145 So. 858 (Fla. 1933), Humphreys v. State

Citation:145 So. 858, 108 Fla. 92
Opinion Judge:DAVIS, C.J.
Party Name:HUMPHREYS et al. v. STATE ex rel. PALM BEACH CO. et al.
Attorney:[108 Fla. 94]Metcalf & Finch, of West Palm Beach, for plaintiffs in error. Clark & Ellis, of Miami, for defendants in error.
Case Date:January 17, 1933
Court:Supreme Court of Florida
 
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Page 858

145 So. 858 (Fla. 1933)

108 Fla. 92

HUMPHREYS et al.

v.

STATE ex rel. PALM BEACH CO. et al.

Florida Supreme Court

January 17, 1933

En Banc.

Error to Circuit Court, Palm Beach County; Elwyn Thomas, Judge.

Proceeding by the State, on the relation of the Palm Beach Company and others, against Frank Landon Humphreys and others, constituting the Commission of the Town of Boynton Beach, and others. To review a final judgment awarding a peremptory writ of mandamus against the officials of the Town of Boynton and of Boynton Beach jointly, named respondents and certain other respondents bring error.

Affirmed.

COUNSEL

Page 859

[108 Fla. 94]Metcalf & Finch, of West Palm Beach, for plaintiffs in error.

Clark & Ellis, of Miami, for defendants in error.

OPINION

DAVIS, C.J.

This is a writ of error prosecuted, after an order of severance, by the officials of the town of Boynton Beach, to a final judgment awarding a peremptory writ of mandamus against the officials of the town of Boynton and of Boynton Beach jointly.

The town of Boynton exists under chapter 8918, Special Acts of 1921, and subsequent

Page 860

laws amendatory thereof. The town of Boynton Beach was created by chapter 15088, Special Acts of 1931, out of a portion of the territory formerly comprising the town of Boynton. The object of the proceeding in mandamus was to compel the officials of both the old and the new towns to make adequate provision, [108 Fla. 95] according to the statutes in force at the time that bonds were issued, for the payment of certain municipal bonds that had been issued by the town of Boynton in 1924.

To effect the result sought by the relators, the circuit judge, after overruling a demurrer to the alternative writ as amended, and after striking an answer and return of the respondent officials of the town of Boynton Beach, awarded a peremptory writ of mandamus, the substantive and pertinent portions of which may be summarized as follows: (1) That the respondents, as officials of the town of Boynton, and the respondents, as officials of the town of Boynton Beach, and their successors in office, and all of the property in the town of Boynton, as the same was constituted by chapter 8918, Special Acts of 1921, as amended by chapter 9691, Special Acts of 1923, be adjudged to be, and held, liable for the payment of interest coupons on bonds owned and held by the relator, and described in the amended alternative writ of mandamus, which bonds had been issued by the town of Boynton, on or about October 1, 1924; (2) that an appropriation should be made to pay the past-due and current maturities of said bonds and interest coupons, in the amended alternative writ described; (3) that a tax should be levied upon all of the property in the town of Boynton, considering the same as a unit, to pay the past-due and current maturities of the bonds aforesaid; (4) that, to make the foregoing determination and judgment effective, the respondent officials of Boynton be ordered to convene and revise the budget of the town of Boynton so as to appropriate in said budget for the fiscal year 1931-32, a sum sufficient for the payment of that portion of the past-due and current maturities of bonds and interest coupons which should be borne by the property within the jurisdiction of the town of Boynton, based on the ratio of the assessed valuation of all of the property in the town [108 Fla. 96] of Boynton, as created b chapter 8918, supra, as amended by chapter 9691, supra, and to pay coupons and bonds which would fall due during the fiscal year; (5) that the respondent officials of the town of Boynton, and their successors in office, do forthwith fix a millage and levy a tax for the fiscal year on all of the property within said town of Boynton, under their jurisdiction, which, calculated upon all assessable, taxable property within said town of Boynton, and considering the probable percentage of collection, will produce a sum sufficient to pay that portion of the principal and interest of the bonds and coupons held by relator which should be borne by the territory left under the jurisdiction of the officials of the town of Boynton; (6) to include the said millage so determined to be necessary, in the total or aggregate tax levied by the town of Boynton for all city purposes; (7) that the same be reported to J. P. Bowen, as tax assessor of the town of Boynton, and to George A. Long, the tax collector of said town; (8) that J. P. Bowen, as tax assessor, and his successor in office, be commanded to calculate and carry out the full amount of all taxes for municipal purposes, against each and every parcel of real and personal property in a separate column, setting opposite each and every such parcel the total amount to be levied as municipal taxes thereon, in dollars and cents, and to attach to said assessment roll a tax assessor's warrant in lawful form; (9) that George A. Long, as tax collector of the town of Boynton, and his successor in office, be commanded to comply with said tax warrant by collecting in lawful money of the United States the total tax levied against each and every parcel of real and personal property on the roll; (10) that George A. Long, as treasurer of the said town of Boynton, be required and commanded to set apart in a separate fund the proper proportion of all sums collected for the payment of interest coupons and bonds [108 Fla. 97] owned by the relator, and to pay over said funds to the relator or to its duly authorized agent as collected.

