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Opinion of the Court.

268 U.S.

Porter 501; Pouder v. Catterson, 127 Ind. 434; Wolf v. Holten, 92 Mich. 136; 104 Mich. 108; Parker v. Raymond, 14 Mo. 535; Steel v. Gilmour, 77 App. Div. (N. Y.) 199, 203; Steuber v. Huber, 107 App. Div. (N. Y.) 599; Shell v. West, 130 N. C. 171; Caldwell v. Harris, 4 Humphrey 24; Tiffany Landlord & Tenant, 78 h & j. This is the rule adopted by the statute of Oklahoma. See § 5247 Compiled Statutes of Oklahoma, 1921; Avery v. VanVoorhis, 42 Okla. 232, 241. In a suit founded upon the very existence of the lease and praying relief from its execution and legal operation because procured by the fraud of the lessees, the lessees cannot claim under the lease, hold the benefits derived from it, and, at the same time deny the power and authority of the lessor to execute it.

We can perceive no reason why a doubtful or uncertain claim of Dunn and Gillam to the leasehold, sufficient nevertheless to constitute the consideration for the compromise contract with Mullen (Blount v. Wheeler, 199 Mass. 330; Zoebisch v. VonMinden, 120 N. Y. 406; Dredging Co. v. Hess, 71 N. J. L. 327) could not become the subject matter of a trust arising ex maleficio from the fraud of Dunn and Gillam and, upon principles already referred to, it follows that if Dunn and Gillam could not resist a bill to compel the cancellation of the lease, they cannot now resist the prayer that they account for the proceeds of the lease acquired by their sale of it and which are the direct fruits of their fraud.

A period of about six years elapsed between the giving of the Thomas lease and the filing of the bill. The defendants neither pleaded nor have they urged laches as a defense; nor do we find in the record any adequate basis for denying relief on that ground. One who claims the benefit derived from a breach of trust in which he actively participates and who shows no prejudice resulting from the delay in bringing suit to compel him to account

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cannot complain of laches. See Insurance Company v. Eldridge, 102 U. S. 545, 548.

We hold that Dunn and Gillam were constructive trustees of whatever interest they acquired in the Thomas lease and of the proceeds derived from the transfer thereof to the Bull Head Oil Company, whatever its form, whether stock or money, and that they and all defendants claiming under them, other than innocent purchasers for value, may in equity be compelled to account to the plaintiff for such proceeds, for the benefit of the minor.

The decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals, with respect only to the defendants T. H. Dunn, N. E. Dunn, J. Robert Gillam and Mrs. J. Robert Gillam, is reversed and the cause remanded to the District Court for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion; as to the other defendants the appeal was barred by the agreement entered into by the appellant with them and as to them the decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals is affirmed.

So ordered. Reversed, in part; affirmed, in part.




No. 227. Argued March 9, 1925.—Decided April 13, 1925. 1. The California Inheritance Tax Law of 1917, $ 2, sub-div. 10, by Opinion of the Court.

providing that in determining the market value of the property transferred, for the purpose of fixing the amount of tax, no deduction should be made of the Federal Estate Tax, (assessed upon the whole estate,) resulted in a much larger proportionate tax on the succession to the residuum of an estate when the estate was large than when it was small, though the residuary bequest and

268 U.S.

the residuary estate were equal in each instance. Held consistent with the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth

Amendment. P. 140. 2. There are two elements in the transfer of a decedent's estate, exer

cise of the legal power to transmit at death and privilege of succession, and both may be made the basis of classification in a single state taxing statute, so that the amount of tax which a legatee shall pay may be made to depend both on the total net amount of the decedent's estate subject to the jurisdiction of the State and passing under its inheritance and testamentary laws, and the amount of the legacy to which the legatee succeeds under those

laws. P. 144. 191 Cal. 591, affirmed.

ERROR to a judgment of the Supreme Court of California sustaining, on review, a judgment of the Superior Court confirming an assessment of inheritance taxes.

