Oakland County Taxpayers' League v. Board of Sup'rs of Oakland County, No. 70

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtBefore the Entire Bench, except KAVANAGH; KELLY; DETHMERS, CARR and EDWARDS, JJ., concurred with KELLY; BLACK; SMITH and VOELKER, JJ., concurred with BLACK
Citation355 Mich. 305,94 N.W.2d 875
Docket NumberNo. 70
Decision Date19 February 1959
PartiesOAKLAND COUNTY TAXPAYERS' LEAGUE, a voluntary taxpayers' association, Plaintiff, Appellee and Cross-Appellant, People of the State of Michigan, by the Attorney General, Thomas M. Kavanagh, Plaintiff-Intervenor and Appellee, v. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF OAKLAND COUNTY and Board of Auditors of Oakland County, Defendants, Appellants and Cross-Appellees, South Oakland County Bar Association, Defendant-Intervenor.

Page 875

94 N.W.2d 875
355 Mich. 305
OAKLAND COUNTY TAXPAYERS' LEAGUE, a voluntary taxpayers'
association, Plaintiff, Appellee and Cross-Appellant,
People of the State of Michigan, by the Attorney General,
Thomas M. Kavanagh, Plaintiff-Intervenor and Appellee,
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF OAKLAND COUNTY and Board of Auditors
of Oakland County, Defendants, Appellants and
Cross-Appellees,
South Oakland County Bar Association, Defendant-Intervenor.
No. 70.
Supreme Court of Michigan.
Feb. 19, 1959.

[355 Mich. 308]

Page 877

Glenn C. Gillespie, Pontiac, William H. Wilmot, Pontiac, for plaintiff, appellee and cross-appellant.

Paul L. Adams, Atty. Gen., Samuel J. Torina, Sol. Gen., Lansing, James R. Ramsey, Asst. Atty. Gen., for plaintiff, intervenor and appellee.

Harry J. Merritt, Corp. Counsel, Charles A. Davis, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Pontiac, Claude H. Stevens, Detroit, of counsel, for defendants, appellants and cross-appellees.

Allan G. Hertler, Royal Oak, for defendant-intervenor.

Before the Entire Bench, except KAVANAGH, J.

KELLY, Justice.

The Oakland county board of supervisors decided on a site and commenced plans for the construction of a new and adequate court house. No one challenges the fact that a new court house was necessary.

Plaintiff, a voluntary, nonpartisan association of taxpayers and electors of Oakland conty, filed its bill of complaint asking the court to decree:

'A. That no authority is conferred by law upon defendant board of supervisors to designate a new site for a court house in Oakland county * * *.

'B. That defendant board of supervisors has no lawful authority to designate a site for a new court house partly within and partly without the limits of the county seat.

'C. That amounts in excess of constitutional and statutory limitations for the purchase of land and the construction of public buildings without the approval of the electors, have been heretofore included by defendants in various county budgets.

'D. That defendants have made transfers of excess balances in various county funds to building funds without authority of law.

[355 Mich. 309] 'E. That a public accounting be directed, and, upon the conclusion thereof, defendants be directed to replace and restore to the general fund of the county all moneys deposited in, or, credited to, any building account fund, or fund for the purchase of land, and any additional funds which should be deposited in or credited to the general fund as required by law.'

Page 878

In its bill of complaint, plaintiff does not by this action impugn the personal honesty or integrity of the members of defendant board, but does question any legal authority for their official action.

An extensive hearing was held and Hon. Herman Dehnke, circuit judge sitting in Oakland county, ruled: 1) That the county had the right to sell the old court house and to move the site without a vote of the people; 2) that the annexation was unlawful; and 3) that the moneys belonging to the general fund were unlawfully placed in the building fund.

Defendant, board of supervisors, and defendant-intervenor, South Oakland County Bar Association, appealed from the ruling that the annexation was unlawful and that moneys belonging to the general fund were unlawfully placed in the building fund.

Plaintiff, appellee and cross-appellant asks this Court to reverse the trial court's finding that the board of supervisors had authority to determine a new site for the court house and to sell land donated to the county as a site for a court house.

