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Opinion of the Court.
The proceedings for appraisal must necessarily be to some extent of a summary character. In Cheatham v. United States, 92 U. S. 85, 88, it was said by this court, speaking by Mr. Justice Miller: “All governments, in all times, have found it necessary to adopt stringent measures for the collection of taxes and to be rigid in the enforcement of them. These measures are not judicial; nor does the government resort, except in extraordinary cases, to the courts for that purpose. The revenue measures of every civilized government constitute a system which provides for its enforcement by officers commissioned for that purpose. In this country, this system for each State, or for the Federal government, provides safeguards of its own against mistake, injustice, or oppression, in the administration of its revenue laws. Such appeals are allowed to specified tribunals as the law-makers deem expedient. Such remedies, also, for recovering back taxes illegally exacted, as may seem wise, are provided. In these respects the United States have, as was said by this court in Nichols v. United States, 7 Wall. 122, enacted a system of corrective justice, as well as a system of taxation, in both its customs and internal-revenue branches. That system is intended to be complete. In the customs department it permits appeals from appraisers to other appraisers, and in proper cases to the Secretary of the Treasury; and, if dissatisfied with this highest decision of the executive department of the government, the law permits the party, on paying the money required, with a protest embodying the grounds of his objection to the tax, to sue the government through its collector, and test in the courts the validity of the tax.” It was said also in that case (p. 89) that the government “ has the right to prescribe the conditions on which it will subject itself to the judgment of the courts in the collection of its revenues.” One of those conditions is and always has been, that the determination of. appraisers as to the dutiable value of goods shall be conclusive and not reëxaminable in a suit at law, provided the appraisers are selected in conformity with the statute, and, in appraising, act within the scope of the powers conferred upon them. See, also, State Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U. S. 575, 613; Snyder v.
Opinion of the Court.
Marks, 109 U. S. 189, 193, 194; Hilton v. Merritt, 110 U. S. 97; Arnson v. Murphy, 115 U. S. 579, 585, 586: Oelbermann v. Merritt, 123 U. S. 356, 361.
In Hilton v. Merritt, it was distinctly held that the valuation of merchandise made by the appraisers was, in the absence of fraud, conclusive on the importer; that the right of appeal to the Secretary of the Treasury, when duties were alleged to have been illegally or erroneously exacted, and the right to a trial by jury in case of an adverse decision by the Secretary of the Treasury, did not relate to alleged errors in the appraisement of goods, whether by a merchant appraiser or otherwise; and that it was not allowable, in a suit to recover back duties, for the plaintiff to put in evidence the records of the proceedings before the merchant appraiser and the general appraiser, including the testimony and the various documents before the appraisers, or to try before the jury the question as to the actual value of the goods, and whether the appraisers followed the evidence before them or disregarded it. The evidence ruled out in that case was evidence which tended only to show carelessness and irregularity in the discharge of their duties by the appraisers, but not that they had assumed powers not conferred by the statute.
Although by section 29 of the act of June 10, 1890, c. 407, entitled “ An act to simplify the laws in relation to the collection of the revenues,” sections 2902 and 2930 of the Revised Statutes are expressly repealed, section 10 of that act provides that it shall be the duty of the appraisers of the United States, “by all reasonable ways and means,” to appraise the actual market value and wholesale price of imported goods in the principal markets of the country whence the same have been imported; and section 13 of that act provides that the decision of the appraiser, or that of the general appraiser in cases of reappraisement, or that of the board of general appraisers on review, shall be final and conclusive as to the dutiable value of the merchandise, against all parties interested therein.
There is nothing in the instructions of the Secretary of the Treasury, or in any of the regulations prescribed, or in the evidence in this case, which shows that the appraisers were
Opinion of the Court.
not free to perform their duties properly, as required by the statute. The reappraisers appraised the goods in the appraisers' room in the public store. On the day before the reappraisement took place, the agent of the plaintiffs received due notice of it, and he attended and was called by the reappraisers before them. The merchant appraiser had then and there samples of the plaintiffs' goods, and the general appraiser asked the agent for his statement in the case, and it was made. The samples were on the table before the merchant appraiser, and the cases of goods were in the adjoining room. The agent made no objection as to the proceedings, and testifies that he was allowed to make a full statement concerning the value of the plaintiffs' goods; and the evidence fails to show that any request was made on behalf of the plaintiffs which was refused, except the request to find the value which the plaintiffs desired to be found.
