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UNITED STATES STEEL COMPANY v. ALLEGHENY COUNTY (01/07/52)

January 7, 1952

UNITED STATES STEEL COMPANY
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY, APPELLANT



Appeals, Nos. 175 and 176, March T., 1951, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1951, No. 3481, in case of United States Steel Company v. The County of Allegheny and Charles F. Dinan, County Treasurer. Order affirmed; reargument refused March 25, 1952.

COUNSEL

Leonard Boreman, Assistant County Solicitor, with him Nathaniel K. Beck, County Solicitor, for appellants.

Carl E. Glock, with him Frank W. Ittel, Robert F. Banks and Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.

P. H. McGuire, John E. Evans, Sr., Seymour H. Weiss, G. Roy Keitzer, and John Braden McAdoo, for School District of City of Duquesne, et al., amicus curiae.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Bell

[ 369 Pa. Page 425]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE BELL

The solution of this appeal revolves around the narrow but important question: Did the taxpayer have a right to pay its disputed taxes into court under the amendatory Act of July 15, 1935, or was that right abolished by the amendatory Act of July 12, 1935?

United States Steel Company presented a petition to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, asking leave to pay into court the full amount of the county real estate taxes which were assessed against it for the year 1951 under and in accordance with the provisions of the Act of July 15, 1935, P.L. 1007, 72 P.S. Sec. 5020-518. The County Treasurer opposed the payment of the Company's taxes into court on the ground that that privilege was expressly abolished by the Act of July 12, 1935, P.L. 674, 72 P.S. 5020-518. The court below sustained the Company's petition and directed the Prothonotary to pay to the County Treasurer the sum of $1,000,000. and to retain the balance of taxes in question, viz., $565,944.27, pending the trial and determination of the Company's assessment appeals. From these orders of the court, the County of Allegheny appealed.

The Act of July 15, 1935 and the Act of July 12, 1935, each purported to amend Section 518 of the Act

[ 369 Pa. Page 426]

    of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, 72 P.S. 5020-518, known as The General County Assessment Law. These amendatory Acts are long and it will suffice to epitomize them instead of quoting them at length.

Section 518 of The General County Assessment Law of May 22, 1933, supra, reads: "Section 518. Appeal to Court from Assessments; Collection Pending Appeal; Payment Into Court.*fn* " The section first provided that any owner of real estate who felt aggrieved by the assessment or valuation of his real estate might appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. The section then contained a proviso that the appeal should not prevent the collection of the taxes complained of. The section also contained another proviso, which is the only one relevant in this case, "And provided further, That the appellant may pay the amount of the tax alleged to be due by reason of the assessment appealed from into the court to which such appeal is taken, whereupon said court shall allocate and pay over to the proper authorities such amount of said tax as shall appear to said court to be reasonably free from dispute, and the remainder of the amount paid in shall be held by the court pending the final disposition of the appeal."

The Act of July 12, 1935, supra, was: "An Act to amend section five hundred and eighteen of the act, approved the twenty-second day of May, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three... by abolishing the payment of taxes into court on appeals from assessments." Section 1 of said Act then abolished the privilege of paying taxes into court by inserting in brackets all provisions relating to such payments. During the course of the Act through the legislature, several new provisions were added -- providing for the payment of taxes under protest, and the segregation of twenty-five per cent thereof pending the determination of

[ 369 Pa. Page 427]

    assessment appeals; and providing any amount found to be due to the taxpayer as refund should be a legal set-off or credit against future taxes.

The Act of July 15, 1935, supra, was "An Act to amend section five hundred eighteen of the act, approved the twenty-second day of May, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three..., entitled 'An act relating to taxation; designating the subjects, property and persons subject to and exempt from taxation for all local purposes; providing for and regulating the assessment and valuation of persons, property and subjects of taxation for county purposes, and for the use of those municipal and quasi-municipal corporations which levy their taxes on county assessments and valuations; amending, revising and consolidating the law relating thereto; and repealing existing laws,' regulating the refunding of taxes where appeals are finally disposed of." The Act of July 15, 1935, thereupon restated, republished and re-enacted the title and the original Section 518 of the Act of May 22, 1933 verbatim, including the heading "Payment into Court", and all the provisions relating to payment into court and added a provision that upon final disposition of the appeal the amount found to be due to the taxpayer as a refund should be a legal set-off or credit against any future taxes.

