State v. Daniel

Decision Date28 May 1897
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Appeal from superior court, Spokane county; L. H. Prather, Judge.

Proceeding by the state of Washington, on the relation of Frederick D Chamberlain and another, for a writ of prohibition against J W. Daniel, as county assessor of the county of Spokane. From a judgment granting the writ, defendant appeals. Affirmed.

John A. Pierce and Harris Baldwin, for appellant.

Blake & Post, for respondents.


This was a proceeding by the respondents in the court below for a writ of prohibition against the appellant, as the assessor of Spokane county, prohibiting him from allowing the exemptions provided for in subdivisions 6 and 8 of section 5 of the revenue law passed by the last legislature. These provisions of the law exempt each person liable to assessment from taxation on personal property to an amount not exceeding $500, and also improvements upon land of each person liable to assessment to an amount not exceeding $500. It is contended that these provisions of the statute are unconstitutional, as being in conflict with sections 1 and 2 of article 7 of the constitution. A demurrer was filed to the respondents' complaint, which was overruled, and appellant refusing to plead further, final judgment was rendered directing the issuance of a writ of prohibition against the appellant as prayed for in the complaint. From this judgment the present appeal is prosecuted.

Sections 1 and 2 of article 7 of the constitution, under the title of "Revenue and Taxation," are as follows:

"Section 1. All property in the state not exempt under the laws of the United States, or under this constitution, shall be taxed in proportion to its value, to be ascertained as provided by law. The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the estimated ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year. And for the purpose of paying the state debt, if there be any, the legislature shall provide for levying a tax annually, sufficient to pay the annual interest and principal of such debt within twenty years from the final passage of the law creating the debt.
"Sec. 2. The legislature shall provide by law a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation on all property in the state, according to its value in money, and shall prescribe such regulations by general law as shall secure a just valuation for taxation of all property, so that every person and corporation shall pay a tax in proportion to the value of his, her, or its property: provided, that a deduction of debts from credits may be authorized: provided, further, that the property of the United States, and of the state, counties, school districts, and other municipal corporations, and such other property as the legislature may by general laws provide, shall be exempt from taxation."

It is the contention of the respondents that the constitution, in both sections 1 and 2, provides especially for the taxation of all property, and that the clause in the latter part of the second proviso of section 2, viz. "And such other property as the legislature may by general laws provide," must be construed to mean such other property of like kind and character as the property specially described in the proviso; in other words, that it falls within the rule of ejusdem generis. The contention of the appellant, however, is that the rule of ejusdem generis is not applicable in the construction of this law; and it was argued with much force by the attorney who supported the legality of the law in the case of Buchanan v. Bauer, 49 P. 1119, a companion case, which was argued in conjunction with and at the same time as this case, that, inasmuch as the proviso mentions specially property of the United States and of the state, counties, school districts, and other municipal corporations, the genus or class of property which was comprised in the proviso was made full and complete by the use of the expression "and other municipal corporations," and that, consequently, there was no room for the application of the rule of ejusdem generis, so far as the other expression "such other property" is concerned, and that, necessarily, the expression "such other property" referred to property outside and independent of the class of properties enumerated. To a student of technical logic this argument would appeal very strongly, but it is doubtful if the members of the constitutional convention indulged in so fine a discrimination of the use of words and phrases and were governed by such refined distinctions. It may be conceded that the rule which is urged by the appellant in this case is the correct one, and must be followed by the court, viz. that where the language of the act is plain and unambiguous there is no room for construction; also, it may be conceded that the policy or impolicy of the law is a matter which the courts will not consider, but that that is a consideration resting entirely within the discretion of the legislature. Mr. Sutherland, in his work on Statutory Construction (see 238), says: "When the meaning of a statute is clear, and its provisions are susceptible of but one interpretation, that sense must be accepted as the law. Its consequences, if evil, can only be avoided by a change of the law itself, to be effected by the legislature, and not by judicial construction." And this, no doubt, is the accepted rule; but there are some qualifications-or, rather, explanations-of this rule, one of which the author just above quoted proceeds to give in the following language: "But an interpretation of a statute which must lead to consequences which are mischievous and absurd is inadmissible, if the statute is susceptible of another interpretation by which such consequences can be avoided." Another qualification is that, "where words conflict with each other, where the different clauses of the instrument bear upon each other, and would be inconsistent unless the natural and common import of the words be varied, construction becomes necessary."

