Harrison v. Monroe County

Decision Date16 September 1986
Docket NumberNo. 67407,67407
Citation716 S.W.2d 263
PartiesPoole HARRISON, Appellant, v. MONROE COUNTY, et al., Respondents.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Wm. Patrick Cronan, Columbia, for appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., Warren D. Weinstein, Asst. Atty. Gen., Curtis F. Thompson, Jefferson City, Louis J. Leonatti, Ann P. Hagan, Paul A. Seigfreid, Mexico, for respondents.

Thomas D. Graham, W.B. Tichenor, Jefferson City, for amicus curiae.

PER CURIAM.

The issue in this case is whether Senate Bill 601 (82nd General Assembly, 2nd Regular Session) (effective August 13, 1984) (Laws of Missouri, 1984, pp. 342-349) (hereafter "S.B. 601"), which approves additional compensation for certain county officials, funded by the assessment of additional court costs in civil cases, violates Mo. Const. art. I, § 14 and art. X, § 21. The trial court dismissed appellant's petition with prejudice. Plaintiff appealed. Because this appeal involves the constitutional validity of a statute of this state, we have jurisdiction under Mo. Const. art. V, § 3. The judgment of the trial court is reversed and remanded with directions.

I.

Appellant Poole Harrison is a taxpayer domiciled in Monroe County, Missouri. On July 5, 1984, he filed this action against Monroe County, county treasurer Estelle Wills, associate circuit clerk Betty Hitchcock, Oscar L. Tawney, the circuit clerk, then state treasurer Mel Carnahan and the State of Missouri, challenging the constitutionality of S.B. 601. 1

Senate Bill 601 provides additional compensation for all state prosecutors 2 and for county clerks 3, county collectors, county assessors In order to receive the additional compensation authorized in S.B. 601, these county officials are required to attend a training program conducted by the "County Officials Training Commission" for the purpose of instructing county officials in how "to deal with areas of concern in intergovernmental relations between state offices and ... county officers." § 67.130, RSMo Cum.Supp.1984. The additional compensation is funded by the assessment of four dollars court costs in both criminal and civil proceedings. 4

county treasurers, county auditors, county sheriffs, county recorders of deeds, and public administrators in certain classes of counties. County commissioners are authorized additional compensation, as well.

The S.B. 601 fees are collected by the clerk of the court and paid monthly to the county treasurer who transmits the funds to the state treasurer for deposit in the "County Officers Compensation Fund." The state treasurer is required to reimburse each county that pays the additional compensation to the county officers for the amounts paid by the county to such officers. If monies in the county officers compensation fund are exhausted by reimbursements, the reimbursements from the state to the counties are to be prorated. § 67.133, RSMo Cum.Supp.1984.

The trial court's judgment entry provided, in pertinent part, that the "Plaintiff has failed to establish, by his evidence and under the applicable case law, that Senate Bill 601 violates any rights of the Plaintiff under the due process and/or equal protection clauses of the United States and Missouri Constitutions." The trial court further ruled that the "evidence as presented is uncertain as to the amount of funds which will be available for reimbursement to the counties from Senate Bill 601 and, therefore, Plaintiff's claim is not ripe for adjudication." The trial court dismissed appellant's petition with prejudice.

II.

Respondents challenge appellant's standing to contest the provisions of S.B. 601, claiming that appellant filed his action prior to the effective date of the law, has not paid the additional costs mandated by S.B. 601 and has, therefore, suffered no injury. Appellant contends that his "rights have been injuriously affected" by the requirement that he pay the additional court costs required by S.B. 601.

