SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA

COUNTY OF ORANGE, CENTRAL JUSTICE CENTER

 

 

COUNTY OF ORANGE, a political subdivision of the State of California,

Petitioner,

vs.

ORANGE COUNTY ASSESSMENT APPEALS BOARD NO. 3,

Respondent.

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Case No. 00CC03385

[ASSIGNED FOR ALL PURPOSES TO HON. JOHN M. WATSON, JUDGE

DEPARTMENT C-15]

NOTICE OF RULING ON ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE RECUSAL; MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION; PROPOSED STIPULATION OF DISMISSAL

 

 

RENEE M. BEZAIRE, Trustee and ROBERT A. POOL, Trustee,

Real Parties In Interest.

 

TO ALL PARTIES AND TO THEIR ATTORNEYS OF RECORD:

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that on December 12, 2002, the Court entered the following ruling on the order to show cause re recusal, the motion for class certification, and proposed stipulation of dismissal:

"INTRODUCTION

"The motion to recuse this Court is denied as the Court has no financial interest in the matter (1) because it involves interpretation of the California Constitution and not, at least directly, financial matters and (2) the Court removes itself from any group of persons who may eventually receive a tax refund as a result of this case.

"The proposed stipulation for a judgment and dismissal is not accepted. First, because certain of the language is vague and unclear as to what actions the Tax Collector and or Tax Assessor are agreeing to. Secondly and more importantly it is unacceptably vague as to who the affected taxpayers might be. The Court's view is that affected taxpayers may include every one who has ever been subjected to the recapture of taxes by the method found to be unconstitutional by this Court. The stipulation proposed by the attorneys may exclude many such people if this Court were to accept it.

"RULING ON RECUSAL MOTION

"This motion is denied. (1) The Hon John M. Watson has no financial interest in the pending matter as it is a case that required the determination of the meaning and intent of certain portions of the California Constitution and the Revenue and Tax Code and not tax refunds; (2) the Class as defined will exclude the Hon John M. Watson in an abundance of caution and in an attempt to keep this Court's (and other Courts') attention focused upon the very significant issues presented by this litigation. The Hon John M. Watson hereby waives any right to proceed individually outside of the Class. Hon John M. Watson also notes that he was unaware of the recapture of taxes on rental property owned by him until it was brought to his attention by a letter of 10/3/02 sent to the Court during this case but long after the ruling concerning the unconstitutionality was ruled upon. A declaration to this effect has been executed and will be placed in the file.

"RULING ON CLASS CERTIFICATION

"The Court finds that there exists an ascertainable Class, and that a well-defined community of interest exists among proposed Class members. It further finds that common questions of law and fact predominate over any such questions not in common, it finds that the claims of Bezaire-Pool are typical of Plaintiff-Petitioners in the Class that Bezaire-Pool will fairly and adequately represent the Class and that the ‘class action device’ is superior to any other method for vindicating the rights of this large group of persons. The Cross-Plaintiff Class is as follows: All persons who own or are responsible to pay or have paid property taxes on taxable real property subject to the jurisdiction of Orange County, and for which taxable real property Orange County or any officer thereof determined that there was or should be an increase in tax of more than 2 percent from one tax year to another tax year, even though the real property was not purchased, was not newly constructed, and did not experience a change in ownership. Exclusion from the Plaintiff-Petitioner Class: As defined in this action ‘persons’ shall, and does hereby, expressly exclude the Honorable John M. Watson, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Orange. The Cross-Petitioner Class is as follows: All persons who, as a result of application of the ‘recapturing method’ of assessment by Orange County or any officer thereof to taxable real property, overpaid by more than ten dollars ($10) a property tax levied and collected by Orange County or any officer thereof and who did not receive from Orange County or any officer thereof the notice described in California Revenue and Taxation Code, section 2635, in the matter prescribed in that statute. Exclusion from the Plaintiff-Petitioner Class: As defined in this action ‘persons’ shall, and does hereby, expressly exclude the Honorable John M. Watson, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Orange.

