Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Association, 1075

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBLUME, Justice. Yours truly,
Citation29 Wyo. 461,215 P. 244
PartiesBUNTEN v. ROCK SPRINGS GRAZING ASSOCIATION
Docket Number1075
Decision Date08 May 1923

215 P. 244

29 Wyo. 461

BUNTEN
v.
ROCK SPRINGS GRAZING ASSOCIATION

No. 1075

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 8, 1923


[215 P. 245]

ERROR to District Court, Sweetwater County; JOHN R. ARNOLD, Judge.

Action by the Rock Springs Grazing Association in behalf of itself and others having a common interest, against Mathew Bunten, as County Treasurer and ex-officio Tax Collector of the County of Sweetwater and others to enjoin the collection of certain taxes levied upon its lands for the year 1919. Judgment for plaintiff on demurrer, and defendants bring error.

Reversed and Remanded with Directions.

W. L. Walls, Atty. Gen., D. G. Thomas, County and Pros. Atty., and W. E. Mullen, for plaintiff in error.

The ultimate question is the sufficiency of the petition to support the decree of injunction rendered after the overruling of defendant's demurrer. The petition in substance alleges that the tax authorities of Sweetwater County proceeded in accordance with law, in the assessment and equalization of the property of that county; that the County Board of Equalization adjourned August 2, 1919, sine die, and was powerless to carry out orders of the State Board of Equalization, increasing or decreasing property valuations for taxes in that county after said date; that the State Board ordered an increase in the value of grazing lands which was spread upon the tax roll by the county assessor without authority from the county board; that the state board ordered said raise without evidence of valuations; that the raise ordered by the state board was in excess of the value of the land; that plaintiff paid all taxes legally levied against its lands for the year 1919 in said county; that said raise was illegal; that the county treasurer was threatening to sell plaintiff's lands for taxes; and that the tax assessed and levied upon plaintiff's lands was false and fraudulent; that plaintiff's lands did not exceed in value over $ 1.00 per acre. No facts are alleged showing fraud, actual or constructive, and the demurrer does not admit statements of bare legal conclusions. (Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 298.) An increase, or decrease of valuations may be ordered by the state board, and applied by the county board without notice to individual property owners. (Hammond v. Winder (Ohio) 126 N.E. 409; People v. Pitcher, (Colo.) 138 P. 509; By-Metallic Inv. Co. v. State Board. (U. S.) 60 L.Ed. 372; 239 U.S. 444.)

The petition does not allege that the State Board of Equalization violated or neglected to perform its duties as prescribed by the constitution, or laws of the state; on the contrary the acts of the state board which are complained of, are shown to be in accordance with the constitution and laws of the state; (Const. Art. 16, Sect. 10, Art. II, Sect. 1, Sec. 2810, (C. S.) Equalization of property valuations for taxation has been provided for, since the organization of the territory, and upon the admission of the state, the constitution provided for a continuation and development of the policy, (R. S. 1887, Sec. 3804; Const. Art. 16, Sec. 9; 2356 C. S. 1910; L. 1911 Ch. 6, Sec. 1; L. 1915 Ch. 119; L. 1917 Ch. 105; L. 1919 Ch. 135; Const. Art. 16, Sec. 10; 2800-2818 C. S. 1920.) Injunctions will not issue against tax collections unless the tax be void, (6302 C. S. 1920;) the statute was adopted from Ohio, and was so construed in that state. (Stevens v. Daniel, 27 O. St. 527; Grosbeck v. Cinti., 51 O. St. 365; R. R. Co. v. Wagner, 43 O. St. 75, and followed in this state; Horton v. Driskell, 13 Wyo. 66; Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 298; Crewdson v. Nefsy, 14 Wyo. 61;) mere over assessment will not be enjoined; Wyoming cases supra; (People v. Pitcher, (Colo.) 138 P. 509; St. Brd. v. Metallic Inv. Co., 138 P. 110; People v. Pitcher, (Colo.) 156 P. 812; Metallic Inv. Co. v. Brd. (U. S.) 60, L.Ed. 372; Company v. Santa Fe, 52 Colo. 609; 125 P. 528; Bank v. Patterson (Colo.) 176 P. 501; U. P. R. R. v. Weld Co., 247 (U.S.) 282, 62 L.Ed. 1110.) Only fraud or gross abuse of discretion will warrant interference by the courts. (State v. Brd. (Mont.) 186 P. 699.) Assessments merely irregular will not be enjoined. (Brd. v. Bulland (Kans.) 94 P. 129; 16 L. R. A. N. S. 807,) and cases in note; orders of a State Board of Equalization are not subject to collateral attack. (St. v. Bank (Mo.) 213 S.W. 815;) nor reviewable by courts unless fraudulent, void or illegal, (Atty. Gen. v. Sanilac Supr's. 42 Mich. 72; 3 N.W. 260; Fuller v. Supr's. 185 N.W. 157; Cooley Taxation 785;) state board may equalize property in counties, by increasing or decreasing valuations, (37 Cyc. 277; Terr. v. Co. 9 Ariz. 405; 84 P. 519; Copper Qn. Min. Co. v. Brd. 206 (U.S.) 474; 51 L.Ed. 1143; State Brd. v. Taylor, (Miss.) 83 So. 810; St. ex rel. v. Harris, 227 S.W. 818;) the motion to vacate injunction is in effect a special demurrer, (10 Ency. P. P. 1047;) it is presumed that public officers have performed their legal duties, (22 R. C. L. 472;) standards of valuation submitted by county authorities in assessment returns, are the lawful evidence upon which state equalizations are made, and are binding on the state board; the fact that no notice is required to be given to individual taxpayers of an increase or decrease of property in the aggregate, or of a class, does not render the statute unconstitutional. (Hammond v. Windner, (Ohio) 126 N.E. 409.) The state board acquires jurisdiction by virtue of the assessment returns by counties. (Mayor v. Davenport, 92 N.Y. 604;) orders of the state board are not subject to collateral attack, (People v. Pitcher, supra; Stanley v. Supr's. 121 (U.S.) 550; Mayor v. Davenport, supra; Cooley Taxation, supra;) the jurisdiction of the state board is independent of the county authorities, (Des Moines v. Saverude, 180 N.W. 193, State ex rel. v. Vaile, 122 Mo. 33; 26 S.W. 672.) The statute prescribing the duties of the state board in equalizing property in the several counties is valid. (St. v. Hackman, (Mo.) 217, S.W. 271;) the provision requiring county boards to effectuate orders of the state board is mandatory. (Hammond v. Windner, supra.) The petition does not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, the judgment below should be reversed.

