Bartlett v. Kane (1853)

In Bartlett v. Kane (1853) 57 U.S. 263, a collector of customs imposed an extra 20 per cent. duty upon the Tariff Act of 1842 ( 5 Stat. 548) on goods imported, as a penalty for undervaluation. Payment was made under protest, and suit brought to recover back. The Supreme Court held the 20 per centum to be additional duty designed to operate as a restraint upon fraud and injustice. In that case, the entry was at the invoice price, and as that was found by the appraisers to be ten per cent below its dutiable value, the penal duty was exacted by the government officers. A portion of the goods were warehoused, and afterwards entered for exportation. And the owner demanded a return of the twenty per cent as a portion of the duty he had paid, and which he was entitled to have refunded upon the exportation of the goods. The demand being refused, the suit above mentioned was brought against the collector to recover it. But the Supreme Court held that this penal duty was legally levied by the collector, and legally retained, and the plaintiff failed to recover. The Supreme Court said: "It is a general principle, that when power or jurisdiction is delegated to any public officer or tribunal over a subject-matter, and its exercise is confided to his or their discretion, the acts so done are binding and valid as to the subject-matter. The only question which can arise between an individual claiming a right under the acts done, and the public, or any person denying their validity, are power in the officer and fraud in the party; all other questions are settled by the decision made, or the act done by the tribunal or officer, whether executive, legislative, judicial, or special, unless an appeal is provided for, or other revision by some appellate or supervisory tribunal is prescribed by law."