Sullivan v. United States

RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Circuit Court of Somerset County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 395 US 169 (1969)
ARGUED: Apr 02, 1969
DECIDED: May 26, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for Sullivan v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 02, 1969 in Sullivan v. United States

Earl Warren:

Number 610, John L. Sullivan, Tax Commissioner of the State of Connecticut et al., Appellants versus the United States.

Mr. Ahern?

F. Michael Ahern:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This appeal has been taken by State of Connecticut from a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, affirming a lower court ruling.

That ruling held that the application of sales and use taxes to the purchase and use of property by non-resident servicemen in Connecticut to be in contravention of Section 514 of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act.

This case was instituted by an able lieutenant named Schuman, and the United States of America in the District Court for the District of Connecticut, claiming immunity from the application of the tax to a boat, a pleasure boat purchased by Lieutenant Schuman in Connecticut, on the basis that Section 514 of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief Act granted that immunity from sales taxes.

The District Court dismissed the claim of Schuman for lack of jurisdiction from which no appeal has been taken.

It granted summary judgment to the United States which judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals on July 10, 1968.

Notice of intent to appeal was filed July 30th, the case was docketed on October 7th and this Court noted probable jurisdiction on January 13, 1969.

The jurisdiction of this Court rests on 28 U.S.C. 1254 subsection (2).

I should like to state at this time that the State of Texas has filed an amicus brief in which 30 other states have joined.

The State of New York and the State of California had each filed independent amicus briefs.

Illinois has joined California in its brief.

We commend these briefs to the Court, and thank the States for their interests and efforts on our behalf, and at the same time, I should like to commend to the Court the second part of the brief of the appellee in this case, the United States of America, starting at page 37 through 43, which does not subscribe to the arguments which are represented in the first part of the brief.

The issues in this case are whether the lower court heard in determining that Section 514 of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act prohibits the application of sales and use taxes to the private purchase transactions of servicemen stationed in the States throughout the country under military orders.

And further, whether Section 514 as interpreted by the Court of Appeals is an unconstitutional infringement on the reserved powers of the States to tax, under Article X of the United States Constitution.

The facts in this case of brief, the parties to the action stipulated that the everyday purchases of tangible personal property by servicemen, are made at PXs on military installations and are therefore not subject to taxation.

So they are not a part of this case.

This case is involved with purchases of larger items by servicemen such as pleasure boats, cars, television sets and so forth which they can not get at PXs.

In the lower court, the District Court, the United States Government presented several affidavits which allegedly set forth facts illustrative of the situations in which the State of Connecticut was assessing sales or use taxes against servicemen in Connecticut.

I should like to address myself to one of those affidavits at this time.

It's the affidavit of Commander William Foster which is printed in the record appendix at page 21 (a) through 27 (a).

Commander Foster was a Texas domiciliary stationed in Connecticut who purchased a car from a Connecticut retail dealer and paid the tax thereon.

Commander Foster in his affidavit claims to have paid a use tax on the transaction.

That statement is in error.

At page 6 and at page 23 of the Government brief -- Government's brief, it refers to the Commander Foster affidavit, and on each instance it states that Commander Foster paid a use tax to the State of Connecticut.

These statements are in error.

The purchase by Commander Foster was from a Connecticut retail dealer.

The sale took place within the State and he paid his sales tax to the dealer.

I direct the Court's attention to page 27 (a) of the record appendix on which it reproduced the invoice covering the transaction.