Harper v. Virginia Department of Taxation

PETITIONER: Harper et al.
RESPONDENT: Virginia Department of Taxation
LOCATION: Austin's Auto Body Shop and mobile home

DOCKET NO.: 91-794
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Virginia

CITATION: 509 US 86 (1993)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1993

Gail Starling Marshall - on behalf of the Respondent
Michael J. Kator - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Harper v. Virginia Department of Taxation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1992 in Harper v. Virginia Department of Taxation

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 91-794, Henry Harper v. Virginia Department of Taxation.

Mr. Kator.

Michael J. Kator:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This cases arises as the sequel to Davis v. Michigan Department of the Treasury.

Petitioners are Federal retirees who, relying on Davis, sought refunds of the taxes Virginia unconstitutionally imposed on their pension.

The court below denied petitioners their refunds, principally holding that Davis was not to be applied retroactively.

This case presents the question whether Davis must be applied retroactively, and if so whether the Department of Taxation must refund petitioners the taxes unconstitutionally imposed upon them.

In reaching its conclusion to apply Davis nonretroactively, the court below relied on its application of Chevron Oil v. Huson.

Well, we submit that the lower court's Chevron analysis is flawed in every respect.

More fundamentally we submit that the court below erred in even reaching Chevron.

Foremost, retroactivity of Davis is compelled by this Court's decision in Beam v. Georgia.

In Beam this Court rejected modified or selective prospectivity in the civil arena.

It held that if this Court applies its rule to the parties before it in one case all other courts must similarly apply that rule to litigants before them.

Thus for choice of law purposes the dispositive question here is whether the Court applied its ruling to the parties in Davis.

On this point there can be no real dispute.

As a result of this Court's holding Michigan paid and Paul Davis received a refund of the taxes unconstitutionally imposed on his pension.

It is not important how or why this Court reached that determination.

It matters only under Beam that it did.

Accordingly, under Beam, the court below was required to apply Davis retroactively.

The second point that we raise is our statutory point.

What the Department of Taxation is asking the Court to do in this case is something that it has never done before.

It is asking the Court to use Chevron to ignore the plain, unambiguous terms of a lawfully enacted act of Congress.

This is not anything that any of the authorities that the Department of Taxation has cited in its brief suggests that this Court has ever done.

And admitted, it would seem to me that there's no precedent which would support it.

In enacting the Public Salary Tax Act in 1939 Congress said taxes imposed after December 31, 1938 must be non-discriminatory.

50 years later Virginia says no, that statute should go into effect December 31, 1988.

This Court cannot accept Virginia's equitable plea.

They say it's going to be very burdensome for us to comply with the statute.

Congress has spoken, and that, according to this Court's precedent, is the end of the matter.

In our briefs we speak at great detail about the Chevron analysis.