Mobil Oil Corp. v. McHenry
|10 January 1968
|Nos. 45195-45196,45199,s. 45195-45196
|200 Kan. 211,436 P.2d 982
|MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, a Corporation, Northern Natural Gas Producing Company, a Corporation, Pan American Petroleum Corporation, a Corporation, Ashland Oil & Refining Company, a Corporation, Sinclair Oil and Gas Company, a Corporation, Cities Service Oil Company, a Corporation, and Columbian Euel Corporation, a Corporation, Plaintiffs, v. Shirley McHENRY, Individually and as County Clerk of Grant County, Kansas, and Wilma Arnold, Individually and as County Treasurer of Grant County, Kansas, Defendants. PAN AMERICAN PETROLEUM CORPORATION, a Corporation, and Sinclair Oil and Gas Company, a Corporation, Plaintiffs, v. Mary DIMMIT, Individually and as County Clerk of Stanton County, Kansas, and Phyllis Kistler, Individually and as County Treasurer of Stanton County, Kansas, Defendants. MOBIL OIL CORPORATION, a Corporation, Northern Natural Gas Producing Company, a Corporation, Cities Service Oil Company, a Corporation, and Columbian Fuel Corporation, a Corporation, Plaintiffs, v. Dorothy HARTLEY, Individually and as County Clerk of Morton County, Kansas, and Lois Hall, Individually and as County Treasurer of Morton County, Kansas, Defendants.
|Kansas Supreme Court
Syllabus by the Court
1. In original mandamus proceedings which involve the assessment of all property subject to ad valorem taxes in Grant, Morton and Stanton Counties, in area commonly known as the Kansas Hugoton gas field, the plaintiffs who are owners of gas leasehold properties in each of these counties were adversely affected by a mandatory injunction decree entered by the district court in each of these counties as a result of a suit by private taxpayers, and in a collateral attack by the plaintiffs upon such mandatory injunction decree in each county, wherein the district court reduced the assessed value of all property in the county except that owned by the plaintiffs, after a successful appeal by the plaintiffs to the State Board of Tax Appeals equalizing the assessment of their gas properties with other property in the county, it is held: The mandatory injunction decree entered by the district court in each of the three counties is void and of no force and effect because the district court had no jurisdiction in the matter, and the plaintiffs are entitled to the relief requested in their petition directing the County Clerk and the County Treasurer of each of the counties respectively to spread the assessments, compute the taxes and collect the same on the basis of the values adjusted and equalized by the State Board of Equalization, all as more particularly set forth in the opinion.
2. Under K.S.A. 79-1409, whenever the valuation of any taxing district is changed by the State Board of Equalization, the officers of such taxing district who have authority to levy taxes are required to use the valuation so fixed by the State Board as a basis for making their levies for all purposes. In case a change is made in the valuation of a county the County Clerk, upon certification of the change to him, shall carry the real estate and tangible personal property on the tax roll at the valuations so certified, and shall use such valuations as the basis of all tax levies.
3. Under K.S.A. 79-1803, as soon as the action of the State Board of Equalization is certified to the County Clerk, he shall change the valuations as directed.
4. The duties imposed upon the County Clerk and the County Treasurer in the taxing process concerning the imposition of ad valorem taxes, after exhaustion of the administrative remedies to the highest administrative tribunal, are clear, purely ministerial and in no sense discretionary.
5. In the taxing process the assessment and valuation of property are administrative in their character and not judicial, and courts will not substitute their judgment for that of the assessing authority in the absence of fraud, corruption or conduct so oppressive, arbitrary or capricious as to amount to fraud. Courts can in no event fix a value on property for the purposes of taxation.
6. Under the Constitution of Kansas a court may only be vested with judicial power. The power of taxation is a legislative function. It is the province of the legislature to determine the subject and extent of taxation and to provide the means and agencies for enforcing it. In the absence of constitutional restrictions the taxing power of the legislature is supreme and complete, and nothing in that instrument justifies a division of that power with the judiciary.
7. Matters of valuation and assessment in the taxing process concerning the imposition of ad valorem taxes are administrative in character and a determination of the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals sitting as a State Board of Equalization, acting within its legislative authority, when fairly and honestly made, as final, and courts will not interfere so as to usurp the Board's function or substitute their judgment for that of the Board.
