American Oil Company v. Neill

PETITIONER: American Oil Company
RESPONDENT: Neill
LOCATION: Criminal District Court, Parish of New Orleans

DOCKET NO.: 19
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 380 US 451 (1965)
ARGUED: Jan 25, 1965 / Jan 26, 1965
DECIDED: Apr 26, 1965

Facts of the case

Question

Media for American Oil Company v. Neill

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 26, 1965 in American Oil Company v. Neill

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 25, 1965 in American Oil Company v. Neill

Earl Warren:

Number 19, American Oil Company, versus P. G. Neill et al.

Frank I. Goodman:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Goodman.

Frank I. Goodman:

-- may it please the Court.

The issue in this case is whether the State of Idaho may constitutionally tax the transaction in which gasoline is sold to the Atomic Energy Commission in another state, Utah, for use by the Commission in the taxing state, Idaho.

We say that it cannot.

In a nutshell, our position is this.

If the legal incidence of this tax is upon the seller, as both parties agree that it is, then the tax violates both the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because every act which the seller performed in connection with this transaction was performed outside the State of Idaho.

And the transaction itself was in no way related to any of the seller's activities within Idaho.

On the other hand, if this were regarded as a use tax with the legal incidence falling upon the purchaser, then in that case, the tax would be invalid for a different reason, namely because in this case, the purchaser was the United States Government which enjoys a constitutional immunity from such taxation.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

(Inaudible) -- and Idaho, American --

Frank I. Goodman:

That's correct, Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Was that permit -- I can't make this absolute reading.

Would that permit necessary to enter into this transaction?

Frank I. Goodman:

No, Your Honor, it does not.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Right, its not.

That's just an -- (Voice Overlap)

Frank I. Goodman:

None whatever.

That -- well, the permit authorized the seller in this case to distribute gasoline in the State of Utah.

That is to say yes -- it authorizes the same kind of business that this was --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But to engage --

(Inaudible)

Frank I. Goodman:

Well, it wasn't necessary for the seller to have that permit in order to make this sale.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

That's what I want to clear.

That's -- is that the government's position or is that conceded?

Frank I. Goodman:

It's our position.

I don't understand it to be disputed.

There's no expressed concession --

Byron R. White:

-- but do you know whether in the bidding there were some competing bids that were submitted by people who did not hold the permit in Idaho?

Frank I. Goodman:

I don't think that appears, Mr. Justice White.