Appellant filed his lawsuit on July 5, 1984, well in advance of the August 13, 1984, effective date of S.B. 601. The filing fee appellant paid on July 5 did not include the four dollars mandated by S.B. 601. Under our system of cost assessment, the filing fee is deposited as the initial security for anticipated court costs. Rule 77.02. The prevailing party generally does not bear final responsibility for court costs. Under Rule 77.01, court costs are paid by the losing party. This appellant's liability for S.B. 601 court costs is, therefore, contingent upon his failure to prevail in the action filed. 5

The requirement that a party have standing to bring an action is a component of the general requirement of justiciability. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2204, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). In the federal context, this requirement of justiciability arises from the language of Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution, all cases, in law and equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made or which shall be made under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more states; between a state and citizens of another state; between citizens of different states; between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

which extends judicial power of the federal courts to

Warth, 422 U.S. at 498, 95 S.Ct. at 2204. The Missouri analog to this provision is found in Mo. Const. art. V, § 14(a), which states that "[tlhe circuit courts shall have original jurisdiction over all cases and matters, civil and criminal...."

Addressing the subject under the Federal Constitution, the United States Supreme Court has stated:

As an aspect of justiciability, the standing question is whether the plaintiff has "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy" as to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction and to justify exercise of the court's remedial powers on his behalf.

Warth, 422 U.S. at 498-99, 95 S.Ct. at 2204-05, quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 703, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). This "personal stake," in turn, generally depends upon whether the plaintiff can allege "some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action." Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617, 93 S.Ct. 1146, 1148, 35 L.Ed.2d 536 (1973); see also Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 448, 43 S.Ct. 597, 598, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923) ("The party who invokes the [judicial] power must be able to show not only that the statute is invalid but that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of its enforcement...."). The same requirement of justiciability exists under Missouri law. See State ex rel. Williams v. Marsh, 626 S.W.2d 223, 227 (Mo. banc 1982); State ex rel. City of St. Louis v. Litz, 653 S.W.2d 703, 706 (Mo.App.1983); Schweig v. City of St. Louis, 569 S.W.2d 215, 220 (Mo.App.1978); Hribernik v. Reorganized School District R-3, 276 S.W.2d 596, 598 (Mo.App.1955).

Additional prudential limitations--born of a concern that courts refrain from addressing abstract questions of wide public significance which are more appropriately addressed by other governmental institutions--have been recognized as extra-constitutional limits on standing. Warth, 422 U.S. at 499-501, 95 S.Ct. at 2205-2206. These include the requirement, in cases where the claim is based on a statute or constitutional provision, that "the constitutional or statutory provision on which the claim [to relief] rests properly can be understood as granting persons in the plaintiff's position a right to judicial relief." Id. at 500, 95 S.Ct. at 2205. A more familiar expression of this same concept is the statement that "the interest sought to be protected by the complainant" must arguably be "within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question." Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 90 S.Ct. 827, 829, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970).

Applying these standards to the present case, we conclude that plaintiff is constitutionally and prudentially entitled to invoke the jurisdiction of the courts of this state to consider the particular claim to relief he asserts. Plaintiff satisfies the requirement that he have a "personal stake," arising from a "threatened or actual injury," since he must prevail on his claim in order to prevent the imposition upon him of the putatively illegal fee. It makes no difference to the resolution of the standing question that the threatened injury would not have existed had the present suit not been filed. Once the suit was filed, the conditions As for the "zone of interests" limitation, appellant satisfies this requirement also; he is a citizen of a local community who is being called upon to pay for, at a local level, what is at least arguably required to be paid for by the state under art. X, § 21. See Boone County Court v. State, 631 S.W.2d 321 (Mo. banc 1982). Furthermore, it is self-evident that appellant, as the party initiating this suit, is among the intended beneficiaries of the guarantee of art. I, § 14 that justice be administered "without sale, denial or delay." He is therefore a member of the class sought to be protected by the constitutional provisions in question.

necessary for standing came into being.

III.

Appellant contends that the court costs imposed in civil cases by S.B. 601 constitute a sale of justice in violation of art. I, § 14. 6 We agree.

Art. I, § 14 embodies the principle found in Chapter 40 of the Magna Carta that "To no one will We sell, to no one...

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