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Kane v. Burlington Savings Bank

decided: July 9, 1963.

MICHAEL KANE, APPELLANT,
v.
BURLINGTON SAVINGS BANK, FULTON D. FIELDS, DISTRICT DIRECTOR, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, APPELLEES.



Author: Waterman

Before WATERMAN, FRIENDLY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

WATERMAN, Circuit Judge.

Michael Kane appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont dismissing his complaint for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. Kane sought recovery of $275.91 seized by the District Director of Internal Revenue from plaintiff's savings account in the defendant Burlington Savings Bank. Kane alleged that the seized monies had been received by him as disability insurance benefits under Section 223 of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423, and that, as such, the monies were exempted from levy for collection of taxes under Section 6334(a)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Without waiting for responsive pleadings to be filed by the Bank, the district judge dismissed the action on July 10, 1962, on the ground that the amount in controversy was not in excess of $10,000, as is required for a diversity action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff then made an application to join Fulton D. Fields, the District Director of Internal Revenue, as a party defendant. On July 31, 1962 the district court, although granting plaintiff's application to join the District Director, reaffirmed its ruling of dismissal for want of jurisdiction. The district court erred, as the Government now concedes. Jurisdiction over plaintiff's action, when commenced, rested upon 28 U.S.C. § 1340 which contains no jurisdictional amount requirement.*fn1

The Government contends, however, that the action was properly subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Although the district judge did not rule upon this issue, the Government's contention raises a question of statutory construction which, in the interest of expedition, should be considered on this appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the action of the court below in dismissing plaintiff's complaint, but we do so on the ground that it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Section 6334 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. § 6334, provides:

"Property exempt from levy

"(a) Enumeration. - There shall be exempt from levy -

"(4) Unemployment benefits. - Any amount payable to an individual with respect to his unemployment (including any portion thereof payable with respect to dependents) under an unemployment compensation law of the United States, of any State or Territory, or of the District of Columbia or of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

"(b) * * *

"(c) No other property exempt. - Notwithstanding any other law of the United States, no property or rights to property shall be exempt from levy other than the property specifically made exempt by subsection (a)."

Appellant maintains that subsection (a)(4) is sufficiently broad to encompass not only traditional unemployment compensation benefits, but also disability insurance payments under the Social Security Act.*fn2 In support of this contention he advances three major arguments:

1. Section 223 of the Social Security Act, under which plaintiff received the monies in dispute defines "disability," for purposes of Disability Insurance Benefit Payments, as

"inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or to ...


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