Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Stephen H. Bennett v. State Board of Equalization


February 5, 2013


Super. Ct. No. 34201180000911CUWMGDS

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Duarte , J.

Bennett v. State Bd. of Equalization



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Plaintiff Stephen H. Bennett, an accountant acting without counsel, believes defendant State Board of Equalization (BOE) has misinterpreted statutes implementing Proposition 13, regarding when real property may be reassessed. After filing objections to various BOE publications, Bennett filed a mandamus petition to compel BOE to change its interpretation. The trial court sustained without leave to amend BOE's demurrer, based on lack of standing, and Bennett timely appeals from the judgment. We agree with the trial court, and therefore shall affirm.


By statute, BOE gives directions to local property tax assessors. (See Gov. Code, § 15608.) Very broadly speaking, Proposition 13 limits reassessment of real property except when a "change in ownership" occurs. (See Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 2, subd. (a).) Urgent legislation implementing Proposition 13 was passed, effective July 10, 1979. (See Stats. 1979, ch. 242.) This legislation, based on a task force report, defined what constitutes a "change of ownership" under Proposition 13. (See Auerbach v. Assessment Appeals Bd. No. 1 (2006) 39 Cal.4th 153, 160-165; Phelps v. Orange County Assessment Appeals Bd. No. 1 (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 653, 658-659.) The definitions are located in Chapter 2 of Part 0.5 of Division 1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code (Rev. & Tax. Code, § 60, et seq.), and BOE has adopted regulations fleshing out these definitions (see Cal. Code Regs., tit. 18, § 462.001, et seq.).

Bennett's writ petition alleges that although the 1979 implementing legislation was prospective in effect, BOE has improperly interpreted it to be retrospective. Bennett sought declarations stating Part 0.5 of the Revenue and Taxation Code "has no retrospective effect on any owner's real property rights,'" BOE has improperly instructed assessors "to apply Part 0.5 retrospectively," BOE acted "unlawfully" by denying Bennett's requests that BOA amend its rules and depublish certain documents, and BOE violated its duty to sue assessors to prevent "giving retrospective effect to Part 0.5." Bennett's pleadings show he made unsuccessful efforts to convince BOE to change its understanding of what actions trigger a change of ownership.

The trial court sustained BOE's demurrer without leave to amend on two grounds: "(1) [Bennett] lacks standing based on a beneficial interest or standing to enforce a public duty and (2) an adequate legal remedy in the form of a refund action pursuant to Revenue and Taxation Code section 5140 precludes a mandate action."

Bennett timely appealed from the judgment.


We must begin by presuming the trial court was correct, but Bennett has failed to present coherent arguments, supported by pertinent authority, explaining how the trial court erred, therefore he has failed in his basic duty, as an appellant, to show error. (See In re S.C. (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 396, 408.)*fn1

The trial court correctly found Bennett lacked standing because he was not a beneficially interested party.

"As a general rule, a party must be 'beneficially interested' to seek a writ of mandate. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1086.) 'The requirement that a petitioner be "beneficially interested" has been generally interpreted to mean that one may obtain the writ only if the person has some special interest to be served or some particular right to be preserved or protected over and above the interest held in common with the public at large. [Citations.] . . . "One who is in fact adversely affected by governmental action should have standing to challenge that action if it is judicially reviewable."' [Citations.] The beneficial interest must be direct and substantial." (Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach (2011) 52 Cal.4th 155, 165.)

In Sacramento County Fire Protection Dist. v. Sacramento County Assessment Appeals Bd. (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 327 (SCFPD), we addressed standing in the context of a dispute about property tax assessments. We concluded a fire district lacked standing to challenge a finding lowering a property owner's assessment, although it would impact the budget of all taxing agencies within the county, in part stating: "With respect to the assessed valuation assigned to a particular piece of property, the District does not have 'some special interest to be served or some particular right to be preserved or protected over and above the interest [it holds] in common with the public at large.' [Citation.] The District and its residents, and indeed the public at large, share a common interest in seeing that the District's public function is effectively funded." (SCFPD, supra, 75 Cal.App.4th at pp. 332-334.) Nor did we permit standing based on a "public interest exception," in part stating, "This is not a situation where the issue raised by the District will be removed from judicial review if standing is denied." (SCFPD, supra, at p. 334.)

Similarly, Bennett has no special interest in proper assessments to advance beyond the interest of all citizens, nor is "public interest" standing needed.*fn2

As the trial court correctly found, Bennett has an adequate remedy for any particular assessment that violates Proposition 13, as does any other aggrieved party, namely, a tax refund suit. (See Rev. & Tax Code, § 5140; 9 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (10th ed. 2005) Tax, § 292, pp. 426-427.) Not only is that an adequate remedy, the trial court correctly viewed it as the sole remedy for imposition of an improper tax, in light of the anti-injunction rule. (Cal. Const., art. XIII, § 32; see State Bd. of Equalization v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 633, 638-640; Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Board of Equalization (1980) 27 Cal.3d 277, 280 ["a court order invalidating an assessment will in effect 'prevent or enjoin the collection' of the tax"].)

Accordingly, Bennett cannot compel BOE to change the manner in which it interprets the statutes implementing Proposition 13. If a property owner believes an assessor has improperly found a change of ownership, the property owner may pay the tax, file a tax refund suit, and litigate the matter.


The judgment is affirmed. Bennett shall pay BOE's costs on appeal. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278.)

We concur: BLEASE , Acting P. J. ROBIE , J.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.