In Jefferson County v. Acker, 527 U.S. 423 (1999), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Tax Injunction Act does not prevent federal judges from challenging an occupational tax in Alabama.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the Court, which was divided 5-4 on the threshold issue of whether removal of this dispute to federal district court was proper in the first place. Three conservative justices and Justice David Souter expressed their disagreement with the removal.
Jefferson County, Alabama, imposed an occupational tax on persons working within the county who are not otherwise required to pay a license fee under state law. The controversy arose from proceedings the county commenced to collect the tax from two federal judges who hold court in the county. Preliminarily, the parties disputed whether, as the federal judges assert, the collection proceedings may be removed to, and adjudicated in, federal court. On the merits, the judges maintained that they are shielded from payment of the tax by the intergovernmental tax immunity doctrine, while the county urges that the doctrine does not apply unless the tax discriminates against an officeholder because of the source of his pay or compensation.
The Court held that the case was properly removed under the federal officer removal statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(3), and that the Tax Injunction Act, § 1341, does not bar federal-court adjudication. But the Court also held that Jefferson County's tax operates as a nondiscriminatory tax on the judges' compensation, to which the Public Salary Tax Act of 1939, 4 U.S.C. § 111, consents.