Prop. 13 Survives Another ‘Trial By Combat’

In the Middle Ages it was common practice in some European countries for those in dispute to resolve their differences through a judicially sanctioned trial by combat. The winner was considered right while the loser could end up being considered dead.

While the re-institution of this method to resolve judicial disputes could prove useful in rapidly reducing the backlog of cases in our overburdened courts as a civil society we should probably remain with the less violent system of justice in which attorneys judges and juries take the place of clashing swords and armor.

Still for those of us committed to defending against legal challenges to Proposition 13 it sometimes feels like we are the recipients of repeated mace and ax blows. But the champions of Proposition 13 are sturdy and tough and have survived each test unscathed.

Last week the 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with attorneys representing the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 13 lacked merit.

Since his retirement former UCLA Chancellor Charles Young perhaps appropriately described as the Black Knight has been busy filing lawsuits to try to overturn a critical taxpayer protection contained in Prop. 13: the two-thirds vote required of the Legislature to impose new taxes on Californians.

Young initially filed his case directly in the California Supreme Court arguing that time was of the essence because California needed more revenue to balance its budget but Prop. 13 stood as a barrier to new taxes. The Supreme Court rejected this ploy and instructed Young to refile in the Superior Court like everyone else which he quickly did.

Although Young strategically named as defendants only officers of the Legislature who have no incentive to defend Proposition 13 the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association intervened on behalf of California’s taxpayers and argued to the court that the issue of Proposition 13’s constitutionality was settled law for in a 1978 court case Amador Valley Joint Union High School District v. State Board of Equalization the California Supreme Court rejected outright a legal argument similar to Young’s current claim that Proposition 13 amounted to an unconstitutional revision of California’s form of government not a mere amendment to the Constitution. The Superior Court agreed and entered judgment for HJTA. Young filed an appeal.

The Court of Appeal has just affirmed HJTA’s victory. Now that the Appellate Court has rejected his arguments we hope that Chancellor Young has gotten the message and will end his attacks on Proposition 13 the backbone of taxpayer rights in the state of California.

However a lawyer for Young has strongly hinted that an appeal will be filed with the California Supreme Court so it appears the battle will continue. We at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will be ready. We are keeping our armor polished and our weapons sharp.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association —California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.