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William Jefferson & Co., Inc v. Board of Assessment and Appeals No. 3 For Orange County

January 24, 2011

WILLIAM JEFFERSON & CO., INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF ASSESSMENT AND APPEALS NO. 3 FOR ORANGE COUNTY, STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David O. Carter United States District Judge

O

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

This matter came before the Court for a non-jury trial on September 13, 2010. Pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court hereby issues its findings of fact and conclusions of law.

A. Findings of Fact

1. On July 22, 2009, Plaintiff William Jefferson & Co., Inc. ("WJ") filed a Complaint against the Assessment Appeals Board for the County of Orange (erroneously sued as Board of Assessment and Appeals No. 3 for Orange County) ("Board") bringing two claims for (1) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (2) constitutional violations.

(Docket 1.)

2. WJ alleged that the Board deprived it of its right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id.

3. WJ's claims arise out of its unsuccessful appeal of the Orange County Tax Assessor's base year value determination for certain real property located in Irvine, California. Id.

4. On July 15, 2008, WJ filed an Application for Changed Assessment as to the base year value of real property located at 15242 Normandie Ave., Irvine, California. Id.

5. In that application, filed with the Board, WJ requested written findings of fact. WJ paid the $320.00 filing fee that the Board charges applicants who request written findings of fact. That fee is associated with the resources expended by the Board in preparing written findings of fact.

6. After receiving WJ's application, the Board set an initial hearing for February 2, 2009. At the February 2, 2009 hearing, the parties submitted initial argument and agreed to conduct a further evidentiary hearing on March 31, 2009. Trial Tr., dated September 13, 2010, at 12:12-18.

7. The County Counsel's office for Orange County represented the Orange County Tax Assessor at both hearings before the Board. Mr. James C. Harmon ("Harmon"), Senior County Counsel, was the specific attorney assigned to represent the Tax Assessor. Id. at 19:2-7.

8. Another member of the County Counsel's office of Orange County, Ms. Paula Whaley ("Whaley"), Deputy County Counsel, assisted the Board. Id. at 9:18-25. Ms. Whaley purported to assist the Board pursuant to Government Code section 31000.7, which provides that the County Counsel's office "may represent the [county tax assessor] and the county board of equalization, as long as the same individual does not represent both parties." Cal. Gov't Code § 31000.7.

9. In order to ensure that attorneys who represent the Tax Assessor do not improperly and unethically interact with the attorneys who assist the Board, the County Counsel's office is divided into two sections: (a) an "advisory" section; and (b) a "litigation" section. Id. at 40:8-14. Between the advisory and litigation sections, the County Counsel's office is composed of approximately 65 attorneys, forty of whom are ...


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