8. Statutes authorizing the imposition of ad valorem taxes give no right of appeal from a decision of the State Board of Equalization. The State Board's opinion and judgment as to the valuation of property is plenary, and it is not within the power of the courts to interfere with a tax merely because the assessment is excessive or unequal. The remedy for irregular or excessive assessments before the State Board of Equalization was deemed by the legislature to be an adequate one, and in the absence of grounds which permit inquiry or intervention by a court of equity, it is an exclusive remedy.
9. Where a petition in a private taxpayer action seeks merely to reduce taxes by a mandatory injunction because the State Board of Tax Appeals changed the valuation on other property in the county, the petition fails to allege the 'illegal levy of any tax, charge or assessment' (K.S.A. 60-907(a)), and discloses on its face that the district court has no jurisdiction in the matter.
10. The expression, 'illegal levy of any tax, charge or assessment,' contained in K.S.A. 60-907(a), and its predecessors, has reference to action of an administrative official or board taken without authority, or to action taken by an administrative official or board which is permeated with fraud, corruption or conduct so oppressive, arbitrary or capricious as to amount to fraud in connection with the levy of any tax, charge or assessment.
11. Where an appeal is taken by taxpayers regarding the assessment of their property for ad valorem tax purposes to the State Board of Tax Appeals sitting as a State Board of Equalization, the County Clerk-Assessor and the County Board of Equalization are superseded and the whole controversy as to the assessment of such taxpayers' property becomes vested in the State Board as the superior administrative tribunal. Thereafter, action taken by any of the county officials is entirely subject to the decision of the State Board.
12. Mandamus is a proper remedy where the essential purpose of the proceeding is to obtain an authoritative interpretation of the law for the guidance of public officials in their administration of the public business, notwithstanding the fact there also exists an adequate remedy at law.
13. The use of mandamus to secure a speedy adjudication of questions of law for the guidance of state officers and official boards in the discharge of their duties is common in this state.
14. Mandamus is a proceeding designed for the purpose of compelling the performance of a clearly defined duty, not involving the exercise of discretion, by a person or corporation whose duty arises out of a trust relationship, or a public or corporate responsibility.
15. The Supreme Court is granted original jurisdiction in proceedings in mandamus by the Kansas Constitution (Art. 3, § 3). This jurisdiction is plenary and may be exercised to control the action of inferior courts, over whom the Supreme Court has superintending authority.
16. The use of mandamus is proper to secure the speedy adjudication of questions of law for the guidance of public officials in their administration of the public business, where the totality of the situation suggests that a legal remedy available to the plaintiffs would be clearly inadequate to meet the public need, notwithstanding that a collateral attack is made upon a void mandatory injunction decree entered by a court of inferior jurisdiction, where the plaintiffs were not parties to such action and are clearly entitled to relief.
17. While mandamus will not ordinarily lie at the instance of a private citizen to compel the performance of a public duty, it has been held where an individual shows an injury or interest specific and peculiar to himself, and not one that he shares with the community in general, the remedy of mandamus and the other extraordinary remedies are available.
H. E. Jones, Donald L. Cordes and Ralph M. Hope, Wichita, argued the cause, and Robert W. Richards, Oklahoma City, Okl., J. C. B. Aler, Dallas, Tex., Robert J. O'Connor and Richard Jones, Wichita, Graydon D. Luthey, Bartlesville, Okl., and Ernest J. Rice, Topeka, were with them on the brief for plaintiffs.
A. E. Kramer, Hugoton, L. LaVerne Fiss, County Atty., of Stanton County, and Keaton C. Duckworth, County Atty., of Morton County, argued the cause, and Richard M. Pickler, County Atty., of Grant County, were with them on the brief for defendants.
This is an original proceeding in mandamus filed by the owners of certain gas leaseholds in Grant County, Kansas, against the County Clerk and County Treasurer of Grant County to compel the performance of a legal duty imposed upon such defendants in matters relating to ad valorem taxes.
The substantive question presented is the validity of an order entered by the district court of Grant County which reduced the assessed valuation os all property situated in Grant County other than the property owned by the...
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