Berry v. Alameda Board of Sup'rs, No. C-89-3310-CAL.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtKelvin H. Booty, Jr., County Counsel of County of Alameda, Oakland, for defendants
Citation753 F. Supp. 1508
PartiesClifford BERRY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. ALAMEDA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. C-89-3310-CAL.
Decision Date28 November 1990

753 F. Supp. 1508

Clifford BERRY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALAMEDA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, et al., Defendants.

No. C-89-3310-CAL.

United States District Court, N.D. California.

November 28, 1990.


753 F. Supp. 1509

Charles R. Garry, Lynn S. Carman, San Francisco, for plaintiffs.

Kelvin H. Booty, Jr., County Counsel of County of Alameda, Oakland, for defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LEGGE, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by indigent citizens of Alameda County, California. Plaintiffs allege that defendants have adopted and implemented a state constitutional limitation on real property taxes, Cal. Const. art. XIII A (1978) ("Proposition 13"), and are using that limitation in assessing taxpayers, in violation of plaintiffs' due process and equal protection rights under the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs ask this court to declare that Proposition 13 is unconstitutional as applied to raising real estate tax revenues to pay for medical services for the poor in Alameda County, and to enjoin implementation of the tax limitation by defendants.

I.

The parties filed motions for summary judgment. This court then ruled1 that the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1341 ("the Act"), and principles of federal-state comity preclude a federal court from exercising jurisdiction over challenges to the implementation and assessment of tax limitations enacted into a state's constitution. Plaintiffs' additional allegation, that Proposition 13 was adopted in a procedurally unconstitutional manner, was denied for failure to state a claim. The court therefore ordered this action dismissed.

However, before the court signed the order of dismissal, plaintiffs moved for reconsideration, asserting that one week after this court's announced decision, the United States Supreme Court in Missouri v. Jenkins, ___ U.S. ___, 110 S.Ct. 1651, 109 L.Ed.2d 31 (1990), expanded the scope of federal district courts' powers to intervene in the assessment and administration of state taxes, including state constitutional tax limitations. This court therefore vacated its decision and ordered additional briefing on the application of Missouri v. Jenkins to this case. The parties filed additional briefs and the matter was submitted for decision.

Having considered the moving and opposing papers, the record of the case, the arguments of counsel, and the relevant authorities, this court concludes, for the reasons set forth below, that: (1) under the Act and principles of federal-state comity, this court lacks jurisdiction to interfere with California's tax limitation as requested by plaintiffs, and (2) the allegation that Proposition 13 was unconstitutionally adopted fails to state a claim. The issues are ones of law, and no fact questions are presented. Defendants' motion for summary judgment will therefore be granted and plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment denied.

II.

Plaintiffs allege that their indigency qualifies them for certain medical benefits provided by California statutes. Specifically, they assert that they are entitled to receive an "adequate care entitlement" under the California Welfare and Institutions Code,2

753 F. Supp. 1510
and an "equal care entitlement" under the California Health and Safety Code.3 Money to pay for those entitlements is raised in part by each county from their general tax revenues, Cal.Welf. & Inst.Code §§ 16700-16718 (Deering 1985)

Defendants are the County of Alameda, its Board of Supervisors and its County Auditor. Defendants assess and administer state and local tax laws in Alameda County, including the tax limitation of Proposition 13, and determine and administer the county's health care budget.

Proposition 13 was an amendment to the California constitution which was adopted by California voters on June 6, 1978 and became effective on July 1, 1981. Cal. Const. art. XIII A, § 5. Proposition 13 establishes that "the maximum ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed one percent (1%) of the full cash value of such property." Id., § 1.