T. S. Taliaferro, Jr., and M. E. Wilson, for defendants in error.

The amended petition took the place of the original; (1 Bates P. P. 562,) pleadings shall be liberally construed, (5686 C. S.) the demurrer admits all traversable allegations of the petition. (Roberson v. Company, 171 N.Y. 538; 64 N.E. 442; Hance v. Hair, 25 O. St. 349; 1 Bates P. P. 425.) The Colorado decisions cited by plaintiffs in error are not in point, when the facts involved are considered; the value of the land is alleged to be 90 cents an acre; this allegation is admitted by the demurrer. The petition alleges facts showing constructive fraud; over assessment constitutes fraud if arbitrary and coercive. (N. P. R. R. v. Co. 144 P. 1; 26 Ida. 455; Gammill Lbr. Co. v. Supr's, 274 F. 630.) The increase in the present case was exorbitant and unreasonable, and therefore fraudulent. (N. P. Co. v. Co., supra; Manson v. Heston, 83 Iowa 377; 49 N.W. 985.) The notice from the state board was indefinite and uncertain, and never reached the county board, for the reason that it had adjourned after its July meeting. The injury was caused by the unauthorized act of the county assessor. The county board never acted. An increase of one hundred per cent in valuation is not an equalization, but on the contrary creates an inequality. (Manson v. Heston, supra,) it shows arbitrary discrimination. (Spokane v. Co., 143 P. 307; Raymond v. Traction Co., 207 U.S. 20; 52 L.Ed. 78; Gammill Lbr. Co. v. Super's, supra; Green v. R. R. Co., 244 U.S. 499.) The tax injunction statute, (6302 C. S.) goes farther than the ordinary rule of equity. (C. B. & Q. Co. v. Brd., 39 P. 1039; 54 Kans. 781; Citizens Bank v. Brd., 111 P. 496; Finney v. Bullard, 16 L. R. A. (NS) 807;) Horton v. Driscoll is not applicable in the present case on the facts.

