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O'Shields v. City of Memphis

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 23, 2017

JOSEPH O'SHIELDS, ET AL.
v.
CITY OF MEMPHIS, ET AL.

         Session: January 17, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-12-1233-1 Walter L. Evans, Chancellor.

         The issue on appeal in this case is whether the City of Memphis unlawfully assessed a tax on real property located in a newly annexed area of the city in 2012. The plaintiffs are property owners in the annexed area who argue that the city had no authority to assess property taxes in the area for 2012 because its annexation of the area took effect after January 1, 2012. The trial court concluded that the tax was lawful because the City's annexation of the area took effect before January 1, 2012 and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Richard L. Winchester, Jr., Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellants, Joseph O'Shields, Tommie Isom, Warren Riggs, Roy Fisk, and Kenneth Netherton.

          Allan J. Wade and Brandy S. Parrish, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, City of Memphis and Marie Kirk Owens.

          Arnold B. Goldin, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ARNOLD B. GOLDIN, JUDGE.

         Background and Procedural History

         On November 20, 2001, the Memphis City Council passed an ordinance to extend the boundaries of the City of Memphis (the "City") by annexing the South Cordova area effective December 31, 2001. On December 18, 2001, Gene B. Cochran and other residents of South Cordova filed a quo warranto action to contest the validity of the annexation ordinance ("Cochran I"). No other quo warranto actions contesting the validity of the annexation ordinance were filed within 30 days of the passing of the ordinance. On April 20, 2011, the trial court entered an order dismissing Cochran I due to the plaintiffs' failure to prosecute the case. The Cochran I plaintiffs filed a post-judgment motion to set aside the dismissal, and the trial court entered a final order denying the post-judgment motion on June 28, 2011. No appeal was taken from the dismissal of Cochran I.

         On July 5, 2011, the Cochran I plaintiffs filed a second quo warranto action to contest the annexation ordinance ("Cochran II"). On May 16, 2012, the trial court entered an order dismissing Cochran II for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Cochran II plaintiffs appealed, and this Court affirmed the dismissal. See Cochran v. City of Memphis, No. W2012-01346-COA-R3-CV, 2013 WL 1122803 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 19, 2013).

         The present case was initiated on July 31, 2012 when Joseph O'Shields and other owners of property in South Cordova, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a complaint against the City and Marie Kirk Owens, in her capacity as treasurer, seeking a refund of property taxes collected from property owner's in the annexed area by the City in 2012 as well as other costs and fees.[1] The plaintiffs asserted that the City had no legal authority to assess or collect taxes on real property located in South Cordova in 2012 because the area was not within the City's limits on January 1, 2012. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-504(a) ("All assessments of real property . . . shall be made annually and as of January 1 for the year to which the assessment applies[.]"). The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, in which they argued that the taxes were lawful because the City's annexation of South Cordova took effect 31 days after the entry of the final judgment in Cochran I on June 28, 2011.

         Following a period of discovery, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. In support of their motion, the defendants submitted portions of the record from Cochran I demonstrating that a final judgment was entered in that case on June 28, 2011, and no appeal was taken therefrom. The defendants argued that, by statute, the annexation ordinance took effect 31 days later, on July 29, 2011. See Tenn. Code Ann. ยง 6-51-103(d)(1). In support of their motion, the plaintiffs submitted evidence intending to demonstrate that the annexation ordinance took effect, at the earliest, on July 1, 2012. According to the evidence introduced by the plaintiffs, residents of South Cordova paid monthly fire protection fees to Shelby County through June 2012. The City began providing primary emergency and waste removal services to the South Cordova area on July 1, 2012. Around the same time, the residents of South Cordova received a letter, dated June 29, 2012, from the City's mayor that stated in part, "As the Mayor of Memphis, let me be the ...


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