancroft, 203 U.S. 112 (1906)

Commissioners of Wicomico County v. Bancroft

No. 129

Argued October 1, 1906

Decided November 5, 1906

203 U.S. 112


In the absence of a contract protected by the impairment clause of the federal Constitution, whether a statutory exemption has been repealed by a subsequent statute is a question of state law in which the decisions of the highest court of the state are binding.

It is only where an irrepealable contract exists that it is the duty of this Court to decide for itself irrespective of the decisions of the state court whether a subsequent act impairs the obligation of such contract.

Even though federal courts might exercise independent judgment, in this case the decisions of the Supreme Court of Maryland are followed to the effect that an act directing a new assessment of property in the state and expressly declaring that property of every railroad in the state be valued and assessed amounted to a repeal of prior exemptions from taxation where there was no irrepealable contract.

A proviso in a state statute taxing all property of railroads that no irrepealable contract of exemption shall be affected construed as expressing the legislative intent to repeal all exemptions not protected by binding contracts beyond legislative control.

135 F. 977 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 203 U. S. 114

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