McCOY v. SHAW, State Auditor of Oklahoma, et al.

277 U.S. 302

48 S.Ct. 519

72 L.Ed. 891

SHAW, State Auditor of Oklahoma, et al.

No. 403.

Submitted April 9, 1928.

Decided May 21, 1928.

Messrs. Robert M. Rainey and Streeter B. Flynn, both of Oklahoma City, Okl., for petitioner.

Messrs. Edwin Dabney, of Oklahoma City, Okl., and V. P. Crowe, of Enid, Okl., for respondents.

Mr. Justice SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.


McCoy, the petitioner, a Chickasaw Indian of one-fourth blood, brought this suit in equity in a state court of Oklahoma to enjoin the collection of a gross production tax on his one-eighth royalty interest in the oil produced under a lease of land patented to him as his homestead and surplus allotments from which all restrictions on alienation and incumbrance had been removed-claiming that this tax on his royalty share in the oil was in violation of the treaties between the United States and the Chickasaw Indians and the Acts of Congress relating thereto. The court dismissed the suit on motion, for want of equity; and this was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, without consideration of the federal question, on the ground that under sections 9971 and 9973 of the Compiled Oklahoma Statutes 1921, the petitioner had a plain, adequate and exclusive remedy at law by paying the tax under protest and suing for its recovery. McCoy v. Childers, 124 Okl. 256, 256 P. 25.


It is settled law that a judgment of a state court which is put upon a nonfederal ground, independent of the federal question involved and broad enough to sustain the judgment, cannot be reviewed by this court, unless the nonfederal ground is so plainly unfounded that it may be regarded as essentially arbitrary or a mere device to prevent the review of a decision upon the federal question. Leathe v. Thomas, 207 U. S. 93, 99, 28 S. Ct. 30 (52 L. Ed. 118); Vandalia Railroad v. State of Indiana, 207 U. S. 359, 367, 28 S. Ct. 130 (52 L. Ed. 246); Enterprise Irrig. Dist. v. Canal Co., 243 U. S. 157, 164, 37 S. Ct. 318 (61 L. Ed. 644); Ward v. Love County, 253 U. S. 17, 22, 40 S. Ct. 419 (64 L. Ed. 751); and cases therein cited.


Here the nonfederal ground upon which the Oklahoma court based its decision-namely that under the Oklahoma statutes the petitioner had a plain, adequate and exclusive remedy at law-was based on its earlier decision in Black v. Geissler, 59 Okl. 335, 159 P. 1124. It is in harmony with the decisions of this court relating to similar statutes of other states. Tennessee v. Sneed, 96 U. S. 69, 75 (24 L. Ed. 610); Shelton v. Platt, 139 U. S. 591, 595, 11 S. Ct. 646 (35 L. Ed. 273); Indiana Mfg. Co. v. Koehne, 188 U. S. 681, 686, 23 S. Ct. 452 (47 L. Ed. 651); Raymond v. Chicago Traction Co., 207 U. S. 20, 39, 28 S. Ct. 7 (52 L. Ed. 78, 12 Ann. Cas. 757); Singer Sewing Mach. Co. v. Benedict, 229 U. S. 481, 487, 33 S. Ct. 942 (57 L. Ed. 1288); Union Pac. R. R. Co. v. Board of Com'rs of Weld County, 247 U. S. 282, 285, 38 S. Ct. 510 (62 L. Ed. 1110). And no intent to evade the federal question is indicated.


We are without authority to determine the federal right claimed by the petitioner. And the writ of certiorari is


Dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

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