Fox v. Cameron County

Decision Date24 October 1923
Docket Number(No. 7004.)<SMALL><SUP>*</SUP></SMALL>
Citation257 S.W. 1111
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Appeal from District Court, Cameron County; W. B. Hopkins, Judge.

Action by Cameron County against J. J. Fox. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Reversed and rendered.

Seabury, George & Taylor and R. A. Hightower, all of Brownsville, for appellant.

Spears & Montgomery, of San Benito, and Graham, Jones, Williams & Ransome, of Brownsville, for appellee.


This suit is by Cameron County, appellee, to recover from appellant, J. J. Fox, the sum of $650 alleged to have been unlawfully and illegally paid to him, as tax collector, representing the premium paid on two official bonds of appellant with a surety company, one for $63,000 and one for $100,000. The case was tried before the court without a jury.

It is conceded that this appellant duly presented the claim for said sum of money to the commissioners' court of Cameron county, sitting as a court duly in its regular term time, having full knowledge of all the facts adjudged the law in favor of appellant on the justness and validity of the claim, and caused a voucher or warrant to issue to appellant for $650 payable out of the general fund in satisfaction thereof, and the money was duly paid and received thereon by appellant. It was shown on the trial of this case that the taxable values assessed for state and county purposes were $23,606,240; taxable values on supplemental rolls, $330,900; taxable values in two drainage districts, $6,182,800; total, $30,119,940.

The main issue, narrowed down, is whether or not, in passing upon or allowing the claim, the commissioners' court could only consider the tax values assessed for state and county purposes, and could not consider the taxable values in the two drainage districts. If the court had the power to consider the last-named item in making up its judgment that would bring the values up to $30,000,000 or more, and by virtue of article 7610, R. S., as amended by chapter 146 of the Acts of the Thirty-Fifth Legislature (Vernon's Ann. Civ. St. Supp. 1918, art. 7610), it would be within the plain powers of the court to allow the claim.

The important question arises: Did the commissioners' court exceed its authority in considering the item of drainage district taxable values, in their calculation of total values, in respect to the whole matter.

The language of the statute provides as follows:

"In the event the bonds required under the terms of this article and also under article 7608 or either thereof, and executed by a satisfactory surety company or companies or by any private party or parties as surety or sureties thereon in counties with a total taxable valuation of thirty million ($30,000,000) dollars or more, the county of which the principal in said bonds is tax collector shall pay a reasonable amount as premium on said bond or bonds which amount shall be paid out of the general revenue of the county upon presentation of the bill therefor to the commissioners' court of the county properly authenticated as required by law in other claims against the county, and should there be any controversy as to the reasonableness of the amount claimed, as such premium, such controversy may be determined by any court of competent jurisdiction. (Act Aug. 21, 1876, p. 260, § 4; Act March 22, 1915, c. 124, § 1; Act March 30, 1917, c. 146, § 1.)"

We find no good reason why, in fixing the total taxable valuation, the commissioners' court were not allowed to take into account the taxable values in the drainage districts. Such values were noted when the penalty of the bonds were required to be named, for which amount he was liable and for which he and his sureties were bonded.

We are not willing to adopt the view of appellee that, because the bonds provided for, in article 7608, required them payable to the Governor and his successors in office, based on the amount of state tax of the county and the bond required under article 7610 payable to the county judge, based on the county tax, denies relief to the tax collector, who does give the bond based here upon the total taxable valuation of thirty million or more. The authority of the commissioners' court to allow the collector is not based upon the assessable values for state or county purposes, but upon the "total taxable valuation of $30,000,000."

This very statute provides a remedy for the settlement of any controversy or dispute. It provides that "such controversy may be determined by any court of competent jurisdiction," which controversy must arise at the time of the allowance; but there seems to have been no controversy that took place then. It is admitted that the claim was honestly submitted and well understood by the court, and duly allowed, and became the final judgment that was pronounced upon it, upon which the warrant was issued and duly paid. Now, after the lapse of that time, the same county brings this suit, charging that its prior acts were void, and seeking to recover the money paid on it. Aside from the validity of the claim the acts of that court should not now be called in question and collaterally attacked.

If a suit had been timely brought to test the question upon a controversy that arose, at the time, on the claim, a serious question might have been raised as to whether the court could consider the taxable values of the drainage district in making up its judgment, and even then it would have been a question of construction for the court. If the court merely erred in its construction and the ruling, its acts might have been regarded as voidable; in other words, erroneous. But here we have a positive adjudication of the issue of fact and law by a court of competent jurisdiction. It was admitted:

"It was agreed between counsel for appellant and appellee, in open court that the premiums on appellant's bonds as tax collector for the year 1920 was $650, and that voucher was issued to him for that amount by order of the commissioners' court. It was further agreed that the total valuation of the properties of the county in the two school districts at that time was over $30,000,000, and that the commissioners' court knew of said valuations. It was further admitted that the claim for $650 to pay premiums on said bonds was filed, audited, approved by the county auditor, and ordered paid, and voucher was issued by the commissioners' court, and that at the time of the presentation of said claim as audited and approved by the county auditor, with his stamp of approval thereon, the commissioners' court knew of the purpose for which claim was presented and the party to whom it was payable, and the commissioners' court believed they had the lawful right to pay it. It was further admitted that the commissioners' court, in approving and ordering paid the claim in question, was sitting in regular session."

It is too plain for argument that the judgment of the commissioners' court, when passing upon claims, acting within the scope of its authority, is valid and binding and as free from collateral attack as the judgment of any other court of record. Nor does the jurisdiction of any court depend upon the correctness of its ruling. It is clear that, if the statute was such as to prohibit the commissioners' court from considering the item of $6,182,800 as the taxable values in the two drainage districts, it would reduce the taxable values for state and county purposes to $23,937,140, which would be less than the statutory $30,000,000 necessary to predicate the allowance, and the action of the court would clearly be void, and subject to collateral attack. McKinney v. Robinson, 84 Tex. 489, 19 S. W. 699; McDonald v. Farmer, 23 Tex. Civ. App. 39, 56 S. W. 555; Slaughter v. Knight (Tex. Civ. App.) 184 S. W. 539; Tarrant County v. Rogers (Tex. Civ. App.) 125 S. W. 592; Noel v. City of San Antonio, 11 Tex. Civ. App. 580, 33 S. W. 263; Stratton v. Commissioners' Courts (Tex. Civ. App.) 137 S. W. 1170; Limestone County v. Knox (Tex. Civ. App.) 234 S. W. 131.

The commissioners' court determined the question of fact, as it was its duty to do, for the purpose of fixing the appellant's bond, and found in good faith the taxable values at $30,000,000, and required appellant to give the bond upon the basis of $100,000. We are now...

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2 cases
  • Cameron County v. Fox
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • February 15, 1928
  • Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Nacogdoches County, 2066.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • March 27, 1931
    ...court might "be invoked by certiorari." In proceedings of this character it was said by the San Antonio court in Fox v. Cameron County (Tex. Civ. App.) 257 S. W. 1111, 1114, that the appellate jurisdiction of the district court could be invoked by certiorari proceedings and "in such proceed......

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