It is contended for the plaintiffs that the merchant appraiser is an officer, and an inferior officer, wbo, under article 2, section 2, of the Constitution, could be appointed only by the President, .or by a court of law, or by the head of a department. In the present case, the selection of the merchant appraiser, his oath, and the manner in which he and the general appraiser discharged their duties, were in compliance with the statute and with the Treasury regulations; but it is urged that the manner of appointing the merchant appraiser was illegal. The merchant appraiser is an expert, selected as an emergency arises, upon the request of the importer for a reappraisal. His appointment is not one to be classified under the civil service law, he is not to be appointed on a competitive examination, nor does he fall within the provisions of the civil service law. He is not a "clerk,” nor an “agent," nor a “person employed,” in the customs department, within the meaning of section 6 of the civil service act; nor is he an officer of the United States, required to be appointed by the President, or a court of law, or the head of a department. He is an expert, selected as such. Section 2930 requires that he shall be a “discreet and experienced merchant,” “ familiar with the character and value of the goods in question.” He is selected for the special
Opinion of the Court.
case. He has no general functions, nor any employment which has any duration as to time, or which extends over any case further than as he is selected to act in that particular case. He is an executive agent, as an expert assistant to aid in ascertaining the value of the goods, selected for the particular case on the request of the importer, and selected for his special knowledge in regard to the character and value of the particular goods in question. Ile has no claim or right to be desig. nated, or to act except as he may be designated. The statute does not use the word “appoint,” but uses the word “select.” His position is without tenure, duration, continuing emolument, or continuous duties, and he acts only occasionally and temporarily. Therefore, he is not an “officer," within the meaning of the clause of the Constitution referred to. United States v. Maurice, 2 Brockenbrough, 96, 102, 103; United States v. Hartwell, 6 Wall. 385, 393; United States v. Germaine, 99 U. S. 508, 510, 511; Hall v. Wisconsin, 103 U. S. 5, 8, 9; United States v. Mouat, 124 U. S. 303, 307; United States v. Smith, 124 U. S. 525, 532.
The present question is very much like that considered in United States v. Germaine. In that case, under section 4777 of the Revised Statutes, the Commissioner of Pensions was empowered to appoint civil surgeons to make a periodical examination of pensioners and to examine applicants for pensions. The question arose whether a surgeon so appointed was an officer of the United States, whose appointment was required to be made by the President, or a court of law, or the head of a department. This court held that he was not, and said, referring to the case of United States v. Hartwell: “If we look to the nature of defendant's employment, we think it equally clear that he is not an officer. In that case the court said, the term embraces the ideas of tenure, duration, emolument, and duties, and that the latter were continuing and permanent, not occasional or temporary. In the case before us the duties are not continuing and permanent, and they are occasional and intermittent. The surgeon is only to act when called on by the Commissioner of Pensions in some special case, as when some pensioner, or claimant of a pension, pre
Opinion of the Court.
sents himself for examination. He may make fifty of these examinations in a year, or none. He is required to keep no place of business for the public use. He gives no bond and takes no oath, unless by some order of the Commissioner of Pensions of which we are not advised. No regular appropriation is made to pay his compensation, which is two dollars for every certificate of examination, but it is paid out of money appropriated for paying pensions in his district, under regulations to be prescribed by the Commissioner. He is but an agent of the Commissioner, appointed by him, and removable by him at his pleasure, to procure information needed to aid in the performance of his own official duties. He may appoint one or a dozen persons to do the same thing. The compensation may amount to five dollars or five hundred dollars per
There is no penalty for his absence from duty or refusal to perform, except his loss of the fee in the given case. If Congress had passed a law requiring the Commissioner to appoint a man to furnish each agency with fuel at a price per ton fixed by law high enough to secure the delivery of the coal, he would have as much claim to be an officer of the United States as the surgeons appointed under this statute.”
This case does not present any question like that of substituting a new merchant appraiser for one already selected, as in Greely v. Thompson, 10 How. 225; nor is it a case where the appraiser did not see the original packages, as in Greely's Administrator v. Burgess, 18 How. 413; nor a case where it was offered to show that the merchant appraiser was not a person having the qualification prescribed by the statute, as in Oelbermann v. Merritt, 123 U. S. 356, and in Mustin v. Cadwalader, 123 U. S. 369; nor a case where it was contended that the appraisers did not open, examine and appraise the packages designated by the collector, as in Oelbermann v. Merritt; nor a case where to the admitted market value of an importation there was added such additional value as was equal to a reduction made in the valuation of the cases containing the goods, as in Badger v. Cusimano, 130 U. S. 39. Those were instances of errors outside of the valuation itself and outside of the appraisement prescribed by the statute.