The tax involved in Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 298, were held not illegal, and therefore not subject to injunction, but that case differs from the one at bar, and the same may be said of Crewdson v. Nefsy Co. cited by plaintiff in error. The state board has no authority to direct the assessor of Sweetwater County to raise the value of the property involved; the raise was arbitrary and unreasonable, and therefore fraudulent. (People ex rel. v. Bridge Co., 125 N.E. 280; People v. Stuckart, 121 N.E. 629; Fester v. Bosson, 128 N.E. 145; Gas Co. v. Mayor, 101 Md. 541; 61 A. 532;) this is not a collateral attack, but an action for relief under a statute. The County Board of Equalization having adjourned, had no knowledge of the telegram sent by the State Board of Equalization. The question here is one between a taxpayer and taxing officers. An increase of one hundred per cent in the valuation of property above its actual value, shows bad faith. Joint assignment of error must be good as to all persons as signing them, or they are not good as to any. (3 C. J. Sec. 1501; 2 Ency. P. P. 933; Greenawalt v. Impr. Co., 16 Wyo. 226;) in Oden v. Sinton, 234 S.W. 1090, the tax was assessed by an unauthorized person, and held to be void, here we have an assessor applying an increase of valuation without authority, (see also, St. v. Wheatley, 74 So. 427;) the term actual value as used in tax laws, means true, genuine, absolute, or real value. (Birmingham Fire Ins. Co. v. Pulver, 126 Ill. 337;) the remedy afforded by Sec. 2846 C. S. for the refunding of taxes erroneously paid, and which has been argued by counsel for plaintiff in error, in no way limits the remedy rendered by Sec. 6302 C. S.; it has no application here, since it might if followed, necessitate action by county board, which in effect would be a reversal of the state board, a result not contemplated by the legislature. We believe the tax...

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53 practice notes
  • Union Pacific Resources Co. v. State, No. 92-30
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 23, 1992
    ...39 Wyo. 461, 273 P. 696 (1929); Baker v. Paxton, 29 Wyo. 500, Page 381 215 P. 257 (1923); Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Ass'n, 29 Wyo. 461, 215 P. 244 (1923); and Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 284, 79 P. 1042 4 We do not choose to define the availability of declaratory judgment in every ca......
  • Kenosha Auto Transport Corporation v. City of Cheyenne, 2128
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 12, 1940
    ...State v. Irvine, 14 Wyo. 318; Villalpando v. Cheyenne (Wyo.) 65 P.2d 1108; Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 284; Bunten v. Grazing Assn., 29 Wyo. 461; Edwards v. Cheyenne, 19 Wyo. 110; Pierce Oil Corporation v. City of Hope, 248 U.S. 498; Keokee Coke Co. v. Taylor, 234 U.S. 224; Sproles v. Bin......
  • Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Ass'n v. State Bd. of Equalization, T-I
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 31, 1987
    ...by litigation including in early days Baker v. Paxton, 29 Wyo. 500, 215 P. 257 (1923); Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Association, 29 Wyo. 461, 215 P. 244 (1923), and by every authoritative study of the system. See Report Made to the Special Legislative Committee on Organization and Revenue......
  • Application of Beaver Dam Ditch Co. Crowell v. City of Cheyenne, 2044
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 21, 1939
    ...P. 564. The presumption is that officials perform their duties. Improvement Company v. Bradley, 6 Wyo. 171; Bunten v. Grazing Association, 29 Wyo. 461. The presumption is in favor of legality of action of water commissioners. Irrigation & Power Company v. Grant, 44 Wyo. 392; Carstensen v. B......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • Union Pacific Resources Co. v. State, No. 92-30
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 23, 1992
    ...39 Wyo. 461, 273 P. 696 (1929); Baker v. Paxton, 29 Wyo. 500, Page 381 215 P. 257 (1923); Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Ass'n, 29 Wyo. 461, 215 P. 244 (1923); and Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 284, 79 P. 1042 4 We do not choose to define the availability of declaratory judgment in every ca......
  • Kenosha Auto Transport Corporation v. City of Cheyenne, 2128
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 12, 1940
    ...State v. Irvine, 14 Wyo. 318; Villalpando v. Cheyenne (Wyo.) 65 P.2d 1108; Ricketts v. Crewdson, 13 Wyo. 284; Bunten v. Grazing Assn., 29 Wyo. 461; Edwards v. Cheyenne, 19 Wyo. 110; Pierce Oil Corporation v. City of Hope, 248 U.S. 498; Keokee Coke Co. v. Taylor, 234 U.S. 224; Sproles v. Bin......
  • Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Ass'n v. State Bd. of Equalization, T-I
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 31, 1987
    ...by litigation including in early days Baker v. Paxton, 29 Wyo. 500, 215 P. 257 (1923); Bunten v. Rock Springs Grazing Association, 29 Wyo. 461, 215 P. 244 (1923), and by every authoritative study of the system. See Report Made to the Special Legislative Committee on Organization and Revenue......
  • Application of Beaver Dam Ditch Co. Crowell v. City of Cheyenne, 2044
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 21, 1939
    ...P. 564. The presumption is that officials perform their duties. Improvement Company v. Bradley, 6 Wyo. 171; Bunten v. Grazing Association, 29 Wyo. 461. The presumption is in favor of legality of action of water commissioners. Irrigation & Power Company v. Grant, 44 Wyo. 392; Carstensen v. B......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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