This is an appeal from a decree of the Oregon Tax Court allowing a peremptory writ of mandamus which directed defendant to extend on the Marion county assessment rolls a levy for street lighting purposes authorized by an ordinance of plaintiff city.
Plaintiff adopted an ordinance referring to the inhabitants of Woodburn a charter amendment authorizing a levy for street lighting purposes. The levy
Defendant complied with the order, whereupon plaintiff petitioned the Oregon Tax Court for a writ of mandamus requiring defendant to extend the levy upon the assessment and tax rolls of Marion county. The court ultimately granted the writ in peremptory form.
1. We are forced to conclude that the Oregon Tax Court was without authority to issue a writ of mandamus in the present proceedings. ORS 34.120 provides that the circuit court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of mandamus proceedings (except for the original
When the Oregon Tax Court was created ORS 34.120 was not amended to extend the jurisdiction of the circuit courts in mandamus proceedings to the tax court. Nor do the statutes creating the tax court give it the status of a circuit court so as to bring it within the terms of ORS 34.120. Although the tax court statutes do reflect the intent to equate the tax court with the circuit courts in certain respects,
If the tax court is not a "circuit court" then ORS 34.120 is controlling unless it can be said that the tax court was vested with the authority to entertain mandamus proceedings in tax matters within its jurisdiction and that, therefore, ORS 34.120 was impliedly amended or partially repealed. We are unable to find in the statutes themselves or in their legislative background a legislative intent to vest in the tax court the general authority to issue writs of mandamus.
Authority is vested in the tax court to issue writs of mandamus where a taxpayer fails to file an income tax return within a prescribed time. ORS 314.365. It
But approaching the question from the standpoint of an implied amendment or partial repeal of ORS 34.120, we fail to see how it is possible to derive from any of the statutes, singly or taken as a whole, an intent to vest in the tax court a jurisdiction over tax matters broad enough to carry with it by implication the jurisdiction to entertain mandamus proceedings.
2. The jurisdiction of the tax court is nowhere expressly defined. ORS 305.410 provides:
This statute is not helpful in defining the court's jurisdiction. It simply provides that in cases within its jurisdiction, whatever that may be, the tax court has the exclusive and final authority to adjudicate questions arising under the tax laws of this state. If the statute had granted to the tax court the "sole, exclusive and final authority for the hearing and determination
When we turn from ORS 305.410 to other statutes relating to the tax court we receive no further enlightenment as to the scope of the court's jurisdiction. The lower court concluded that these statutes together with other tax statutes reveal "that the legislature did not intend to create an inferior tribunal with severely constricted powers of review, but rather it established a true court of justice with plenary judicial powers of a general trial court and reviewable only by the Supreme Court."
3, 4. We are unable to find the source of the inference
If any inferences are to be drawn from the tax court statutes they would seem to be against rather than in favor of the conclusion that the tax court was to have jurisdiction in mandamus cases. If the tax court had been given exclusive authority to hear and determine all questions of law and fact arising under all of the tax laws of this state, there would be some basis for arguing that any case in the tax field, including those requiring mandamus proceedings, was to be heard by the tax court. But the tax court's jurisdiction is not that broad. The circuit courts still have
The lower court reasons that the legislature must have intended to transfer mandamus jurisdiction to the tax court because were it held otherwise it "would mean that all tax remedies lie in this special court, except only the remedy of mandamus." It is not clear how the term "tax remedies" is used in this context. If the term is intended to describe the procedural means of obtaining relief in the tax cases within the tax court's jurisdiction, then it may be observed that there is nothing in the statutes to indicate what procedural devices were to be available in the tax court. If "tax remedies" is intended to describe the scope of the tax court's jurisdiction from the standpoint of subject matter, then, as we have already indicated, all tax remedies do not lie in the tax court.
It may be noted further in this connection that the statutes are by no means clear as to the scope of the tax court's original jurisdiction to hear tax questions. These statutes lend themselves to a construction limiting the tax court's authority to that of reviewing questions presented upon appeal from the tax commission except in a very limited and special class of cases.
The lower court seems to suggest that a construction depriving the tax court of jurisdiction in mandamus cases would run counter to the legislative intent to integrate all tax remedies in the tax court insofar as that court was given jurisdiction over the subject matter. We have no basis for determining the extent to which the legislature intended to integrate tax remedies in the tax court. As far as we know the legislature may have felt that because mandamus is an extraordinary remedy it should be left in the court of general jurisdiction. There is no proof offered in this case that depriving the tax court of jurisdiction in mandamus cases will result in disharmony in the
5. It may be conceded that the tax court statutes taken alone lend themselves as readily to an interpretation favoring plaintiff's position. But the implied partial repeal of ORS 34.120 cannot rest upon an interpretation which is no stronger than its antithesis.
The decree of the lower court is reversed.
SLOAN, J., specially concurring.
It is my concern that the opinion can be read to imply that the Oregon Tax Court is a court of inferior jurisdiction. In those situations where the legislature has granted specific power to act I am convinced that it was clearly intended that the tax court would have every power that formerly was exercised by the circuit courts. I do agree, however, that until the legislature says so specifically that this does not now include the power to issue a writ of mandamus.