If the proviso mentioned were to be construed alone, there is little doubt that it would bear the construction contended for by appellant; but in this instance it becomes necessary, under all the rules of construction, to consider the proviso with reference to the whole section. Mr. Sutherland, in section 239, in speaking on this subject, says: "The practical inquiry is, usually, what a particular provision, clause, or word means. To answer it one must proceed as he would with any other composition,-construe it with reference to the leading idea or purpose of the whole instrument. The whole and every part must be considered. The general intent should be kept in view in determining the scope and meaning of any part. This survey and comparison are necessary to ascertain the purpose of the act and to make all the parts harmonious. They are to be brought into accord, if practicable, and thus if possible, give a sensible and intelligible effect to each in furtherance of the general design. A statute should be so construed as a whole, and its several parts, as most reasonably to accomplish the legislative purpose. If practicable, effect must be given to all the language employed, and inconsistent expressions are to be harmonized to reach the real intent of the legislature." Again, in section 240: "The presumption is that the lawmaker has a definite purpose in every enactment, and has adapted and formulated the subsidiary provisions in harmony with that purpose." So, in the constitutional provisions under discussion, to obtain the actual meaning of the clause, "And such other property as the legislature may by general laws provide shall be exempt from taxation," such clause must be read in connection with the act in which it occurs, and with relation to the subject-matter under consideration by the lawmaking power, and the relation that it bears to other provisions of the same act. This clause, as all other clauses in the act, must be read, if possible, in harmony with the other provisions of the section or act. Another rule of interpretation is that an act must be so construed that every part of the act, and every legislative expression, will, if possible, be given effect; and still another, that in case a proviso to an act is absolutely inconsistent with the provisions of the principal act, and one cannot stand with the...

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22 cases
  • State ex rel. Jugler v. Grover
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 1942
    ...... should be construed in the common and natural view, always. the most important thing being to determine, if possible,. what the real intention of the lawmakers was. Discussing the. subject, this court, by Judge Dunbar, in the case of. State ex rel. Chamberlin v. Daniel , 17. Wash. 111, 49 P. 243, quoted with approval as follows:. . . "'"A. Constitution," says Mr. Endlich in his Interpretation of. Statutes, § 526, "is 'intended for the benefit. of the people and must receive a liberal construction.'. 'The principle of strict construction would ......
  • State v. Snyder
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 15, 1923
    ...12 of the Constitution, in that it is not a general law with reference to exemptions as required by said Section. (37 Cyc. 887; State v. Daniel, 49 P. 243.) 3. Act violates the provisions of Article III, Section 27, prohibiting the enactment of local or special laws for the collection of ta......
  • Bank of Fairfield v. Spokane County
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • May 17, 1933
    ......§ 11109, which provides that mortgages, notes,. accounts, certificates of deposit, tax certificates,. judgments,[173 Wash. 149] state, county, municipal, and. taxing district bonds and warrants shall not be considered as. property for the purpose of the taxation act. ... proportion to the value of his, her, or its. property.'' State ex rel. Chamberlin v. Daniel, 17 Wash. 111, 119, 49 P. 243, 245. . . Pursuant. to the constitutional mandate, the Legislature, by enacting. ......
  • State ex rel. Hamblen v. Yelle, 30371.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • October 15, 1947
    ...... common and natural view, always the most important thing. being to determine, if possible, what the real intention of. the lawmakers was. Discussing the subject, this court, by. Judge Dunbar, in the case of State ex rel. Chamberlin v. Daniel, 17 Wash. 111, 49 P. 243, quoted with approval as. follows:. . . . "'A. Constitution,' says Mr. Endlich in his Interpretation. of Statutes, § 526, 'is. . [185 P.2d 736] . . 'intended for the benefit of the people and ......
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