Mr. Carey Van Fleet, with whom Messrs. Joseph G. De Forest, Sidney M. Ehrman, Maurice E. Harrison, William M. Madden, Lloyd M. Robbins and Luther Elkins were on the brief, for plaintiffs in error.

Mr. Ralph W. Smith, Inheritance Tax Attorney for California, with whom Messrs. Il'esley E. Marten, Dion R. Holm, Arthur Il'. Brouillett, Erwin P. Werner and Adrian C. Stanton were on the brief, for defendant in


Messrs. Martin Saxe, Samuel P. Goldman, Charles R. McSparren and William F. Unger, filed a brief as amici curiae by special leave of court.

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case is here on a writ of error to the Supreme Court of California to review the determination of that court upholding the constitutionality of the Inheritance Tax Act of the State of California enacted in 1917, particularly Subdivision 10 of § 2 of the Act, which prescribes the


Opinion of the Court.

method of determining the market value of the property transferred, for the purpose of fixing the amount of the tax. Subdivision 10 of § 2 reads as follows:

“In determining the market value of the property transferred, no deduction shall be made for any inheritance tax or estate tax paid to the Government of the United States."

The decedent left a gross estate exceeding $1,800,000, on which the federal Estate Tax amounted to the sum of $128,730.08. In fixing the amount of inheritance tax due to the State of California upon the residuary legacies, the state Tax Appraiser, acting pursuant to the provisions of Subdivision 10 of § 2, did not deduct the amount of federal Estate Tax. In consequence the total amount of state tax assessed upon the residuary estate was $26,205.75 greater than it would have been had the federal Estate Tax been deducted from the residuum of the estate before fixing the amount of the state tax. The Superior Court of San Francisco County having jurisdiction in the premises confirmed the tax, and the Supreme Court of California, on writ of error, held that the tax was in accordance with the laws and the constitution of California and was not a denial of due process or equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Stebbins v. Riley, 191 Cal. 591.

It is urged here that the California Inheritance Tax Act of 1917 is a succession tax; that the provision of the taxing law requiring that there shall be no deduction of the federal tax in fixing the fair value of the legacy on which the state tax is levied is an arbitrary discrimination bearing no relation either to the persons succeeding to the decedent's estate or to the amount which the taxpayer takes by succession, and that it is accordingly a taking of property without due process of law, and, because of the inequalities in the amount of the tax result

Opinion of the Court.

268 U.S.

ing from the application of the taxing statute to successions, there is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. On the other hand, it is urged that the so-called "right of acquiring property by devise or descent, is not a property right but a mere privilege, the creature of state law, and the authority which confers it may impose conditions upon its exercise; that in consequence the State may tax the privilege, discriminating not only between the status of those who inherit and the amounts which they thus acquire, but discriminating likewise between inheritances or legacies of like amount which are transmitted from estates of varying size, if the discrimination is based upon or bears some reasonable relation to the size of the whole estate transmitted on the death of the decedent. In presenting this aspect of the case, it was argued by the appellant, on the one hand, that there was a natural right to inheritance entitled to the protection of the due process cláuse of the Fourteenth Amendment, and by the appellee, on the other, that the legislative authority could deny wholly the privilege of inheritance and consequently could place unlimited burdens upon it.

There is much in judicial opinion to suggest that a State may impose any condition it chooses on the privilege of taking property by will or descent, or, indeed, that it may abolish that privilege altogether, and, for this reason, that a State is untrammeled in its power to tax the privilege. See Mager v. Grima, 8 How. 490; United States v. Perkins, 163 U. S. 625; Knowlton v. Moore, 178 U. S. 41, at page 55; Campbell v. California, 200 U. S. 87, at page 94.

But we do not find it necessary to discuss the issue thus raised, for it has been repeatedly held by this Court that the power of testamentary disposition and the privilege of inheritance are subject to state taxation and state regulation and that regulatory taxing provisions, even though they produce inequalities in taxation, do not effect an unconstitutional taking of property, unless, as

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