City of Lansing v. Lansing Tp., 6

Citation356 Mich. 641,97 N.W.2d 804
Decision Date13 July 1959
Docket NumberNo. 6,6
PartiesCITY OF LANSING, a municipal corporation, Plaintiff, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, v. TOWNSHIP OF LANSING, a municipal corporation, Defendant, Appellee and Cross-Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

Joseph Lavey, Lansing, George R. Sidwell, Lansing, of counsel, for appellant.

Claude J. Marshall, Lansing, for appellee.

Before the Entire Bench.

KAVANAGH, Justice.

November 12, 1949, part of the territory of the defendant township of Lansing contiguous to the plaintiff city of Lansing was annexed to the city by a vote of the people of the township.

The city of Lansing is incorporated as a home rule city. The annexation raised certain issues which are the subject matter of this suit, all of which involve the division of the assets and liabilities of the township between the city and the township. Problems with respect to the real property division appear to have been worked out between the parties without difficulty. A stipulation was entered into which narrowed the dispute down to four issues, which are as follows:

1) What is the ratio of the division of the personal property of the township between the township and the city?

2) Is the Lansing township west side water supply system personal property and subject to a division between the township and the city?

3) To what extent was the contract to construct 4 fire stations, executed on August 26, 1949, and which contract has a balance due of $61,117.05, an indebtedness of the township on the date of annexation?

4) Are the township-at-large drain taxes of 1949, 1950, and 1951 a liability of the township at the time of annexation to the city?

The answer with respect to the first question would seem to be a simple one since the statute then in effect, C.L.1948, § 117.14 (Stat.Ann.1949 Rev. § 5.2093), with reference to annexation of territory by home rule cities provides in part:

'Whenever a part of a city, village or township is annexed to a city, all of the personal property belonging to any such city, village or township from which territory is detached shall be divided between the township, city or village from which said territory is detached and the city to which the territory is annexed, in the same ratio as the assessed valuation of the taxable property in the territory annexed bears to the assessed valuation of the taxable property in the remaining portion of the city, village or township from which said territory is taken.' (Emphasis supplied.)

It was stipulated in the instant case that the assessed valuation of the taxable property of the whole township on annexation was $20,255,652. The assessed valuation of the taxable property of the part of the township annexed was $5,072,592, and the assessed valuation of the remaining part of the township was $15,183,060. Under the statute applicable at the time of annexation in 1949, the division of the personal property was:

Part annexed

Remaining portion of township. Thus, the division of personal property ratio is $5,072,592. In cities other than $15,183,060 home rule cities, school districts, etc., the ratio is The part annexed. Whole township or district

C.L.1948, § 117.14 was amended by P.A.1951, No. 158 (C.L.S.1954, § 117.14 [Stat.Ann.1955 Cum.Supp. § 5.2093]), to change the rule with respect to home rule cities, and provided that the ratio of division of the personal property in home rule cities was: The part annexed. Whole township

The chancellor indicated he was convinced that the legislature had made a mistake in passing the law relative to the ratio of the division of personal property on annexation to a home rule city; and that that mistake was corrected in 1951 by the public acts of that year treating all types of cities the same. He reasoned that the new action was taken to avoid absurd results and indicated that the whole formula was absurd, ambiguous and unworkable in some cases of annexation. Under the theory that a statute which is of doubtful meaning and ambiguous opens the door to a judicial determination of the legislative intent, the court proceeded to hold that the ratio of the division of the personal property in this case is the ratio of the present law, that is, the part annexed to the entire township, and not the part annexed to the remaining portion of the township.

While the rule as stated by the chancellor is correct as to the power of the judiciary to properly interpret ambiguous statutes and determine the legislative intent, such law must actually be ambiguous or of doubtful meaning. The mere fact a statute appears impolitic or unwise is not sufficient for judicial construction but is a matter for the legislature. Yearnd v. Northern Insurance Company of New York, 245 Mich. 566, 222 N.W. 737.

The wording as to the division of personal property was placed in section 14 of the home rule act at the time the legislature amended the section to include the division of the personal property of townships, which had not been subject to division prior to the adoption of the amendatory Act No. 233 of P.A.1931. It is clear the legislature must have intended a different division in the case of personal property from what it intended with respect to the proceeds of the sale of the township's real property and the division of the township's indebtedness and liabilities.

No ambiguity in wording or meaning exists in the statutory provision now before the Court which would require judicial interpretation and construction. As stated in Melia v. Employment Security Commission, 346 Mich. 544, 561, 78 N.W.2d 273, 275:

'The duty of the Court is to interpret the statute as we find it. The wisdom of the provision in question in the form in which it was enacted is a matter of legislative responsibility with which courts may not interfere.'

In the same case the Court further said (346 Mich. at page 562, 78 N.W.2d at page 275):

'The cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature. If the language of a statutory provision is unambiguous, the intent must be determined accordingly.'

A statute is not open to construction as a matter of course, but only where the language used in the statute requires interpretation--where it is ambiguous or where two or more constructions can be placed upon it, where it is of such doubtful or obscure meaning that reasonable minds might be uncertain or disagree as to its meaning. 'A plain and unambiguous statute is to be applied, and not interpreted, since such a statute speaks for itself, and any attempt to make it clearer is a vain labor and tends only to obscurity.' 50 Am.Jur., Statutes, § 225, p. 207.