To identically the same effect were the several commands addressed to the respondent officials of the town of Boynton Beach, who had been made joint respondents in the amended alternative writ with the officials of the old town of Boynton.

The officials of the town of Boynton did not appeal. The officials of the town of Boynton Beach, after having been granted an order of severance by the circuit judge, did appeal by suing out a writ of error to the final judgment awarding the peremptory writ of mandamus in the form hereinbefore recited. So the proposition required to be decided by this court is whether or not the judgment should be reversed as to the officials and territory of the new town of Boynton Beach, which town was created by the act of the 1931 Legislature hereinbefore referred to and cited.

It is admitted by the plaintiffs in error that the bonds relator sought to enforce were issued by the old town of Boynton in 1924; that, at the time the bonds were issued, the territory, powers, and jurisdiction of the town of Boynton were as set forth in chapter 8918, Special Acts of 1921, as amended by chapter 9691, Special Acts of 1923. It is likewise admitted by the defendants in error that in 1931 the Legislature of the state of Florida enacted chapter 15088, Special Acts of 1931, by which it undertook to create a new town to be known as 'Boynton Beach,' out of territory formerly constituting a substantial portion of

Page 861

the old town of Boynton, that had issued the relator's bonds.

So the controversy between the parties to this appeal is largely centered around the validity, construction, and effect which is required to be given to the following provision appearing in the 1931 special act creating the town of Boynton Beach:

[108 Fla. 98] 'The Town of Boynton Beach shall assume and discharge 50% of all lawful indebtedness of the Town of Boynton, whether evidenced by bonds or otherwise, for which the Town of Boynton was obligated on the 1st day of April, A. D. 1930; provided, however, said total indebtedness shall be credited with the amount heretofore or hereafter collected by the Town of Boynton from the State or State Road Department, and the existing Town of Boynton shall be liable for, and discharge, the remainder of said indebtedness.' Section 1, art. 4, chapter 15088, supra.

The able circuit judge who considered this case in the court below took the view that, as to the public, the Legislature, and the towns of Boynton and Boynton Beach, inter sese, the provision of the statute aforesaid should be determined by him to be a valid exercise of the power of the Legislature, as conferred upon it by section 8 of article 8 of the State Constitution. 1

But the circuit judge also accepted the argument advanced by the relator, which was to the effect that, as to the rights of relator, the statutory provisions aforesaid were inoperative, invalid, and unconstitutional, because the practical operation of the same tended to hamper, obstruct, and delay the realization of payments on relator's bonds, and thereby brought about a result which impaired the obligation of relator's contract in violation of the state and federal constitutional provisions on that subject. It was accordingly ruled by the circuit judge that, while the provisions of 1931 statute fixing the liability of the towns of [108 Fla. 99] Boynton and Boynton Beach might be constitutional and valid inter sese and for general purposes, such provisions could not be pleaded by the officials of the newly created town of Boynton Beach as a bar to, or in preclusion of, relator's plain legal right to a writ of mandamus to enforce the obligation of relator's bonds according to the law as it existed when such bonds were validated, issued, and sold as public securities in 1924.

This court has long since held that all the laws which subsist, at the time and place of the making of a contract, and where it is to be performed, enter into and become a part of the contract made, as if they were expressly referred to and incorporated in its terms, including alike those laws which affect its construction, validity, enforcement or discharge. Com'rs of Columbia County v. King, 13 Fla. 451, 474; State ex rel. Dos Anigos v. Lehman, 100 Fla. 1313, 131 So. 533. Indeed, such is the holding of the unbroken current of decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States and of other federal...

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