Penton v. Brown-Crummer Inv. Co., 4 Div. 447.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation131 So. 14,222 Ala. 155
Docket Number4 Div. 447.
Decision Date23 January 1930

Rehearing Denied June 5, 1930.

Rehearing Granted Oct. 30, 1930.

Further Rehearing Denied Dec. 11, 1930.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Covington County; Emmet S. Thigpen Judge.

Bill in equity by the Brown-Crummer Investment Company against T. C Penton to enforce a lien for municipal improvements, and cross-bill by respondent seeking to cancel the resolution fixing the assessment against his property, as a cloud upon his title. From a decree sustaining a demurrer to the cross-bill, respondent appeals.

Affirmed on rehearing.

BROWN J., dissenting.

G. W. Reeves, of Florala, and A. R. Powell, of Andalusia, for appellant.

A. Whaley, of Andalusia, and G. W. L. Smith, of Brewton, for appellee.

Bradley, Baldwin, All & White, and Douglas Arant and Luther B. Bewley, all of Birmingham, amici curiæ.


The appellee, Brown-Crummer Investment Company, alleging that it is the owner of certain local improvement bonds issued by the city of Florala, Ala., under the provisions of article 33, c. 43, of the Code, acquired by it in due course from Dietz Concrete Construction Company, Inc., to whom said bonds were originally sold by the city of Florala, filed the original bill against appellant, to enforce the lien alleged to have attached to appellant's property, and arising from the order or resolution of the council fixing the amount of the assessment against each lot or tract of land described or included in the assessment roll, filed with the city clerk in the progress of the proceedings for the local improvements.

Appellant filed an answer, which he prayed might be taken and considered as a cross-bill, alleging inter alia: "Answering the bill as a whole and each paragraph separately these respondents deny that the Mayor and City Council convened and heard and determined objections, protests and defenses. These respondents also deny that the said Mayor and City Council adopted the resolution determining the respective assessments and the amount thereof, and they deny that the same were fixed as then shown or indicated on the list or roll of owners as alleged in the bill. These respondents aver the truth to be that an attempt was made to have or hold the said meeting of the said City Council, but that no quorum was present at the said meeting. These respondents aver that a number of said Councilmen less than a quorum assembled and waited a while for other members to appear and finally became impatient and decided to proceed without the absent members. Respondents aver that the absent members were called over the telephone and authority was thus attempted to be given by such absent members to the Clerk of the City of record such absent members present and voting on the resolution referred to, and the Clerk of the City thereupon wrote up the minutes of the meeting reciting that the said members who had been so consulted over the telephone were present at the said meeting. These respondents aver that no valid meeting of the said council was held fixing the amount of the said assessment and that the attempt to hold such meeting as was above described is and was void and ineffective. These respondents aver that they are in possession of the property involved in the suit and that the records of the City Council of Florala as they now appear constitute a cloud on the title of said respondents and that they are entitled to have a decree of the court canceling the said cloud"-and praying that said order or resolution fixing the assessment against his property be canceled as a cloud on his title.

The "demurrers to the cross-bill" filed by the appellee were sustained, and from that decree this appeal is prosecuted.

It is the settled rule of our decisions that, on appeal from a decree "sustaining a demurrer to the bill," or, as here, to the cross-bill, and no reference made in the decree to grounds of demurrer going to part of the bill, only grounds going to the sufficiency of the bill as a whole will be considered. Sandlin v. Anders et al., 210 Ala. 396, 98 So. 299; Kelly v. Carmichael, 217 Ala. 534, 117 So. 67; Oden v. King, 216 Ala. 504, 113 So. 609, 54 A. L. R. 1413.

This rule limits our consideration to the first, second, and twelfth grounds of demurrer.

It is well settled that courts of equity have jurisdiction and will intervene, at the insistence of the owner of real estate, to remove a cloud on his title arising from a void assessment for taxes or public improvement schemes, where the invalidity does not appear on the face of the proceedings, and extraneous evidence is required to develop the invalidity. 4 Dil. Municipal Corp. (5th Ed.) § 1590; 1 Pom. Eq. Juris. §§ 259-270; High on Inj. §§ 367, 368; Heywood v. Buffalo, 14 N.Y. 534; Ewing v. St. Louis, 5 Wall. 413, 18 L.Ed. 657.

As observed by the court in Holland v. Mayor, etc., of City of Baltimore, 11 Md. 186, 69 Am. Dec. 195: "The idea that a party ought to stand by and see his property illegally exposed to public sale, and then force the purchaser to bring his ejectment to gain possession, or to try his title, seems to be sustained by no good authority. Such a doctrine would not only encourage circuity of action and multiplicity of suits, but render the title of the real owner comparatively valueless, while the suits at law should be pending." Equity will not allow a title otherwise clear to be clouded by a claim which cannot be enforced in law or equity.

Board of Revenue of Covington County v. Merrill, 193 Ala. 521, 68 So. 971, cited by appellee as denying jurisdiction to courts to intervene in the case at bar, was a taxpayer's bill to enjoin the county board from accepting a contractor's bid to build a courthouse, and it was there held that, if on the face of the proceedings the county board was without authority to act, the complainant's remedy was by certiorari to quash the proceedings, but, if the board was acting within its authority, a court of equity would not interfere with its discretionary power, in the absence of fraud or corruption.