As a result of Proposition 13 and other financial limitations, plaintiffs allege that Alameda County "continues to receive inadequate funding for State mandated programs."4 Plaintiffs allege that the effect of Proposition 13 has been to reduce the level of medical services furnished to indigent persons in Alameda County to a level substantially below that required by the state statutes. Plaintiffs' lengthy Amended Complaint can be distilled into three alleged violations of the United States Constitution. The first violation alleges that Proposition 13, and its implementation by Alameda County, constitute invidious and intentional economic discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.5 The second alleges denial of due process and equal protection to indigent persons, because of the voter-initiative procedure used to adopt Proposition 13.6 The third alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by the County Auditor. Plaintiffs' theory under the third allegation is that Cal.Gov't. Code § 29103 makes the County Auditor responsible for calculating the tax rates to be assessed by the Board of Supervisors; and an assessment based on Proposition 13 is an unconstitutional calculation of taxes, because it excludes appropriations from real property taxes for indigent medical benefits "as required by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses."7

Plaintiffs pray for injunctive and declaratory relief. They ask this court to declare that: the Proposition 13 tax limitation is unconstitutional as applied to the taxation of real property in Alameda County for purposes of funding medical benefits; and defendants have acted in excess and abuse of their discretion by implementing Proposition 13 in such a manner as to decrease the funding of those benefits. Plaintiffs seek an injunction "in the nature of a mandamus", commanding defendants not to limit real property taxes under Proposition 13 for purposes of funding state medical benefits.

III.

The principal issue raised by these summary judgment motions is whether a federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims regarding the assessment and administration of property taxes under the limitation of Proposition 13.

Plaintiffs allege that jurisdiction is vested in this court by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(3), (4), and by 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

753 F. Supp. 1511
Those statutes generally grant United States District Courts original jurisdiction over federal questions, and the authority to grant equitable and monetary relief for violations of federal civil rights

Defendants argue that the Act precludes this court from taking subject matter jurisdiction.8 The Act reads in full:

The district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the courts of such State.

This broad limitation on federal judicial power over state taxes prohibits declaratory and injunctive relief; California v. Grace Brethren Church, 457 U.S. 393, 408, 102 S.Ct. 2498, 2507-08, 73 L.Ed.2d 93 (1982); Ashton v. Cory, 780 F.2d 816, 818-19 (9th Cir.1986); and suits for damages; Marvin F. Poer & Co. v. Counties of Alameda, 725 F.2d 1234, 1236 (9th Cir. 1984). Plaintiffs assert that the Act is "irrelevant" because they are not seeking an order to raise, levy, or collect taxes.

The issue of the application of the Act to this case can be broken into three questions: first, whether the rights granted by 42 U.S.C. § 1983 supplant the restraints of the Act; second, whether plaintiffs' claims for relief are within the prohibitions of the Act; and third, whether plaintiffs have a "plain, speedy, and efficient remedy" in California state courts.

A.

Plaintiffs contend that the Act does not prohibit federal jurisdiction in a section 1983 action, because the claim is an alleged violation of civil rights and the tax issues are therefore incidental. However, this circuit has held that where jurisdiction over a section 1983 action conflicts with the Act, "the latter controls." Kelly v. Springett, 527 F.2d 1090, 1094 (9th Cir.1975); accord Hawaiian Telephone Co. v. State Dep't of Labor, 691 F.2d 905, 909 (9th Cir.1982). Basing a complaint upon alleged violations of civil rights will not avoid the prohibitions of the Act. Hickman v. Wujick, 488 F.2d 875, 876 (2d Cir.1973); see Hawaiian Telephone, 691 F.2d at 910.

B.

Do plaintiffs' claims come within the prohibition of the Act?

The Act is broadly interpreted to prohibit the use of the equity powers of federal courts in cases involving state tax matters. Grace Brethren Church, 457 U.S. 393, 102 S.Ct. 2498; Brooks v. Nance, 801 F.2d 1237, 1239 (10th Cir.1986). By phrasing their attack on the state tax limitation in federal constitutional terms, plaintiffs do not change the required analysis. In enacting the Act, Congress made explicit the preexisting federal equity practice of noninterference with states' internal economy and administration. Moe v. Kootenai Tribes, 425 U.S. 463, 470, 96 S.Ct. 1634, 1640, 48 L.Ed.2d 96 (1976).

