City of Lowell v. County Com'rs

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtMORTON
Citation146 Mass. 403,16 N.E. 8
PartiesCITY OF LOWELL v. COUNTY COM'RS.
Decision Date06 March 1888

146 Mass. 403
16 N.E. 8

CITY OF LOWELL
v.
COUNTY COM'RS.

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex.

March 6, 1888.


Reserved case from supreme judicial court; DEVENS, Judge.

Petition by the city of Lowell against the county commissioners of Middlesex county, for a writ of certiorari directed to the respondents commanding them to certify to the court a record of their proceedings in the matter of the abatement of certain taxes assessed by the petitioner upon the Merrimack Manufacturing Company of Lowell. At the hearing in the supreme judicial court the case was reserved for the consideration of the full court. A similar petition was also brought at the same time as the above by the same petitioner relative to the acts of the commissioners in abating a tax assessed upon the Boott Cotton Mills, in said Lowell, and the opinion in the first case governs the second case; the facts in each being substantially the same. The facts appear in the opinion.


[146 Mass. 408]J.N. Marshall and W.F. Courtney, for petitioner, (in case of Merrimack Manufacturing Company.)

The commissioners, having found that the Merrimack Manufacturing Company did not file a list, and that there was no good cause why such list was not seasonably brought in, should have dismissed said company's petition; they had no jurisdiction of the same. Pub.St. c. 11, § 72; Charlestown v. County Com'rs, 101 Mass. 87, 91;Winnisimmet Co. v. Chelsea, 6 Cush. 477;

[16 N.E. 9]

Porter v. County Com'rs, 5 Gray, 365;Otis Co. v. Ware, 8 Gray, 509. The word “person” in chapter 11, Pub.St., includes corporation. Otis Co. v. Ware, supra. Pub.St. c. 13, § 41, is based on the assumption that the corporations comply with the requirements of law, and have the right to appeal from an adverse decision by the assessors. If the right of appeal has been lost, no new right is there given. All acts and parts of acts in pari materia are to be taken together, as if they were one law. Potter's Dwar.St. 189. It should be borne in mind that the public statutes were passed at one and the same time, and constitute one act. Com. v. Goding, 3 Metc. 130. The company's petition was not filed within one month from the time of the refusal of an abatement by the assessors, and the commissioners had no jurisdiction of the same. Pub.St. c. 11, § 71; Id. c. 13, § 41; and cases before cited. Pub.St. c. 3, § 3, par. 13; Elder v. Manufacturing Co., 4 Gray, 201-204. The commissioners had no right to allow the amendment; it made a different case from that before the assessors. It was error to admit the testimony of Charles H. Dalton. The manner in which shares were held had no tendency to show the value of the company's property; nor did the market value of the stock in the company; and much less so when the inquiry was only as to part of the property. Chicopee v. County Com'rs, 16 Gray, 38. The question at issue was not the worth of the land for manufacturing purposes, but its fair cash value. Besides, Mr. Dalton was not qualified to testify as to the same, as he had never bought or sold land in Lowell for manufacturing purposes. Fairbanks v. Fitchburg, 110 Mass. 224. The commissioners erred in excluding the evidence offered by the city as to the value of the property on May 1, 1886, and in ruling that, as a matter of law, they could not hear evidence or determine the true value of said property at said date, and that such was not the inquiry before them, nor to determine between the valuation of the tax commissioners and of the assessors. Pub.St. c. 13, § 41. The property was but one substantive subject of taxation, and should have been so regarded by the commissioners. Water-Power Co. v. Boston, 9 Metc. 199, 204. The record of the commissioners is uncertain, defective, and erroneous. It there appears that their action is contrary to their rulings, and that their findings and the abatement of the tax are based upon the original, and not amended, petition.

J.N. Marshall and W.F. Courtney, for petitioner in case of Boott Cotton Mills.


The commissioners had no authority to allow the amendment to the petition. It was error to admit the testimony of Charles J. Goodwin. Pub.St. c. 11, § 45; Id. c. 13, § 41. It was error to exclude evidence of the cash value of the property. Pub.St. c. 13, § 41. Every word and clause of a statute is presumed to have been intended to have some force and effect. Opinion of Court, 22 Pick. 573;Com. v. McCaughey, 9 Gray, 297. The interpretation should lean strongly to avoid absurd consequences, injustice, and even great inconvenience. Com. v. Loring, 8 Pick. 370;Com. v. Slack, 19 Pick. 304;Ayers v. Knox, 7 Mass. 306, 310.

Andrew J. Waterman, Atty. Gen., for the Commonwealth.


