Jefferson County v. Acker, 527 U.S. 423 (1999)

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

OCTOBER TERM, 1998

Syllabus

JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALABAMA v. ACKER, SENIOR JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 98-10. Argued March 29, 1999—Decided June 21, 1999

Alabama has not authorized its counties to levy an income tax, but it has authorized them to impose a "license or privilege tax" upon persons who are not otherwise required to pay a license fee under state law. Pursuant to this authorization, Jefferson County enacted Ordinance No. 1120 (Ordinance), which imposes such an occupational tax. The Ordinance declares it "unlawful . . . to engage in" a covered occupation without paying the tax; includes among those subject to the tax, federal, state, and county officeholders; measures the fee as a percentage of the taxpayer's "gross receipts"; and defines "gross receipts" as, inter alia, "compensation." Respondents, two United States District Judges who maintain their principal offices in Jefferson County, resist payment of the tax on the ground that it violates the intergovern-mental tax immunity doctrine. The county instituted collection suits in Alabama small claims court against the judges, who removed the suits to the Federal District Court under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U. S. C. 1442. The federal court denied the county's motions to remand and granted summary judgment for respondents, holding the county tax unconstitutional under the intergovernmental tax immunity doctrine to the extent that it reached federal judges' compensation. The en banc Eleventh Circuit affirmed. This Court granted certiorari and remanded for further consideration of whether the Tax Injunction Act, 1341, deprived the District Court of jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter. On remand, the Eleventh Circuit adhered to its prior en banc decision.

Held:

1. The case was properly removed under the federal officer removal statute. That provision permits a federal-court officer to remove to federal district court any state-court civil action commenced against the officer "for any act under color of office." 28 U. S. C. 1442(a)(3). To qualify for removal, the officer must both raise a colorable federal defense, see Mesa v. California, 489 U. S. 121, 139, and establish that the

423

Page:   Index   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007