If the Act of July 12th stood alone, it is clear as crystal that the taxpayer could not pay his taxes into court on appeals from assessment -- that privilege was expressly abolished. If the Act of July 15th stood alone, it is clear as crystal that the taxpayer could pay his taxes into court on appeals from assessments, since that Act expressly so provided and also by its terms re-enacted and republished verbatim the original Section 518 of the Act of 1933 which expressly and specifically authorized a taxpayer to pay his taxes into court. It is obvious therefore that on this point, which

[ 369 Pa. Page 428]

    is the sole point in issue, the two Acts are absolutely irreconcilable.

Before discussing the decisions which rule this case in favor of the appellee, it may be helpful to point out that the confusion permeating appellant's argument completely disappears if it is realized at the outset that: (1) This is not a case of express repeal, nor is it an attempt, by Act of July 15, to expressly repeal, the Act of July 12; (2) This is not a case where the Act of July 12 and the Act of July 15 can both stand and be construed together, the latter "duplicating" one of the four minor provisions of the former; (3) This is a case where two Acts which make no reference to each other are, on the sole point of issue, absolutely conflicting and irreconcilable. In such event the law is clear, as will hereinafter appear, that the last Act prevails and the earlier Act is (to the extent of the repugnancy) repealed by necessary implication.

It is clear that the Act of July 12 and the Act of July 15, 1935 are on the point at issue in this case absolutely irreconcilable, viz.: The Act of July 12 expressly abolishes payment of disputed taxes into court; while the Act of July 15 expressly authorizes payment of disputed taxes into court. On this point the two Acts, we repeat, are inconsistent, conflicting and clearly irreconcilable. The narrow question is therefore presented: Which Act prevails? The Act of July 12, 1935, was originally known as House Bill No. 926. It was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 18, 1935. The Act of July 15, 1935, was originally known as Senate Bill No. 1290. It was introduced in Senate May 8, 1935. House Bill No. 926 was passed by the legislature on June 20, 1935; Senate Bill No. 1290 was passed by the legislature on June 21, 1935. The legislature adjourned on June 21, 1935. The Governor of Pennsylvania signed House Bill No. 926 on

[ 369 Pa. Page 42928]

A. 348; Metcalf's Estate, 319 Pa. 28, 179 A. 587; Newton Estate, 354 Pa. 146, 47 A.2d 229; Com. ex rel. v. Matthews, 303 Pa. 163, 154 A. 359; Bradley Election Case, 352 Pa. 63, 42 A.2d 155; Article V, ยง 75, Statutory Construction Act, May 28, 1937, P.L. 1019, 46 P.S. 575.

In Com. ex rel. v. Taylor, 159 Pa., supra, the questions involved and the principles established are thus stated by Justice (later Chief Justice) MITCHELL (pages 455, 456, 457): "The confusion in reading the statutes upon the subject of the election of school directors in the wards of boroughs, arises mainly from the fact that the 4th section of the act of May 14, 1874, is re-enacted and extended by the act of Feb. 16, 1883, without reference to its previous repeal by the act of May 10, 1978....

"The act of May 14, 1874, P.L. 160, by its 4th section directed 'the election of an equal number of councilmen and school directors in each of the wards,' etc. This contemplated a separate election each ward.... The act, [of 1878] though entitled a supplement to the act of 1874, contained no express repeal of any part of it, but only the general provision that so much as was inconsistent with its own provisions should be repealed -- a consequence which w o uld have followed without expression. It did repeal the 4th secti o n of the act of 1874 by virtue of the repugnancy between the system which it prescribed, and that prescribed by the prior act....

"The act of February 16, 1883, P.L. 5, is a further supplement to the act of 1874.... Constitutionally therefore it may contain anything that is germane to the subject of that act: Millvale v. R.W. Co., 131 Pa. 1; Phila. v. R.W. Co., 142 Pa 484.... The act then in express words amends section 4 of the act of 1874, reciting it as originally enacted without any reference to its repeal by the act of 1878. This however does not

[ 369 Pa. Page 431]

    in anywise affect the validity or the force of the new enactment.... The act does not contain any express repeal of prior acts, nor, as already said, any notice of the effect of the act of 1878 upon the section which it re-enacts. But the result is the same as if it did so. It is a clear and unqualified expression of the legislative purpose to establish a system of ward representation, and necessarily supersedes all previous systems. It repeals so much of the act of 1878 as provides for the election of school directors by a joint vote in the wards, in the same way and for the same reason that the act of 1878 repealed section 4 of the act of 1874, because the two systems are irreconcilable and therefore the latest must prevail. There is no difficulty or doubt about this result, or the validity of the statute by which it is produced.The act of 1883 is the existing law on the subject, and so far as any prior acts conflict with it they must give way."

Except for the immaterial fact that the July 12 and July 15 Acts are amendatory Acts which were passed in the same legislative session, this case is on all fours with ...


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