The principles of that decision clearly have no application here, where the power and jurisdiction of the city council are conceded; but the contention is that the city council did not act, that the action recorded as the action of the city council was by persons who had no authority to make the record, still the writing which purports to be a record is, on its face, apparently regular, and is a cloud on complainant's title.

In City of Albany v. Spragins et al., 214 Ala. 449, 108 So. 32, the complainants were owners of twenty-eight lots affected by the proceedings of the city in a local improvement proceeding, and, during the progress of the proceedings before the city council, and before the assessments had been made final, the complainants sought to enjoin the proceedings on the ground of irregularities in the proceedings looking to the assessment; and jurisdiction of the court to interfere, on the ground that a multiplicity of suits would be occasioned, was denied because it appeared that the facts as to each lot proposed to be assessed were the same, that one contest in the manner provided by statute would practically settle all others, and there was nothing to show that proceedings were vexatious.

The holding in that case is not apt to deny jurisdiction of equity in the instant case, where, if the facts alleged are true, the appellant could maintain a bill to quiet title under the statute, or under the principles of equity in respect to removing clouds from titles. Rea pro ami. v. Longstreet & Sedgwick, 54 Ala. 291; Daniel v. Stewart, 55 Ala. 278; 3 Brick. Dig. 355, §§ 340, 341, 345.

It is also settled that an order or resolution of the city council fixing the amount of the assessment against each lot or tract of land described and included in the assessment roll is essential to the creation of a lien on the property described in the assessment roll, Bailey v. Levy, 213 Ala. 80, 82, 104 So. 415; and that the city council, in the adoption of such resolution or ordinance, is exercising a judicial function, Stovall v. City of Jasper, 218 Ala. 282, 118 So. 467.

The power to make the order or pass the resolution is a power that resides in the council, and can only be exercised by the council duly organized and acting in the exercise of corporate power.

The statute provides that "all legislative powers and other powers granted to cities and towns shall be exercised by the council, except those powers conferred on some officer by law or ordinance"; that a quorum shall consist of "a majority of the whole number of members to which such corporation is entitled, including the mayor in towns and cities of less than six thousand population." Code 1923, § 1908.

"The quorum of a body may be defined to be that number of members which when legally assembled in their proper place will enable the body to transact its proper business, or in other words that number which makes a lawful body and gives it power to pass a law or ordinance, or do any other valid corporate act." 2 McQuillin Mun. Corp. (2d Ed.) § 622; 2 Dil. Mun. Corp. § 541; 43 C.J. 502, § 766; 19 R. C. L. 888, § 187.

And, as observed by Judge Dillon, it "is a fundamental rule in the law of corporations," that "acts done when less than a legal quorum are present, or which were not concurred in by the requisite number, are void." 2 Dil. on Mun Corp. 874, § 541; 43 C.J. 502, § 766; State v. Porter, 113 Ind. 79, 14 N.E. 883; Wescott v. Scull, 87 N. J. Law, 410, 96 A. 407; Commonwealth ex rel. v. Garvey, 217 Pa. 425, 66 A. 652; City of Benwood v. Wheeling R. Co., 53 W.Va. 465, 44 S.E. 271; Wheeler v. River Falls Power Co., 215 Ala. 655, 111...

To continue reading

Request your trial
40 cases
  • City of Jasper v. Sanders
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • January 26, 1933
    ......282,. 118 So. 467; Hamrick v. Town of Albertville, 219. Ala. 466, 122 So. 448; Penton v. Brown-Crummer Inv. Co., 222 Ala. 155, 131 So. 14; Bellenger v. Moragne [Ala. Sup.] 142 So. ......
  • Samuelson v. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 5, 1944
    ......2d 336 (Cal.); Avery v. City. of Chicago, 178 N.E. 351 (Ill.); Penton v. Brown-Crummer Inv. Co. 131 So. 14 (Ala.); Northern Trust. Co. v. Snyder, 89 N.W. 460 (Wis.). ......
  • Fuston, Petway & French, LLP v. Water Works Bd. of Birmingham
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • June 30, 2021
    ...the official acts of the governmental body. Kimbrell v. City of Bessemer, 380 So. 2d 838 (Ala. 1980) ; Penton v. Brown-Crummer Inv. Co., 222 Ala. 155, 131 So. 14 (1930). In this case, the minutes of the Board reflect that the contract-compliance program was never created, approved, or adopt......
  • Nelson Realty Co. v. Darling Shop of Birmingham, Inc.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 24, 1957
    ...whole will be considered. Rowe v. Rowe, 256 Ala. 491, 55 So.2d 749; Shaddix v. Wilson, 261 Ala. 191, 73 So.2d 751; Penton v. Brown-Crummer Inv. Co., 222 Ala. 155, 131 So. 14; Rikard v. O'Reilly, 232 Ala. 667, 169 So. Since a demurrer to a bill as a whole should be overruled if any one of th......
  • 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