Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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At issue in this case was a Project that provided for the design and construction of a new Midtown Tunnel. The Commonwealth Transportation Board affirmed the Project and specifically approved and ratified the imposition and collection of tolls on the Project as contemplated by a Comprehensive Agreement entered into by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC (ERC). Plaintiff and other individuals filed a complaint against ERC and VDOT, alleging, inter alia, that the General Assembly, through its enactment of the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA), unconstitutionally delegated its power of taxation to VDOT and ERC in violation of the Virginia Constitution. The circuit court concluded that the General Assembly exceeded its authority in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Project tolls were user fees and not taxes, and therefore, the General Assembly did not delegate its power of taxation to agencies such as VDOT in violation of the Virginia Constitution; (2) the General Assembly properly delegated to VDOT and ERC the legislative power to impose and set the rates of user fees in the form of tolls under the terms of the PPTA; and (3) the Comprehensive Agreement did not abridge the Commonwealth's police power. View "Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC v. Meeks" on Justia Law

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Jackson Ward Partners (JWP) owned real property in the City of Richmond. JWP filed an amended complaint in the circuit court for correction of erroneous tax assessments on the property for the tax years 2005-2008, claiming that the assessments were clearly erroneous and in excess of the fair market value. The circuit court held that JWP satisfied its burden of proving the City's assessments were erroneous and ordered the City to correct its assessments and issue refunds to JWP for taxes it overpaid based on the erroneous assessment, plus interest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that JWP failed to prove the fair market value of the real property at issue. Remanded for entry of an order reinstating the City's tax assessments on the real property for the tax years in question. View "City of Richmond v. Jackson Ward Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

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This case arose from two civil investigative demands (CIDs) issued to the University of Virginia and the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (collectively, UVA) by the attorney general, pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). The CIDs sought information relating to the research of a climate scientist that had taught at UVA, received a series of grants to fund his research, and, with other climate scientists, had allegedly falsified data to indicate an upturn in the earth's surface temperatures due to the use of fossil fuels. UVA petitioned the circuit court to set aside the CIDs, arguing that the attorney general had no statutory authority to serve CIDs upon agencies of the Commonwealth and that the CIDs were defective because they failed to state the nature of the conduct alleged. The circuit court granted the petition and set aside the CIDs, without prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, but, unlike the circuit court, set aside the CIDs with prejudice, holding that the University of Virginia, as an agency of the Commonwealth, did not constitute a "person" under the FATA and therefore could not be the proper subject of a CID. View "Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va." on Justia Law

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SunTrust Bank and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) owned two properties in the City of Richmond as tenants in common. The RRHA was exempt from taxation but SunTrust was not. In 2009, the City determined that SunTrust was liable not only for the taxes on its ownership interests, but also for the taxes on the RRHA's interests. The City accordingly corrected the assessments against SunTrust for 2006 through 2009 to reflect that it was liable for taxes on both its ownership interests and the RRHA's. SunTrust challenged the City's actions, and the circuit court ruled that the City had no authority to tax SunTrust for the RRHA's ownership interests in the properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City had no authority pursuant to the parties' operating agreements, the state Constitution, or state law to tax SunTrust for the RRHA's ownership interests in the properties. View "City of Richmond v. SunTrust Bank" on Justia Law

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McCarthy Holdings filed a complaint against Vincent Burgher, seeking a declaratory judgment concerning an easement agreement. McCarthy, the owner of the dominant estate, sought a declaration that it had the right, as a matter of law, to bar Burgher, the owner of the servient estate, from any use of the easement. The circuit court found that the easement agreement was unambiguous and that it did not bar Burgher from reasonable use of the easement area. McCarthy appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in construing the easement agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying McCarthy's request to bar Burgher, as a matter of law, from any use of the easement area based upon the easement agreement; and (2) the circuit court did not improperly consider parol evidence in interpreting the easement agreement.

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The City of Richmond provides a partial exemption from real estate taxes for qualifying rehabilitated property if a property increases in value by at least forty percent because of rehabilitation. According to the city code, the amount of the partial exemption is the difference between the property's assessed value before rehabilitation and its initial rehabilitated assessed value. At issue in this case was whether the City Assessor's policy of determining a property's initial rehabilitated assessed value not as of the date its rehabilitation is completed but as of the date its owner's application for the program is submitted was consistent with the requirements of the city code. The circuit court held the policy departed from the requirements of the code because the ordinance requires that a property's first assessed value after rehabilitation be used to determine the amount of a partial exemption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that "initial rehabilitated assessed value" means the first assessed value after rehabilitation and not, as the city argued, value attributable to rehabilitation.

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Level 3 Communications is a telecommunications company providing wholesale Internet services to major Internet service providers. Level 3 filed applications to correct the amount of its gross receipts certified by the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to the Virginia Department of Taxation Department (Department), asserting that the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) proscribes state taxation of its Internet-related revenues. The SCC concluded that the relevant statutes do not empower the SCC to establish deductions from gross receipts not enumerated in the statutes, and the ITFA does not impact the SCC's duties because the SCC makes no determination of tax liability and imposes no tax. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the SCC properly declined to allow a deduction for Internet-related revenues that the General Assembly did not provide for in the gross receipts statute and that to allow for such a deduction would have required the SCC to exceed its statutory authority. Affirmed.