The mere illegality or unconstitutionality of a state ... tax is not in itself a ground for equitable relief in the courts of the United States. If the remedy at law is plain, adequate, and complete, the aggrieved party is left to that remedy in the state courts....

Id. (quoting Great Lakes Co. v. Huffman, 319 U.S. 293, 298, 63 S.Ct. 1070, 1073, 87 L.Ed. 1407 (1943)).9

On that ground and on the underlying principle of federal-state comity, this court previously ruled that the Act barred federal jurisdiction over plaintiffs' first and third claims. The question now posed by plaintiffs is whether the later United States Supreme Court decision in Missouri v. Jenkins changes that conclusion.

In Jenkins, the district court found that a school district had operated an unlawfully segregated school system. ...

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4 practice notes
  • Pacific Bell Telephone Co. v. City of Hawthorne, No. CV-01-01862 CBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • June 1, 2001
    ...federal equity practice of noninterference with states' internal economy and administration" Berry v. Alameda Board of Supervisors, 753 F.Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D.Cal.1990); accord Rosewell v. LaSalle National Bank, 450 U.S. 503, 522, 101 S.Ct. 1221, 67 L.Ed.2d 464 (1981). The TIA "bars antici......
  • Olajide v. Brown, Case No. 18-cv-03991-CRB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 6, 2018
    ...Co. v. State Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations, 691 F.2d 905, 909 (9thPage 5 Cir. 1982); see also Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F. Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D. Cal. 1990) ("By phrasing Their attack on the state tax [law] in federal constitutional terms, plaintiffs do not change the req......
  • Olajide v. Brown, Case No. 18-cv-03991-CRB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 6, 2018
    ...Co. v. State Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations, 691 F.2d 905, 909 (9thPage 5 Cir. 1982); see also Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F. Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D. Cal. 1990) ("By phrasing their attack on the state tax [law] in federal constitutional terms, plaintiffs do not change the req......
  • Soloman v. Villanueva, 2:21-cv-07722-JLS-KES
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • June 7, 2022
    ...“plain, speedy and efficient” remedies for property tax disputes as required to invoke the TIA.[1] Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F.Supp. 1508, 1514 (N.D. Cal. 1990) (holding California law provides a “plain, speedy, and efficient remedy” for challenging property taxes). Where fed......
4 cases
  • Pacific Bell Telephone Co. v. City of Hawthorne, No. CV-01-01862 CBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • June 1, 2001
    ...federal equity practice of noninterference with states' internal economy and administration" Berry v. Alameda Board of Supervisors, 753 F.Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D.Cal.1990); accord Rosewell v. LaSalle National Bank, 450 U.S. 503, 522, 101 S.Ct. 1221, 67 L.Ed.2d 464 (1981). The TIA "bars antici......
  • Olajide v. Brown, Case No. 18-cv-03991-CRB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 6, 2018
    ...Co. v. State Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations, 691 F.2d 905, 909 (9thPage 5 Cir. 1982); see also Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F. Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D. Cal. 1990) ("By phrasing Their attack on the state tax [law] in federal constitutional terms, plaintiffs do not change the req......
  • Olajide v. Brown, Case No. 18-cv-03991-CRB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • July 6, 2018
    ...Co. v. State Dep't of Labor & Indus. Relations, 691 F.2d 905, 909 (9thPage 5 Cir. 1982); see also Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F. Supp. 1508, 1511 (N.D. Cal. 1990) ("By phrasing their attack on the state tax [law] in federal constitutional terms, plaintiffs do not change the req......
  • Soloman v. Villanueva, 2:21-cv-07722-JLS-KES
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • June 7, 2022
    ...“plain, speedy and efficient” remedies for property tax disputes as required to invoke the TIA.[1] Berry v. Alameda Bd. of Supervisors, 753 F.Supp. 1508, 1514 (N.D. Cal. 1990) (holding California law provides a “plain, speedy, and efficient remedy” for challenging property taxes). Where fed......

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