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Wheatherford v. City of San Rafael

California Court of Appeals, First District, First Division

May 22, 2014

CHERRITY WHEATHERFORD, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF SAN RAFAEL et al., Defendants and Respondents.

[REVIEW GRANTED BY CAL. SUPREME COURT]

Marin County Superior Court No. CIV1300112 Hon. Roy Chernus, Judge

Page 461

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 462

COUNSEL

Mark T. Clausen for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Bertrand, Fox & Elliot, Thomas F. Bertrand and Richard W. Osman for Defendant and Respondent City of Rafael.

Steven M. Woodside, County Counsel, Renee Giacomini Brewer, and Valerie R. Boughey, Deputy County Counsel, for Defendant and Respondent County of Marin.

OPINION

DONDERO, J.

Plaintiff Cherrity Wheatherford filed a complaint challenging the enforcement practices of defendants the City of San Rafael and the County of Marin with respect to the impoundment of vehicles. She claimed she had standing to bring the action as a resident taxpayer. However, she conceded that she had not paid any property taxes. The trial court entered a stipulated judgment of dismissal. We agree with existing appellate decisions that hold payment of an assessed property tax is required in order for a party to have standing to pursue a taxpayer action. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 9, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. In the complaint, she alleged she had taxpayer standing under Code

Page 463

of Civil Procedure section 526a (section 526a) because she had paid sales tax, gasoline tax, and water and sewage fees in the City of San Rafael and the County of Marin. She admitted she had not paid property taxes, but asserted she nevertheless had standing under Tobe v. City of Santa Ana (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1069 [40 Cal.Rptr.2d 402, 892 P.2d 1145] (Tobe). The complaint challenges the defendants’ policies and practices related to the impoundment of vehicles under Vehicle Code section 14602.6. [1]

On April 22, 2013, the trial court filed a stipulated order and judgment of dismissal. In the order, plaintiff admitted appellate courts have twice held that payment of property taxes is required for taxpayer standing under section 526a. (See Torres v. City of Yorba Linda (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 1035 [17 Cal.Rptr.2d 400] (Torres); Cornelius v. Los Angeles County etc. Authority (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1761 [57 Cal.Rptr.2d 618] (Cornelius).) She also conceded her argument that the property tax requirement is an unconstitutional ...


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