City of Prattville v. Joyner

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtHORNSBY; MADDOX; COOK
Citation661 So.2d 1158
PartiesCITY OF PRATTVILLE, et al. v. Leon Harold JOYNER. 1931245.
Decision Date12 May 1995

Page 1158

661 So.2d 1158
CITY OF PRATTVILLE, et al.
v.
Leon Harold JOYNER.
1931245.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
May 12, 1995.

Page 1159

George H. Howell of Howell, Sarto & Howell, Prattville, for Appellants.

Alfred Q. Booth, Prattville, Donald G. Madison, Montgomery, for Appellee.

J. Kenneth Smith, Montgomery, for Amicus curiae Alabama League of Municipalities, in support of the appellant City of Prattville.

HORNSBY, Chief Justice.

This case presents the issue whether the City of Prattville may terminate fire protection services to the residents and businesses located within its police jurisdiction. 1 On October 19, 1993, the Prattville City Council passed an ordinance that withdrew fire protection from Prattville's police jurisdiction. Originally, the ordinance was to be in effect as of January 1, 1994; however, its effective date was delayed until May 1, 1994. On April 29, 1994, Leon Joyner, the owner of a business located within the Prattville police jurisdiction, sought declaratory relief and an order restraining the City from terminating the fire protection. On April 30, 1994, the trial judge temporarily restrained Prattville from terminating fire protection, and on May 15, 1994, after a hearing on the merits, the trial court entered a preliminary injunction. Prattville appeals.

Although this appeal presents several questions, the dispositive issue is whether Prattville owes a duty to provide police and fire protection 2 to residents of the police jurisdiction and to people who, like Joyner, own businesses within the police jurisdiction. The trial court's order set out the general issue in this case as follows:

"This lawsuit may more appropriately be said to present an ultimately broader issue of whether a municipality owes a duty to provide police and fire protection to individual and/or business residents located within the statutorily defined police jurisdiction of the municipality. Several questions might be posed for purposes of inquiry and analysis of the existing rationale found in our case law. For instance, if a 'duty' does exist for a municipality to provide police and fire protection to its police jurisdiction, is the 'duty' derivative from the purpose for the statutory creation and definition of the area around a city known as the 'police jurisdiction'? Or does any existing 'duty' to provide such police and fire protection only arise when a municipality collects certain revenue from the businesses and residents of the police jurisdiction? If so, to what extent is the performance of such 'duty' legally altered, amended or eliminated by a municipality's choice to withdraw services as opposed to continuing services while collecting sufficient revenues from the police jurisdiction to cover the incremental costs of covering the area with police and fire protection? In other words, does any existing 'duty' dissipate at the will of those council members entrusted to govern the affairs of the City or does such a 'duty' arise by operation of law requiring the City to perform the 'duty' for the benefit of those located within the police jurisdiction?"

(Emphasis original).

This Court has not addressed a case where a city has chosen to collect business license fees and sales tax in exchange for providing police and fire protection, and has then withdrawn such services over the objection of the

Page 1160

residents and owners of businesses in the police jurisdiction. Rather, the case law in this area has developed through the numerous challenges made by businesses located in the police jurisdictions of municipalities, which contested the legality of the city's assessment of license taxes or other revenue measures. Although not directly on point, that case law is at least instructive to our analysis in this case.

In 1978, the United States Supreme Court addressed the relationship between a municipality and the businesses and residents located within the municipality's police jurisdiction, in Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa, 439 U.S. 60, 99 S.Ct. 383, 58 L.Ed.2d 292 (1978). In Holt Civic Club, an unincorporated civic association and certain residents of Holt, a small, rural unincorporated community on the outskirts of Tuscaloosa, brought a statewide class action to challenge the constitutionality of Alabama statutes that subjected the community to Tuscaloosa's police and sanitary regulation, to the criminal jurisdiction of the city's court, and to the city's power to license businesses, trades, and professions, but that did so without providing those persons an opportunity to participate in the political processes of the city. The Court held valid Alabama's statutes allowing municipalities to exercise a certain amount of power over their police jurisdictions; it explained:

"Unincorporated communities like Holt dot the rim of most major population centers in Alabama and elsewhere, and state legislatures have a legitimate interest in seeing that this substantial segment of the population does not go without basic municipal services such as police, fire and health protection. Established cities are experienced in the delivery of such services, and the incremental cost of extending the city's responsibility in these areas to surrounding environs may be substantially less than the expense of establishing wholly new service organizations in each community."

Holt Civic Club, 439 U.S. at 74, 99 S.Ct. at 392.

Holt Civic Club followed several opinions of this Court that had upheld certain regulatory ordinances as a proper exercise of the police power and as applicable to the municipality's police jurisdiction. See Standard Chemical & Oil Co. v. City of Troy, 201 Ala. 89, 77 So. 383 (1917), and Walden v. City of Montgomery, 214 Ala. 409, 108 So. 231 (1926). Soon after those two cases there followed Alabama cases indicating that the amount of tax levied upon a particular business located within the police jurisdiction "must reflect the reasonable compensation for the expense of municipal supervision over the particular business." Ex parte City of Leeds, 473 So.2d 1060, 1061 (Ala.1985). See also Alabama Power Co. v. City of Carbon Hill, 234 Ala. 489, 175 So. 289 (1937), and Hawkins v. City of Prichard, 249 Ala. 234, 30 So.2d 659 (1947).