The attorney general, as plaintiff-intervenor and appellee, files a brief stating that the people are only concerned with the following problems: 1) Does article 8, section 10, of the Michigan Constitution, which limits raising of money by taxation or borrowing, for the construction or repair of public buildings or bridges to 1/10 of a mill also [355 Mich. 310] limit the amount that can be spent or accumulated from sources that properly should be used to reduce the tax revenue; and 2) are P.A.1943, No. 177, as last amended by P.A.1956, No. 136 (C.L.1948 and C.L.S.1956, § 141.261 et seq. [Stat.Ann.1958 Rev. § 5.2770(1) et seq.]), and P.A.1923, No. 118, as last amended by P.A.1957, No. 186 (C.L.1948, § 141.61 et seq. [Stat.Ann.1958 Rev. § 5.2251 et seq.]), unconstitutional?

Question No. 1: Did the Court err in determining that the board of supervisors had authority to select a new site?

The site upon which the present court house stands was donated to the county in 1823 on condition that a court house be erected thereon, and a court house has been continuously maintained there for 135 years since the 1823 donation. The new site selected by the board is 2.7 miles from the present court house site.

P.A.1851, No. 156, § 11,* gave to boards of supervisors the right 'to purchase any real estate necessary for the site of any court house,' and also gave the right 'to fix upon and determine the site of any such building, if not previously located.' Appellee contends that the words 'not previously located' are words of limitation.

The legislature did not establish the site of the present court house in Pontiac, Oakland county, Michigan. In deciding that the board of supervisors had the right to select a new site without a vote of the people, we adopt the opinion of the trial court:

'It must be remembered that this statute was enacted during the period when our counties were being organized by legislative action. In many cases, only general designations were made for the location of [355 Mich. 311] county seats, in other the precise descriptions of the site within the county seat were stated. * * * In the light of this historical background, it appears to me to be reasonable to construe section 'third' of the statutes ('to fix upon and determine the site of any such building, if not previously located') as having no other purpose than to confer upon the board of supervisors authority to establish within the boundaries of the county seat the precise site of the court house in those cases in which that site had not been previously fixed by the legislature.'

Page 879

Question No. 2: Did the court err in deciding the board had the right to sell the present court house and use the proceeds to assist in financing the cost of a new court house?

Revised Statutes 1846, ch. 13, § 5 (C.L.1948, § 45.5 [Stat.Ann. § 5.285]), provides:

'The board of supervisors of each county, or other public officers having the charge and management of the county lands, may, by their order of record, appoint 1 or more agents to sell any real estate of their county not donated for any special purpose, and all deeds, made on behalf of such county, by such agents under their proper hands and seals, and duly acknowledged by them, shall be sufficient to convey all the right, title, interest and estate which the county may then have in and to the land so conveyed.'

Five years later the legislature by P.A.1851, No. 156, § 11, provided that the boards of supervisors could 'authorize the sale or leasing of any real estate belonging to such county, and to prescribe the mode in which any conveyance thereof be executed.'

Appellee states:

'The wisdom of the legislature in withholding power from boards of supervisors to sell real estate [355 Mich. 312] donated to the county for a special purpose is apparent. Its purpose was to encourage public minded persons to donate real estate to counties, and, to permit the donor to specify in the conveyance the purpose for which it was to be used, with the assurance that the property could not be subsequently sold by county authorities and the public deprived of the use of the property specified by the donor.'

One hundred and thirty-five years ago, when a public spirited citizen made his donation of land, Oakland county's needs were vastly different than today. The donor's intention to help provide for an adequate court house will not be violated by the sale of the property and the investment of the moneys received in a new and adequate court house.

Appellant, appellee, and our research, finds no decision of this Court challenging the board's right under conditions similar to this case, during the more than 100 years that have elapsed since the 1846 and 1851 enactments. We do not interpret the 1846 statute, especially because of the later act of 1851, to mean that irrespective of change in social and economic needs a donor's expressed desires should never be thwarted. We agree with the trial court that the board of supervisors had the right to sell the land and building now used for court house purposes.

