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City of Jersey City v. Kelly

Decided: May 3, 1946.

CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., PROSECUTORS-APPELLEES,
v.
WILLIAM D. KELLY, STATE TAX COMMISSIONER OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, AND LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD SYSTEM, ERIE RAILROAD SYSTEM, DELAWARE, LACKAWANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD SYSTEM, HUDSON AND MANHATTAN RAILROAD SYSTEM, PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD SYSTEM AND NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD SYSTEM, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; JAMES T. OWENS, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. WILLIAM D. KELLY, STATE TAX COMMISSIONER OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, AND LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD SYSTEM, ERIE RAILROAD SYSTEM, DELAWARE, LACKAWANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD SYSTEM, HUDSON AND MANHATTAN RAILROAD SYSTEM, PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD SYSTEM AND NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD SYSTEM, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND DELAWARE, LACKAWANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND ERIE RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND HUDSON AND MANHATTAN RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND ERIE RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND DELAWARE, LACKAWANNA AND WESTERN RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND HUDSON AND MANHATTAN RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS; CITY OF JERSEY CITY, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PROSECUTOR-APPELLANT, PROSECUTOR-APPELLEE, V. STATE BOARD OF TAX APPEALS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD SYSTEM ET AL., RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS



On appeal from the Supreme Court, whose opinion is reported in 133 N.J.L. 202.

For the Cities of Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken and West New York and certain taxpayers therein, Charles A. Rooney, John J. Fallon, John N. Platoff and Samuel Hirschberg (Charles Hershenstein and Milton B. Conford, of counsel).

For the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, Erie Railroad Company, Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and New York Central Railroad Company and their respective systems, Collins & Corbin (Edward A. Markley, of counsel), and Maximilian M. Stallman.

For the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the companies comprising the Pennsylvania Railroad System and the Pennsylvania, Reading Seashore Lines, Wall, Haight, Carey & Hartpence (John A. Hartpence, of counsel).

For the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Company and the companies comprising the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad System, Carpenter, Gilmour & Dwyer (Carl S. Kuebler, of counsel).

For the State of New Jersey, Walter D. Van Riper, Attorney-General (Benjamin C. Van Tine, Deputy Attorney-General, of counsel).

Oliphant

The opinion of the court was delivered by

OLIPHANT, J. These are appeals from three rules for judgment entered in the Supreme Court in railroad tax cases. We are in entire accord with the opinion of Mr. Justice Perskie speaking for that court, 133 N.J.L. 202, except as

it declares chapter 291, Pamph. L. 1941, as amended by chapter 169, Pamph. L. 1942, unconstitutional as applied to the taxes due from the railroad companies to the state for the tax year 1941. It is a fundamental rule, applied with unvarying uniformity, that legislative enactments will be declared void only in cases where they are in conflict with the constitution. If the constitutionality of the statute is in anywise doubtful such shall not be declared void. Attorney-General v. McGuiness, 78 N.J.L. 346, 347; Moore v. State, 43 Id. 203, 244; Wilentz v. Hendrickson, 135 N.J. Eq. 244, 251; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 492.

The reasons upon which the Supreme Court opinion is based are that (a) "The State admittedly had a vested right to the taxes as first computed" under R.S. 54:27-4; (b) the tax as so "first computed" amounted to $18,322,164.33; (c) under the final computation made under the 1941 act, as amended in 1942, the total tax amounted to $15,042,913.07; (d) thus, there was a net face difference between the original computation for 1941 under the old law and the final computation of the tax under the 1941 law, amounting to $3,279,233.26; (e) therefore as to the tax year 1941, the 1941 Railroad Tax Act violated article 1, paragraph 20 of the state constitution, which provides "no donation of land or appropriation of money shall be made by the State or any municipal corporation to or for the use of any society, association or corporation whatever."

The old railroad tax law provided "The amount of tax payable * * * shall be due and payable * * * on any day between said June 1st and December 1st following * * * (R.S. 54:27-2);" and, further, "* * * these taxes shall be a lien paramount to all other liens upon all the lands and tangible property and franchises of the company in this State. The liens shall take effect on June 1st of the year in which the tax is payable and shall be a debt due from the company to the State on that date, for which an action at law or suit in equity may be maintained, and ...


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