"The Court faces too many individual issues to make it of value to address each in detail however the following language, modified slightly to accommodate the instant case, can be profitably paraphrased from the guidance of Presiding Judge D. Sills in the case of Bunker v County of Orange, 2002, 103 CA 4th 542.

"At page 10 (substituting the instant parties’ names and legislation found in the case before this Court):

"In contrast with Woosley, Bezaire-Pool’s case is not a ‘class claim for tax refund’ or a ‘review of tax proceedings.’ Any tax refund claims will come later, and will not come as a ‘class claim’ but will have to be filed individually. All ‘Bezaire-Pool’ are asking for now is a court order requiring the county to comply with California Constitution Article XIII A Section 2(b) and Revenue and Tax Code 51(a) (1) (D). That is, if Bunker were to receive the relief he requests, there will be, in addition to a simple declaration as to the effects of the California Constitution Article XIII A Section 2(b) and Revenue and Tax Code 51(a) (1) (D), an order to the effect that the county is obligated by law to send out two notices. Not write any checks. In fact, it is theoretically possible that ‘Bezaire-Pool’ could receive all the relief he has asked for in his complaint and the county might never write a refund check. After all, taxpayers who will receive the notices of overpayment pursuant to the California Constitution will only be informed ‘that a refund claim may be filed.’ (Emphasis added.)

"At page 12: It is premature to opine now on whether any tax refund claims that might eventually be precipitated by the notices which this lawsuit may generate will have to be paid. However, our conclusion as to the nature of the suit disposes of most of the county’s arguments on appeal. Those arguments are all predicated on the idea that the suit seeks a direct refund, not just an invitation to file a claim. Thus when the county says that none of the class members have exhausted their administrative remedies, it is a wholly irrelevant point. Given the nature of the relief sought, one would expect class members not to have exhausted any administrative remedies (e.g., having already filed claims for tax refunds) because members of the class were unlawfully denied notice of their opportunity to file individual refund claims when the county missed the two-year deadline. And when the county says that the members of the class are not entitled to ‘automatic tax refunds,’ that is true, but likewise irrelevant. We are concerned with whether the Constitution may be enforced by a writ, not whether members of the class may now obtain refunds of overpaid taxes.

"At page 16:

"It should be obvious that the Pacific Gas scenario is not like the case before us. Here, unlike in Pacific Gas, by definition the tax has already been paid. There will be no notice of overpayment pursuant to the California Constitution unless the taxpayer has already forked over the money, some of which he or she is entitled to get back. The most one can say in regard to the tax injunction argument is that Bunker's claim for current relief -- that is, his request that the county stop ignoring ‘the Constitution’ -- might benefit taxpayers in future years as well and therefore somehow operate, as in Pacific Gas, as a de facto injunction against the ‘collection’ of a tax. But even that doesn't hold up...The suit still will not have prevented or enjoined the ‘collection’ of any property tax.’ [sic] This is the guidance the Court finds in Bunker v The County of Orange and while it is paraphrased here it is helpful in resolving the issues before this Court in the instant case. Parties notified of court’s ruling via the Internet and by phone. Entered: 12/12/02"

At the time this notice is given, the text of the Court’s ruling is available at the internet website, http://www.occourts.org/rulings/watson.asp.

DATED: December 13, 2002 GANGLOFF, GANGLOFF & POOL

By: /S/

David L. Gangloff, Jr.

Robert A. Pool

Attorneys for Real Parties in Interest /

Cross-Plaintiffs / Cross-Petitioners

Renee M. Bezaire, Trustee

and Robert A. Pool, Trustee

KNAPP PETERSEN & CLARKE

Stephen M. Harris, Attorney for

Real Parties in Interest /

Cross-Plaintiffs / Cross-Petitioners

Renee M. Bezaire, Trustee

and Robert A. Pool, Trustee