Coggins v. Ely

Decision Date10 December 1921
Docket NumberCivil 2009
Citation23 Ariz. 155,202 P. 391
PartiesL. W. COGGINS, Appellant, v. SIMS ELY, L. D. DAMERON, and C. W. HORNBERGER, as Trustees of School District No. 1 of Maricopa County, Arizona, A. L. JONES, as County Superintendent of Schools of Maricopa County, Arizona, and VERNON L. WRIGHT, County Treasurer of Maricopa County, Arizona, Appellees
CourtArizona Supreme Court

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of Maricopa. F. H. Lyman, Judge. Affirmed.

Mr Arthur T. La Prade, for Appellant.

Mr. R E. L. Shepherd, County Attorney, and Messrs. Kibbey, Bennett Gust & Smith, for Appellees.

OPINION

FLANIGAN, J.

The appellant, a taxpayer in school district No. 1 of Maricopa county, brought suit in the superior court of said county to enjoin the appellees, who are respectively the trustees of said school district, the superintendent of schools of said county, and the treasurer thereof, from ordering, drawing, or delivering the warrants of the district to the school teachers thereof, bearing the treasurer's indorsement of "no funds" and calling for the payment of interest thereon at the rate of eight per cent per annum from the date of such indorsement. The court rendered judgment refusing to grant the injunction, and the case is here on appeal from such judgment. The controversy arises over the effect and meaning of chapter 10 of the Session Laws of Arizona of 1921, which reads as follows:

"An act providing for the payment of interest upon school warrants whenever there are no funds in the hands of the county treasurer to the credit of the school district against which the warrant or warrants are drawn.

"Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

"Section 1. When any warrant drawn by the county school superintendent of any county is presented to the county treasurer of such county when there are no funds in his hands to the credit of the school district against which the warrant is drawn, the county treasurer shall indorse such warrant 'No funds,' and such warrant shall draw interest from the date of such indorsement at the rate of not to exceed 8 per cent per annum; provided that 8 per cent interest applies to salary warrants only. The county treasurer shall keep a list of all warrants so indorsed, and shall pay them whenever there is sufficient money to the credit of the proper fund in the order of such indorsement. The interest on such warrants shall stop when the county treasurer shall give notice that he has money to pay the same.

"Sec. 2. All acts and parts of acts in conflict with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed."

"Approved February 15th, 1921."

At the time of the passage of this act it was provided by paragraph 2708, Revised Statutes, Civil Code of 1913, that "no warrant shall be drawn [by the county school superintendent] unless the money is in the proper fund to pay it," this provision being found in subdivision 2 of that section, of which we quote the first two subdivisions:

"It shall be the duty of the county school superintendent of each county:

"(1) To apportion the school moneys of each district of his county, and to notify the county treasurer, in writing, of the amount apportioned to each district, and to notify, in writing, the trustees of each school district in his county the amount apportioned to their several districts.

"(2) On the order of the board of school trustees of any district, to draw his warrant on the county treasurer for all necessary expenses against the school fund of any such district; the warrants must be drawn in the order in which the vouchers therefor are filed in his office. No warrant shall be drawn unless the money is in the proper fund to pay it, nor shall any warrant for any teacher's salary be drawn unless the voucher shall state the monthly salary of the teacher and the name of the school month for which said salary is due. Upon receipt of such voucher the county superintendent shall draw his warrant upon the county treasurer in favor of the parties, and for the amount stated in such voucher. To keep open to the inspection of the public a register of warrants showing the funds upon which the warrants have been drawn, the number thereof, in whose favor, and for what purpose drawn, and also a receipt from the person to whom the warrant was delivered."

