For the prosecutor-appellant, Nicholas S. Schloeder.
For the defendant-respondent Bergen Boulevard Holding Co., Edward P. Stout.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
CASE, J. There are two appeals. They involve the same parties, concern adjoining properties, turn upon the same legal points, and are argued together. A discussion of the first case will suffice also for the second.
A fifty-family apartment house known as 9201-07 Hudson Boulevard in the Township of North Bergen, owned by Bergen Boulevard Holding Co., was assessed for 1943 taxes at $25,000 for land and $145,000 for improvements. The county board of taxation, on appeal by the taxpayer, sustained the assessment on land and reduced the assessment on the building to $135,000. On cross-appeals by both taxpayer and the municipality the State Board of Tax Appeals, after taking proofs, reduced the assessments to $20,900 on land and $115,000 on building.
The township went, on certiorari, to the Supreme Court which, deeming the question to be one purely of fact, affirmed the state board. The appeal here is by the township from the Supreme Court judgment. Unless a legal defect exists this court does not disturb the finding of the Supreme Court in certiorari on a tax assessment. Moran v. Jersey City, 58 N.J.L. 653; Yellow Pine Co. v. Board of Assessors, 72 Id. 182; Hoboken Ferry Co. v. State Board, 103 Id. 148. The question, therefore, is whether legal error is disclosed.
We think that error occurred in this, that either there was not evidence to sustain the reductions granted by the state board and affirmed by the Supreme Court, or those tribunals
gave evidential force to proofs that grounded in unlawful standards.
The taxpayer bought the property from the Prudential Insurance Company on August 18th, 1943, for $185,000 of which $27,750 was in cash and $157,250 was upon mortgage. The testimony was taken before the state board in February of 1944. The taxpayer's expert witness began his testimony with these questions and answers:
"Q. What in your opinion would this property have sold for in money as of the assessing date, at a fair sale by private contract? A. My value on this property is $135,000, $20,000 for the land, $115,000 for the improvements.
"Q. That is in your opinion what it would have sold for in money? A. Yes."
But it developed that what the witness meant when he said "money" was cash, or, as he expressed it, "coin of the realm." The opinion of the witness was not addressed exclusively to the significance of the sale in this case; it was an interpretation of the law as applied to all instances where a considerable mortgage is ...