United States v. State Tax Commission of Mississippi

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: State Tax Commission of Mississippi et al.
LOCATION: United States Department of Agriculture

DOCKET NO.: 72-350
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 412 US 363 (1973)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 1973
DECIDED: Jun 04, 1973

Jewel S. Lafontant - for the appellant
Robert L. Wright - for appellees

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. State Tax Commission of Mississippi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 1973 in United States v. State Tax Commission of Mississippi

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 72-350, United States against the Tax Commission of Mississippi.

Mrs. Lafontant, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Mississippi prohibited the sale or possession of alcoholic beverages until 1966.

In that year, it adapted a local County option policy, subject to requirement that the State Tax Commission be the sole importer and wholesaler of alcoholic beverages.

The Commission promulgated a regulation which authorized military post exchanges and other military agencies to purchase liquor either from the Commission or directly from distillers, but required that the distillers collect from military and remit to the Commission a markup cost.

The officers and non-commissioned officers' clubs and other non-appropriated fund activities had purchased liquor from out of state distillers and suppliers when Mississippi was a dry state, and they decided to continue this practice rather than purchase from the Commission itself.

United States filed an action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of this Mississippi regulation that required out of state distillers to collect a percentage sum, designated as a wholesale markup on their liquor sales to certain post exchanges and other military organizations.

Warren E. Burger:

Has the military at any time made purchases directly from the State?

None whatsoever, not from any distillers in the State and never from the Commission itself.

All of the purchases by the military, all of them had been made from out of state distillers, never from the State.

So, the United States filed this action seeking declaratory judgment which said that, the markup had to be collected from the military and remitted to the State on basis in the State of Mississippi and also required the distillers to remit the markup to the Mississippi Tax Commission.

The United States, in addition to this, sought to recover the total of all such payments made by these military purchasers.

Incidentally these payments were made under protest and by July 31st of 1971, the total payments made amounted to $648,421.92.

The State of Mississippi ceded and the United States acquired jurisdiction over lands within the State, comprising the Keesler Air Force Base and the United States Naval Construction Battalion Center.

Mississippi also ceded and the United States accepted concurrent jurisdiction over lands comprising the Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station.

The court below decided against the United States, stating that the Twenty-First Amendment makes Mississippi Law applicable to the sales of liquor to the military bases and the Court entered a summary judgment in favor of the appellees on all issues.

In his opinion, the Court found and Mississippi conceded on Page 5 of its motion to affirm and dismiss that the United States had exclusive jurisdiction on two bases, namely Keesler Air Force Base and the United States Naval Construction Battalion Center, and in the opinion of the Court, the United States and Mississippi had concurrent jurisdiction on the other two, Columbus Air Force Base and Meridian Naval Air Station, and we accept the findings of that Court.

The Twenty-First Amendment regulates the importation of liquor into a state.

Section 2 of that Amendment provides the transportation or importation into any state of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors in violation of the laws thereof is hereby prohibited.

We submit that the mere finding of the lower court that the Government has exclusive jurisdiction means that the federal enclave is not within a State, but is a separate territory outside the ambit of the Twenty-First Amendment.

The interpretation of the lower court that the Twenty-First Amendment makes Mississippi law applicable over the sales to the instrumentalities on the basis over which the United States has exclusive jurisdiction is inconsistent with the case law.

In Collins versus Yosemite Park, 304 U.S. 518, it was held that the regulatory phases of a California Law with respect to the importation and sale of intoxicating liquors are applicable to a corporation selling liquor in a national park, jurisdiction over which has been ceded to the United States with a reservation only of the right to tax persons and corporations in the ceded territory.

To the extent that the statute operates as purely tax or revenue measure, it was found that it was enforceable in the park.

However, license fees could not be enforced, because the state did not reserve the right to regulate or license, without I could say for the exception that it did reserve its right to issue license fees for fishing, but nothing concerning alcoholic beverages.

Thus, in Collins, California did not derive its right to impose revenue measures from the Twenty-First Amendment, but did so solely from its reservation of its right to tax.

In this case, there was no reservation by Mississippi of the right to tax.

Mississippi reserved only the right to serve civil and criminal process.

A proper application of Collins would defeat Mississippi’s claim of any right to impose any taxes of a regulatory or revenue nature or any taxes whatsoever.