The court below held that the legal effect of chapter 10 was to repeal the prohibition referred to, and that by reason of such repeal the superintendent was authorized to draw warrants upon such school fund whether there were moneys in the fund or not. It was held that --

"The repeal of this provision leaves the county school superintendent with the same authority to draw warrants upon the school funds as other proper officers have to draw warrants upon other funds in the hands of the county treasurer whether there is money in such fund or not and that such warrants so drawn by the county school superintendent then stand upon the same basis as warrants drawn by other proper officers of the county, and bear interest at the rate of six per cent per annum from the date of their presentation to the county treasurer for payment and until notice is given by such treasurer that such warrants will be paid upon their presentation to him. And that the further legal effect of said chapter 10, of the Session Laws of the Fifth Legislature of Arizona, is to give to district school trustees the power to direct that such warrants issued by the county school superintendent upon their order for salaries of employees of such districts shall bear interest at the rate of eight per cent per annum from the date of their presentation to the Treasurer for payment and his indorsement thereon of 'No funds.'"

The provisions with reference to the duties and powers of county treasurers, referred to in the court's holding, are paragraphs 2567 and 2568 of the Revised Statutes, Civil Code of 1913, which read as follows:

"2567. When a warrant is presented for payment, if there is no money in the treasury for that purpose, he must pay the same, and write or stamp on the face thereof 'paid,' the date of payment, and sign his name thereto.

"2568. When any warrant is presented to the treasurer for payment and the same is not paid for want of funds, the treasurer must indorse thereon, 'Not paid for want of funds,' annexing the date of presentation, and sign his name thereto; and from that time until paid the warrant bears six per cent per annum interest. He must keep a register of warrants presented for payment."

It is contended by appellant that chapter 10 is inoperative and void because section 1 of said chapter merely presumes that there is law authorizing the drawing of warrants by the county school superintendent upon a fund in which there is no money, and as the chapter does not purport to effect any repeal of the prior law in the respect mentioned it cannot have such effect. And it is also contended that the act is void because it does not provide a fixed rate of interest, nor authorize any board, officer, or person expressly or by necessary implication to fix such rate of interest, upon warrants to be issued thereunder. The statute is also assailed for unconstitutionality upon certain grounds, which contentions we hereafter examine.

We consider first the claim that the act is void for uncertainty because it neither fixes a definite rate of interest to be paid upon warrants issued thereunder, nor properly authorizes any board, person, or officer so to do. It is elementary that a court will not declare a law void for uncertainty or ambiguity, unless, after using every authorized means to ascertain and give the act an intelligent meaning, it is found impossible to clear up the doubt and dissolve the obscurity. Courts in the expounding of law cannot assume that the language of a statute is a mere idle or meaningless collection of words, without significance or legal effect, but must, consistent with established principles of construction, where the intent is not evident or plainly expressed, search for the legislative intent that it may be declared and enforced. For the purpose of arriving at the intention, resort may be had to the words, the context, the subject matter, the effects and consequences, the spirit and reason of the law, and other acts in pari materia. Sutherland, Statutory Construction (Lewis' 2d ed.), § 586.

And it is the duty of the court in such cases, and a cardinal rule, to sustain and uphold statutes rather than to ignore or defeat them; to give them operation, if the language will permit, instead of treating them as meaningless; ut res magis valeat, quam pereat. Id., § 498; Young v. Regents of University, 87 Kan. 239, Ann. Cas. 1913D, 701, 124 P. 150; Gilbert v. Craddock, 67 Kan. 346, 72 P. 869; Hogan v. Piggott, 60 W.Va. 541, 56 S.E. 189; Inhabitants of Orvil Tp. v. Mayor etc. of Woodcliff, 64 N.J.L. 286, 45 A. 686.

It is also elementary that we may determine the legislative intent from necessary implication as to what was intended. What is necessarily implied in a statute is as much a part of it as what is expressed. Speaking of this subject of necessary implication, the court, in the case of Gilbert v. Craddock, supra, says:

"It [the implication] may be drawn from public policy; past acts the entire terms, purposes, and scope of the act to be considered; the inconvenience, inconsistencies, and the absurdities involved in the contrary consideration; indeed, from all of the things found in the act, the conditions surrounding it, the history antedating it, the purposes to be accomplished by it, and the policy dictating it. . . . On the same subject, it is said in Sutherland on Statutory Construction, section 336;...

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