City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski

PETITIONER: City of Phoenix
RESPONDENT: Kolodziejski
LOCATION: Gwinnett County Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 1066
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)

CITATION: 399 US 204 (1970)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1970
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1970 in City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski

Warren E. Burger:

Number 1066, Phoenix against Kolodziejski.

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Warren E. Burger:


Rex E. Lee:

The question in this case is whether the State of Arizona may constitutionally limit the right to participate in general obligation bond elections to real property taxpayers whose property in such an election, the City of Phoenix, will put up as collateral security for the repayment of the bond obligation.

And whose property is subject to lien of those bonds during the life of the bonds.

The relevant facts in this particular case can be simply stated.

On June 10, 1969, there was submitted to the real property taxpayers in the City of Phoenix the largest aggregate of bond issues ever proposed by that city.

Calling for a total of $170 million to finance very badly needed improvements in the City of Phoenix, urgently needed at that time and even more urgently needed at the present time.

Two of these issues related to general or revenue bond issues and the other eight were general obligation bond issues.

Some six days after the election was held, this Court handed down its decisions in Kramer versus Union Free School District and Cipriano versus City of Houma.

The latter of which held that it was unconstitutional to prohibit non-property owners from voting in a revenue bond election.

According to Cipriano applied its holding prospectively only and held open the question of the applicability of Cipriano to general obligation bonds.

Because of the cloud which Cipriano casts over the bonds of the City of Phoenix, because of the urgent need on the part of the City of Phoenix for the facilities which were to be financed by these bonds, this suit was just brought raising the question which this Court now has before it.

Ms. Kolodziejski, the plaintiff in this case, is an employee of the leading investment banking firm in the City of Phoenix specializing in municipal bonds.

She owns no real property and she rents her living quarters.

It's been stipulated that the real property taxes which her landlord pays have a material bearing on the amount of tax which or in the amount of rent which she is charged.

A question which arises at the outset of this case concerns the relevant test which is to be applied to determine the right of the state through its Constitution and its statutes, to prescribe qualifications under which resident citizens of the City of Phoenix can participate in general obligation bond elections.

John M. Harlan II:

Could I ask you a preliminary question?

Rex E. Lee:

Yes Mr. --

John M. Harlan II:

Currently, if there is any answer to it.

But under your state law, did she have a tax to this bond issue as a matter of timeliness of an action.

Rex E. Lee:

Mr. Justice Harlan, in my opinion, the answer to that question is yes, but no one really knows the answer to that question.

The State of Arizona unlike the State of Louisiana does not have and so far as I know there's really only one state that has a statute exactly like the one with Louisiana does not have the kind of statute that provides what they call a preemption period at the end of which there is no further challenge.

Arizona is really at the other end of the spectrum in this sense.

The only election challenge statute that exists is a five-day period which was obviously intended to apply to election of people, election of officers.

There is one governing case which is rather difficult to read and lawyers could differ on exactly what it means.

Suffice it to say there is serious question -- serious question under the laws of the State of Arizona whether there ever comes a time that there's no longer the opportunity to challenge a bond election.

John M. Harlan II:

I bet you're not raising it?

Rex E. Lee:

No sir, indeed we're not.

Indeed we're not.