In 1989 this Court expanded the notion of taxing the businesses and residents of the police jurisdiction in order to compensate the municipality for providing certain services. In State Department of Revenue v. Reynolds Metals Co., 541 So.2d 524 (Ala.1988), this Court held that a municipality may collect reasonable expenses from within the police jurisdiction, regardless of the individual benefit to each business. Reynolds Metals provides a close look at the historical development of the concept of allowing municipalities to tax residents and businesses in its police jurisdiction in exchange for providing police and fire protection within that police jurisdiction. In Reynolds Metals, this Court stated, "A municipality owes the residents of, and businesses located in, its police jurisdiction, the duty 'to provide for the safety, preserve the health, promote the prosperity, and improve the morals, order, comfort, and convenience' of those residents and businesses." 541 So.2d at 531.

The Court further explained the relationship of a municipality and its police jurisdiction:

"The municipality owes a business within its police jurisdiction the duty to provide fire protection as well as police protection of its physical plant. Accidents, fires, crimes, and other hazards requiring the services of city government do not occur on such a regular basis that they can be measured or predicted as to each individual

Page 1161

business. But in the world as it now is, they do happen; and the municipality must be prepared, with personnel and equipment, to respond to these calamities when they do occur."

Id. While it might seem that Reynolds Metals potentially answers the question at hand, Reynolds Metals addressed only the relationship between the business license tax imposed in the police jurisdiction and the cost of the services being rendered there. The municipality in Reynolds Metals did not challenge whether it owed the residents within its police jurisdiction a "duty" to provide such services. Therefore, when the Court held in Reynolds Metals that a duty existed, it held that a city that accepted the responsibility to provide the service was entitled to collect taxes for the reasonable value of the service.

In all cases before today, the municipality was attempting to establish a relationship with the police jurisdiction by providing health and safety services while being compensated through a fair taxing system. The reasons for establishing such a relationship lie within the long-established public policy that the State has a significant interest in promoting the health and safety of the large number of people residing or conducting business outside the limits of incorporated municipalities and that the State has a significant interest in promoting the growth and development of these areas. Moreover, the State correctly recognizes that without certain protections and rules within police jurisdictions, the welfare of those within the corporate limits of the municipality would suffer.

In the present case, Prattville seeks to terminate this relationship. The primary focus of Prattville's argument is that all the statutes granting cities the power to govern police jurisdictions are "enabling acts" that do not establish a statutory "duty" to provide police and fire protection services to the police jurisdictions.

According to Prattville, a city can elect what services it will provide and can tax businesses and residents in the police jurisdiction at an amount that does not exceed the reasonable cost of those services. Therefore, Prattville maintains, a "duty" arises only as a result of the activity that is undertaken by the city. Prattville further argues that, based...

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6 practice notes
  • HOWELL LUMBER CO., INC. v. City of Tuscaloosa
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • March 28, 1997
    ...the cost of services provided by a city within its police jurisdiction outlined by our supreme court in City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995); and (3) limitation of Joyner to prospective application. We note that the City anticipated that Howell Lumber's appeal and its cro......
  • Peterson v. City of Abbeville, 1051802.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 20, 2008
    ...no objection to their plan. Again, the City [of Foley] presented no evidence to refute this statement. "In City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995)(Joyner I), this Court affirmed an injunction estopping the City of Prattville from denying fire protection services to residents......
  • City of Prattville v. Joyner
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 13, 1997
    ...terminate fire protection services to residents and businesses located within its police jurisdiction. See, City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995) (hereinafter referred to as Joyner I Most of the basic facts are stated in Joyner I, but we state a few of those facts again fo......
  • City of Attalla v. Dean Sausage Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • July 11, 2003
    ...P.J., and CRAWLEY and THOMPSON, JJ., concur. MURDOCK, J., dissents. -------- Notes: 1. Joyner II overruled City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995), the opinion issued in the first appeal in that 2. In State Department of Revenue v. Taft Coal Sales & Associates, Inc., supra, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • HOWELL LUMBER CO., INC. v. City of Tuscaloosa
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • March 28, 1997
    ...the cost of services provided by a city within its police jurisdiction outlined by our supreme court in City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995); and (3) limitation of Joyner to prospective application. We note that the City anticipated that Howell Lumber's appeal and its cro......
  • Peterson v. City of Abbeville, 1051802.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 20, 2008
    ...no objection to their plan. Again, the City [of Foley] presented no evidence to refute this statement. "In City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995)(Joyner I), this Court affirmed an injunction estopping the City of Prattville from denying fire protection services to residents......
  • City of Prattville v. Joyner
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 13, 1997
    ...terminate fire protection services to residents and businesses located within its police jurisdiction. See, City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995) (hereinafter referred to as Joyner I Most of the basic facts are stated in Joyner I, but we state a few of those facts again fo......
  • City of Attalla v. Dean Sausage Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • July 11, 2003
    ...P.J., and CRAWLEY and THOMPSON, JJ., concur. MURDOCK, J., dissents. -------- Notes: 1. Joyner II overruled City of Prattville v. Joyner, 661 So.2d 1158 (Ala.1995), the opinion issued in the first appeal in that 2. In State Department of Revenue v. Taft Coal Sales & Associates, Inc., supra, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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