Virginia Supreme Court Opinions Affecting Local Government Law: September 15, 2016

The Virginia Supreme Court issued two opinions in September affecting local government law.  Its work resulted in opinions addressing legislative privilege from document requests, and applying a local government tax exemption ordinance.

The case summary is taken from the Virginia Supreme Court opinions website. Click on the case number to read the opinion.

151701 Miller & Rhoads Bldg. v. City of Richmond 09/15/2016 Considering a taxpayer’s appeal from the circuit court’s ruling rejecting its claim that a partial exemption from annual city-wide real estate tax under the city’s tax abatement for rehabilitated real estate program also applied to the city’s annual special service and assessment district tax, the circuit court correctly determined that the partial exemption did not apply to the special district tax, even though it is a type of real estate tax. Under the expressio unius maxim of statutory construction, a particular city code provision indicating that the special district tax is only “subject to” four other specifically mentioned sections in a particular article and chapter of the city code, none of which provide for the partial exemption, indicates that by omitting the remaining sections in that article and chapter of the city code–including the sections providing for the partial exemption–the city council did not intend for special district taxes to be “subject to” those omitted sections. Accordingly, because the special district tax is not subject to the partial exemption, the trial court was correct, albeit for the wrong reason, in ruling that the special district tax is not a real estate tax within the meaning and for the purposes of the partial exemption. Its judgment is therefore affirmed via application of the right result for the wrong reason doctrine.

160643 Edwards v. Vesilind 09/15/2016 Considering an appeal from a civil contempt order entered after the Division of Legislative Services and several senators of the General Assembly, invoking legislative privilege, refused to comply with a production order in a matter pending before the circuit court, on the limited record before it, the circuit court abused its discretion by holding the senators and the Division in contempt because it erroneously ruled that the materials sought in the subpoenas duces tecum were not protected by Virginia’s legislative privilege, as enshrined in the Speech or Debate Clause, Article IV, Section 9 of the Constitution of Virginia. Accordingly, the portion of the April 14, 2016 order holding the senators and the Division in contempt is vacated. The portions of the February 16, 2016 order that are inconsistent with this opinion are likewise vacated, and the case will be remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.