In 1864, and subsequently in 1865, when the present corporation tax law was enacted, (or that which is substantially the one now in force,) there existed in the general law as to abatement of taxes the provision now embodied in section 72, c. 11, of the Public Statutes. Section 6 of said act of 1864, together with the former tax law of the General Statutes, (chapter 11,) became consolidated in the Public Statutes as chapter 11. In considering the present law, the relation of the original acts to each other may be considered, under the rule that the general history of legislation may be taken into account, including repealed statutes, in construing the law. Eaton v. Green, 22 Pick. 531;Holbrook v. Bliss, 9 Allen, 74. The two original acts contemplated different

[16 N.E. 10]

interests. They are, in fact, directed to different parties, whose interests under the law might be antagonistic. Section 41 of chapter 13 provides that an appeal shall be prosecuted in accordance with section 71, c. 11; and said section 71 seems to make an absolute provision for application for abatement without reference to sworn list. The evidence of Coe was admissible; and even if it were not, its admission was not the subject of exception, there being other sufficient evidence on the same point. Farmington v. County Com'rs, 112 Mass. 213;Cobb v. Lucas, 15 Pick. 1;Gleason v. Sloper, 24 Pick. 181. Whether or not the witnesses offered were qualified as experts was a matter within the discretion of the commissioners. Hills v. Insurance Co., 129 Mass. 345;Perkins v. Stickney, 132 Mass. 217. The amendment of the corporation was properly allowed. The applicant had a right to abandon totally its application for abatement, and in equal reason to limit or narrow its application. The rule of average on different pieces of property was not applied by the assessors, and could not have been properly applied by the commissioners. The assessors and commissioners had authority only to abate. They could not increase the valuation on any particular piece which had been separately assessed. Lowell v. County Com'rs, 3 Allen, 549. The corporation had a right to rest content, and not apply for abatement. It had a right to be satisfied as to the valuation of the assessors upon a part which had been separately assessed, and to ask for abatement as to another part. The assessors cannot meet an objection that the buildings were overassessed by answering that the land was under-assessed, or to the complaint that property A. was overassessed by answering that property B., belonging to the same party, was under-assessed. Id. The evidence offered by the corporation was admissible as offered. Under the rule laid down in the case last above cited, the evidence offered by the city was incompetent to the extent claimed. The commissioners could not have been aided in the least by the evidence, for, notwithstanding the aggregate assessment against the corporation was not too high, that result may have come from the fact that certain parcels of estate were assessed too low; which balanced overvaluations on other parcels, and the commissioners had no right to adopt such an average plan of adjustment. The commissioners did not undertake to value the whole property. They, in effect, properly assume that the valuation as made by the assessors on the part not objected to must stand. It...

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19 practice notes
  • Cent. Nat. Bank v. City of Lynn
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • March 12, 1927
    ...to abatement. [259 Mass. 5]Milford Water Co. v. Hopkinton, 192 Mass. 491, 498, 78 N. E. 451. The cases of Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 16 N. E. 8, and Essex Company v. Lwarence, 214 Mass. 79, 100 N. E. 1016, afford no support to any contrary theory because they relate to a......
  • Moran v. Sch. Comm. of Littleton
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 5, 1945
    ...[59 N.E.2d 283]case. See Farmington River Water Power Co. v. County Commissioners, 112 Mass. 206, 213; Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 412, 16 N.E. 8; Pigeon's Case, 216 Mass. 51, 55, 102 N.E. 932, Ann.Cas.1915A, 737;Fandel v. Board of Zoning Adjustment of Boston, 280 Mass. 1......
  • Amory v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 9, 1947
    ...be limited to a comparatively small area in which the rights may be made available. Lowell v. County Commissioners of Middlesex, 146 Mass. 403, 413, 16 N.E. 8; [72 N.E.2d 559]Blackstone Mfg. Co. v. Blackstone, 200 Mass. 82, 85 N.E. 880, 18 L.R.A.,N.S., 755; Essex Co. v. Lawrence, 214 Mass. ......
  • Walsh v. Justice of the Dist. Court of Springfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 29, 1937
    ...in substantial prejudice. Farmington River Water Power Co. v. County Commissioners, 112 Mass. 206, 213;Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 412, 16 N.E. 8;Fandel v. Zoning Adjustment Board of Boston, 280 Mass. 195, 198, 182 N.E. 343. The same rule applies in other somewhat analogo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Cent. Nat. Bank v. City of Lynn
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • March 12, 1927
    ...to abatement. [259 Mass. 5]Milford Water Co. v. Hopkinton, 192 Mass. 491, 498, 78 N. E. 451. The cases of Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 16 N. E. 8, and Essex Company v. Lwarence, 214 Mass. 79, 100 N. E. 1016, afford no support to any contrary theory because they relate to a......
  • Moran v. Sch. Comm. of Littleton
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 5, 1945
    ...[59 N.E.2d 283]case. See Farmington River Water Power Co. v. County Commissioners, 112 Mass. 206, 213; Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 412, 16 N.E. 8; Pigeon's Case, 216 Mass. 51, 55, 102 N.E. 932, Ann.Cas.1915A, 737;Fandel v. Board of Zoning Adjustment of Boston, 280 Mass. 1......
  • Amory v. Commonwealth
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 9, 1947
    ...be limited to a comparatively small area in which the rights may be made available. Lowell v. County Commissioners of Middlesex, 146 Mass. 403, 413, 16 N.E. 8; [72 N.E.2d 559]Blackstone Mfg. Co. v. Blackstone, 200 Mass. 82, 85 N.E. 880, 18 L.R.A.,N.S., 755; Essex Co. v. Lawrence, 214 Mass. ......
  • Walsh v. Justice of the Dist. Court of Springfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • June 29, 1937
    ...in substantial prejudice. Farmington River Water Power Co. v. County Commissioners, 112 Mass. 206, 213;Lowell v. County Commissioners, 146 Mass. 403, 412, 16 N.E. 8;Fandel v. Zoning Adjustment Board of Boston, 280 Mass. 195, 198, 182 N.E. 343. The same rule applies in other somewhat analogo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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