130 U.S. 39
9 S.Ct. 431
32 L.Ed. 851
CUSIMANO et al.
March 5, 1889.
Asst. Atty. Gen. Maury, for plaintiff in error.
C. B. Singleton, and R. H. Brown, for defendants in error.
Mr. Justice HARLAN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
The effect of section 7 of the act of March 3, 1883, c. 121, (22 St. 488, 523,) was to exclude from the estimate of the amount of duties collectible upon goods imported from other countries the value of the 'charges' specified in sections 2907 and 2908 of the Revised Statutes, including the value of the usual and necessary sacks, crates, boxes, of covering of any kind, not composed of materials or made in any form designed to evade duties thereon, but used in the bona fide transportation of such goods to the United States. The duties, therefore, for which the plaintiffs were liable in respect to the oranges they imported, were to be ascertained with reference only to their true and actual market value. Oberteuffer v. Robertson, 116 U. S, 499, 509, 510, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 462. That the collector made a reduction of the invoice value of the charges is of no consequence, because such charges were not dutiable items. He did what the law did not authorize him to do, namely, increased the dutiable value of the oranges, although they were invoiced and entered at their true market value. The additional duties exacted from the plaintiffs on this increased value amounted to the sum for which the judgment was rendered. It is insisted, however, that this question cannot arise upon the present writ of error. The only bill of exceptions taken in the case states 'that on the trial of the cause the plaintiffs offered evidence tending to show that the value fixed on goods imported by them was excessive, and that the appraisement of said goods was erroneous; to the reception of which evidence defendant objected, on the ground that said goods were duly appraised, and that the appraisement is final and conclusive in the absence of fraud, which is not alleged, and on the further ground that such evidence is not admissible under the allegations of plaintiffs' petition, which objections were overruled by the court, and said evidence received, to-wit, on ground because, in the opinion of the court, it is not necessary to allege fraud.'
The contention of the government is that, as fraud was not specifically alleged in respect to the appraisement, the court erred in admitting and considering evidence to impeach it. This position is supposed to be sustained by the case of Hilton v. Merritt, 110 U. S. 97, 106, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 548. In that case it was said: 'Considering the acts of congress as establishing a system, and giving force to all the sections, its plain and obvious meaning is that the appraisement of the customs officers shall be final, but all other questions relating to the rate and amount of duties may, after the importer has taken the prescribed steps be reviewed in an action at law to recover duties unlawfully exacted.' Again: 'The valuation made by the customs officers was not open to question in an action at law, as long as the officers acted without fraud, and within the power conferred on them by the statute.' In the case before us there is no impeachment of the appraisement, so far as it states the value of the charges or the value of the goods as increased by the amount of the reduction made from the value of the charges. The only inquiry is whether the collector acted within the power conferred upon him by statute when he required the importers to pay duties, not only upon the actual market value of the goods, but upon such additional value as was equal to the reduction made from the value of the cases covering the goods. These are questions of law simply, involving the power of the collector under the statute. They are entirely apart from any inquiry as to fraud in the appraisement, or as to the values set forth in it, and may be raised by the importer in an action at law, when he has taken such steps as entitle him to bring suit for the recovery of duties illegally exacted from him. This ruling is entirely consistent with the decision in Hilton v. Merritt. Judgment affirmed.