Question No. 3: Was the annexation unlawful?

The site selected by the board of supervisors for the new court house was partly within the county seat and partly within the adjacent township of Waterford. The board deemed it necessary to secure the annexation of the township property to meet the requirements of the statute (C.L.1948, § 45.16 [Stat.Ann. § 5.291]).

The county petitioned Waterford township to detach and the city of Pontiac to annex and appropriate resolutions were passed by both bodies, as required[355 Mich. 313] by P.A.1909. No. 279, as amended (C.L.1948 and C.L.S.1956, § 117.1 et seq. [Stat.Ann. and Stat.Ann.1957 Cum.Supp. § 5.2071 et seq.]), and the property was annexed to the county seat and the city of Pontiac placed as 'exempt' the property on its tax record.

Section 9 of the Home Rule Act (C.L.S.1954, § 117.9 [Stat.Ann.1955 Cum.Supp. § 5.2088]) provided:

'That as an alternate method, where there are no qualified electors residing in the territory proposed to be annexed to said city, a petition signed by * * * the state or any of its subdivisions who collectively hold the record

Page 880

legal title to more than 1/2 of the area of the land in the territory to be annexed is filed with the city council of said city and with the township board of the township in which such territory in situated, such...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 practice notes
  • Request for Advisory Opinion on Constitutionality of 1986 PA 281, In re, Docket No. 80210
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • March 22, 1988
    ...Inc. v. Jackson Hosp. Authority, 390 Mich. 193, 209, 211 N.W.2d 649 (1973). In Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959), we noted "this Court will not declare a statute unconstitutional unless it is plain that it violates some provis......
  • Federated Publications, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Michigan State Univ., Docket No. 109663
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • June 15, 1999
    ...field. See Advisory Opinion 1976 PA 240, supra at 318, 254 N.W.2d 544; Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959); Brewster St, supra at 333, 289 N.W. 493. In this case, we revisit the question of the scope of the Legislature's power t......
  • People v. Konopka, Docket No. 319913.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • March 3, 2015
    ...which is not a grant of power, but a limitation on the exercise of power....” Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959), citing Attorney General v. Preston, 56 Mich. 177, 22 N.W. 261 (1885). See also Young v. Ann Arbor, 267 Mich. 241,......
  • Alan v. Wayne County, No. 10
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • August 30, 1972
    ...valuation without a vote of the electorate. See e.g., Walinske; Rude; Oakland County Taxpayers' League v. Oakland County Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 94 N.W.2d 875 These cases are of little or no help, however, in determining 'any indebtedness' with Const.1963, art. 7, § 11 because the legis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Request for Advisory Opinion on Constitutionality of 1986 PA 281, In re, Docket No. 80210
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • March 22, 1988
    ...Inc. v. Jackson Hosp. Authority, 390 Mich. 193, 209, 211 N.W.2d 649 (1973). In Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959), we noted "this Court will not declare a statute unconstitutional unless it is plain that it violates some provis......
  • Federated Publications, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Michigan State Univ., Docket No. 109663
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • June 15, 1999
    ...field. See Advisory Opinion 1976 PA 240, supra at 318, 254 N.W.2d 544; Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959); Brewster St, supra at 333, 289 N.W. 493. In this case, we revisit the question of the scope of the Legislature's power t......
  • People v. Konopka, Docket No. 319913.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • March 3, 2015
    ...which is not a grant of power, but a limitation on the exercise of power....” Oakland Co. Taxpayers' League v. Oakland Co. Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 323, 94 N.W.2d 875 (1959), citing Attorney General v. Preston, 56 Mich. 177, 22 N.W. 261 (1885). See also Young v. Ann Arbor, 267 Mich. 241,......
  • Alan v. Wayne County, No. 10
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • August 30, 1972
    ...valuation without a vote of the electorate. See e.g., Walinske; Rude; Oakland County Taxpayers' League v. Oakland County Supervisors, 355 Mich. 305, 94 N.W.2d 875 These cases are of little or no help, however, in determining 'any indebtedness' with Const.1963, art. 7, § 11 because the legis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT