[296 U.S. 268, 269] Messrs. Herbert H. Naujoks, of Madison, Wis., and Clark J. A. Hazelwood, of Milwaukee, Wis., for Milwaukee County.
Mr. Irving Herriott, of Chicago, Ill., for M. E. White Co.
Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case comes here under section 239 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C . 346, 28 U.S.C.A. 346, on certificate of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which presents a question of law concerning which the instructions of this court are desired for the proper decision of the case.
The relevant facts, as stated by the certificate, are that the appellant, Milwaukee county, a county and citizen of Wisconsin, brought suit in the District Court for Northern Illinois against M. E. White Company, appellee, [296 U.S. 268, 270] a corporation and citizen of Illinois, to recover on a judgment for $52, 165.84 which appellant had duly recovered and entered against the appellee in the circuit court of Milwaukee county, Wis., a court of general jurisdiction. The judgment is siad to be for taxes duly assessed against appellee, under Wisconsin statutes, upon income received from its business transacted within the state under state license. The District Court dismissed the cause on the ground that, as the suit was in substance brought to enforce the revenue laws of Wisconsin, it could not be maintained in the District Court in Illinois.
The question certified is as follows: 'Should a United States District Court in and for the State of Illinois, having jurisdiction of the parties, entertain jurisdiction of an action therein brought, based upon a valid judgment for over $3,000 rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction in the State of Wisconsin against the same defendant, which judgment was predicated upon an income tax due from the defendant to the State of Wisconsin?'
Appellee insists that the question should be answered in the negative ( 1) because such a suit is not within the judicial power conferred upon District Courts by the Constitution and laws of the United States; and (2) because a judgment for taxes constitutes an exception to the requirement of the Constitution and statutes of the United States that full faith and credit be given in each state to the public acts and judicial proceedings of every state.
1. By section 24(1) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. 41(1), 28 U.S.C. A. 41(1), District Courts are given original jurisdiction 'of all suits of a civil nature, at common law or in equity,' where there is the requisite diversity of citizenship and the amount in controversy exceeds $ 3,000. In this grant of jurisdiction of causes arising under state as well as federal law the phrase 'suits of a civil nature' is used in contradistinction to 'crimes and offenses,' as to which the juris- [296 U.S. 268, 271] diction of the District Courts is restricted by section 24(2), 28 U.S.C.A . 41(2), to offenses against the United States. Thus, suits of a civil nature within the meaning of the section are those which do not involve criminal prosecution or punishment, and which are of a character traditionally cognizable by courts of common law or of equity. Such are suits upon a judgment, foreign or domestic, for a civil liability, of a court having jurisdiction of the cause and of the parties, which were maintainable at common law upon writ of debt, or of indebitatus assumpsit.