Tully v. Griffin, Inc.

RESPONDENT:Griffin, Inc.
LOCATION:City of Philadelphia

DOCKET NO.: 75-831
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 429 US 68 (1976)
ARGUED: Oct 04, 1976
DECIDED: Nov 09, 1976

R. Paul Wickes – for appellee
Thomas P. Zolezzi – for appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Tully v. Griffin, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – October 04, 1976 in Tully v. Griffin, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – November 09, 1976 in Tully v. Griffin, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Number 831, Tully against Griffin Incorporated will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case is here my way and have a direct appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.

The question is whether New York provides a plain speedy and efficient remedy to an out of State Corporation that seeks to challenge New York’s assessment of sales taxes against it.

A three-judge in United States District Court in Vermont held that New York does not provide such a remedy and accordingly, it issued a preliminary injunction restraining the collection of the New York taxes.

We noted probable jurisdiction of the appeal.

The appellee, Griffin Incorporated as a Vermont Corporation that operates a furniture store in Arlington, Vermont, six miles from the New York-Vermont border, it advertises on radio and television and in the newspapers that serve the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area of New York and it makes substantial sales t its place of business to customers from that State of New York.

It regularly delivers furniture to the New York buyers in its own trucks, and its employees also enter New York on occasion to repair furniture it has sold.

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance determined that Griffin was “doing business” in New York and thus was required to collect state and local sales taxes from its New York customers.

The Department sent a tax examiner to Vermont to audit Griffin’s records, but Griffin refused its consent.

Instead Griffin responded by filing suit in the United States District Court for Vermont, alleging generally that any assessment, levy, or collection of sales taxes against it would violate the Commerce Clause, Due Process, Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and asking for injunctive relief.

A three-judge court was subsequently convened.

Griffin moved in the federal court for a preliminary injunction to prevent steps being taken to collect the tax and to stay the running of the 90-day period in which it could contest the amount shown in the Notice of Determination.

The defendant, New York tax officials, filed a cross-motion to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction, claiming that suit was barred by the Johnson Act.

The Johnson Act provides in pertinent part as follows.

“The district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the courts of such State.”

The District Court rejected the Johnson Act defense, ruling that New York does — New York law does not provide Griffin “a plain, speedy and efficient remedy.”

For the reason set out in some detail and in the Court’s written opinion filed with the clerk today, we have concluded that the District Court was mistaken with respect to the adequacy of the remedies provided by the law of New York.

Accordingly, the judgment before us is vacated and the case is remanded to the District Court with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart, we will —