The express wording of the statute in this case does not fall within the above provisions so as to justify judicial interpretation. Certainly it is plain, unambiguous and not subject to different interpretations by two reasonable minds. It is clear, definite, and would be easily understood by even those not trained in the law. The language of this statute, therefore, leaves no room for judicial construction. In re Merrill, 200 Mich. 244, 167 N.W. 30; City of Grand Rapids v. Crocker, 219 Mich. 178, 189 N.W. 221; City of Detroit v. Township of Redford, 253 Mich. 453, 235 N.W. 217; Detroit Trust Co. v. Hartwick, 278 Mich. 139, 270 N.W. 249; People v. Powell, 280 Mich. 699, 274 N.W. 372, 111 A.L.R. 721; Detroit Edison Co. v. Secretary of State, 281 Mich. 428, 275 N.W. 196; In re Chamberlain's Estate, 298 Mich. 278, 299 N.W. 82; In re Gay's Estate, 310 Mich. 226, 17 N.W.2d 163; Geraldine v. Miller, 322 Mich. 85, 33 N.W.2d 672; Knapp v. Palmer, 324 Mich. 694, 37 N.W.2d 679; Van Antwerp v. State, 334 Mich. 593, 55 N.W.2d 108; Mercy Hospital v. Crippled Children Commission, 340 Mich. 404, 65 N.W.2d 838; Bartkowiak v. Wayne County, 341 Mich. 333, 67 N.W.2d 96; School District No. 9, Pittsfield Township, Washtenaw County v. Washtenaw County Board of Supervisors, 341 Mich. 388, 67 N.W.2d 165; Big Bear Markets of Michigan, Inc. v. Michigan Liquor Control Commission, 345 Mich. 569, 77 N.W.2d 135.

No intent may be imputed to the legislature in the enactment of a law other than such is supported by the face of the law itself. The courts may not speculate as to the probable intent of the legislature beyond the words employed in the act.

Nowhere in the statute under consideration did the legislature, by words or any other manner, provide for a different rule of construction or express an intention to apply any other ratio than the one affirmatively and clearly expressed in the wording of the statute.

The claim of defendant that since plaintiff has chosen an equity court to try the case the question presented should be considered from an equitable viewpoint, and that the division under the statute is grossly inequitable, is not effective. Courts of equity, as well as of law, must apply legislative enactments in accord with the plain intent of the legislature. St. Helen Resort Association, Inc. v. Hannan, 321 Mich. 536, 33 N.W.2d 74. See, also, G. F. Sanborn Co. v. Alston, 153 Mich. 456, 116 N.W. 1099.

An argument that a statute as construed may in certain instances work great hardship is one that should be addressed to the legislature rather than the court. Nieminen v. Isle Royale Copper Co., 214 Mich. 212, 183 N.W. 9.

A question with respect to the constitutionality of this section of the statute is raised. Defendant contends it is in violation of due process and equal protection provisions of the State Constitution, Const. art. 2, § 16 and the United States Constitution, Const.Amend. 14, in that it is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable in the classification of home rule cities as compared with other cities or municipal corporations and real property and indebtedness and liabilities in a division upon annexation of part of a township.

Ordinarily it must be assumed there was a sound basis in the reason for the legislature's classification...

To continue reading

Request your trial
111 cases
  • Petersen v. Magna Corp., No. 136542
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 31, 2009
    ...450 Mich 316, 326; 537 NW2d 842 (1995). 70.See, e.g., In re MCI Telecom Complaint, supra; Sam, supra; City of Lansing v Lansing Twp, 356 Mich 641; 97 NW2d 804 (1959); People v Detroit, GH & M R Co, 228 Mich 596; 200 NW 536 (1924); Crary, supra; Borden v Fletcher's Estate, 131 Mich 220; 91 N......
  • Pohutski v. City of Allen Park, Docket No. 116949
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 2, 2002
    ...about an unstated purpose where the unambiguous text plainly reflects the intent of the Legislature. See Lansing v. Lansing Twp., 356 Mich. 641, 649-650, 97 N.W.2d 804 (1959). When parsing a statute, we presume every word is used for a purpose. As far as possible, we give effect to every cl......
  • Franks v. White Pine Copper Div., Copper Range Co., Docket Nos. 70901
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • October 7, 1985
    ...of such doubtful or obscure meaning that reasonable minds might be uncertain or disagree as to its meaning." City of Lansing v. Lansing Twp., supra, 356 Mich. p. 649, 97 N.W.2d 804. See also Owendale-Gagetown School Dist., supra, 413 Mich. p. 8, 317 N.W.2d 529; Selk, supra, 419 Mich. p. 8, ......
  • Citizens for Pre-Trial Justice v. Goldfarb, PRE-TRIAL
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • February 20, 1979
    ...Where the statute's meaning is clear and unambiguous the statute speaks for itself, and our task is at an end. Lansing v. Lansing Twp., 356 Mich. 641, 649, 97 N.W.2d 804 (1959). The term "face value" as applied to a bail bond is unambiguous and explicit. Its meaning may in some circumstance......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT