1. introduction: the power of legislature to allocate wealth

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Amador Valley Joint Union High School Dist. V. State Board of Equalization (1978) – possibility that 2 identical properties will be taxed differently, but majority held that it was fair b/c tax reflects price purchasers were originally willing and able pay for their property

  • Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co, v. County Comm’n of Webster County, West Virginia (1989) - Allegheny pays 20x more in taxes than a coal mine next door because it was bought later and assessed at fair market value

        • Court held the tax system (like CA Proposition 13), as applied by Webster County, was unconstitutional because it violated equal protection clause

        • Seems like this can’t be good law if Proposition 13 is constitutional  but Court says facts are different than in Amador

        • Unclear what this case stands for but maybe nothing more than the proposition that states cannot impose higher taxes on out of state coal companies than in state ones  but the case seems to say that it is about more than that and that there is some real requirement that equally valuable pieces of property be assessed and taxed at equal rates

    • Nordlinger v. Hahn (1992) - Woman in CA claims that the fact that her house is taxed at a much higher rate than her neighbor’s identical house, just because she bought it later, is unconstitutional in terms of the equal protection clause but court rules against her

        • Seems at odds with Webster County - county tax assessors method through Proposition 13 is valid even though it seems to be unequal.

        • A conservative principle at stake that calls for a weak federal government and judiciary = states should be free to do what they want to do

        • As practical matter we don’t want federal courts flooded with these issues

    C. Taxing Different Areas with Different Schemes

    • Tax scheme must have rational basis

    • Equal protection does not require not require territorial uniformity (i.e. cannot compare downstate with upstate properties) (Colt Industries)

    • Courts show a deference to legislature because it is procedurally difficult to push the legislature around.


    • Hellerstein v. Assessor of Town of Islip (1975)in New York, property systematically is being assessed at much less than it market value

        • Tax scheme didn’t have a rational basis because law said assess land at full value and city had custom of assessing at a fraction.

        • Court also unsure whether it can throw legislators in jail for contempt so gave time and ordered legislature to fix.

    • Colt Industries, Inc. v. Finance Administrator of City of NY (1982) - legislature passes new statute in 1981 that says every property in NY state has to be assessed at X percent of market value, except in NY City or Nassau County (but doesn’t say what the rate in those two places is)

        • this basically goes against the Hellerstein opinion but Court holds statute constitutional

        • allows New York City and Long Island any tax scheme decided by gov't but rest of state has set policy. Ct. says both equal, just different procedure.

    D. Other Cases
    Adlerstein v. City of New York (1959)

    • Plaintiff electricians claimed a $250 licensing fee was unconstitutional under equal protection

    • This fee covers inspection of work done by electricians  unfair to require individual electrician who does little work to pay same as large contractor w/ big business

    • Court strikes down statute as unconstitutional

          1. not a revenue statute, a rationale will not suffice

          2. the fee collected has no relation to the cost of licensing prospective electricians.

          3. it is effectively a regressive tax which acts to preserve a monopoly of the electricians by keeping the poorer ones out.

    Directory: sites -> default -> files -> upload documents
    upload documents -> Always put things in threes (eskridge has ocd) I. Procedural Due Process and Reading a Case
    upload documents -> Federalism – The Structure of Government
    upload documents -> General Info About Property law
    upload documents -> Con law professor Larry Sager Fall 1995 I. U. S. Term limits V. Thornton
    upload documents -> Property with Professor Vicki Been
    upload documents -> Property Outline – Professor Upham, Spring 2000
    upload documents -> Constitutional law outline part I: structure of government judicial review and constitutional interpretation
    upload documents -> Complex federal investigations
    upload documents -> Foundations: Agency Law Introduction to law of enterprise organizations
    upload documents -> Pricing v. Sanctions

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