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THE SEVENTH ANNUAL REPORT
JOHN C. HART
ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF GEORGIA
WITH AN APPENDIX CONTAINING OPINIONS
JANUARY 1st, 1908, TO DECEMBER 31st, 1908
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
ATLANTA, GA., December 31, 1908. To His Excellency, HOKE SMITH, Governor,
Sir:-Pursuant to the provisions of law, I have the honor to submit herewith my annual report of the work in part of this office from January 1, 1908, to December 31, 1908, inclusive.
I also append a number of official opinions which were reduced to writing, rendered the heads of the various departments of the State, and considered of sufficient importance for publication. There are a large number of oral opinions given the various departments each year, which greatly exceed those reduced to writing, and while they require time, investigation and reflection, were not reduced to writ. ing because the questions involved were momentary and not likely to occur again.
The litigation of the State continues to grow, and Georgia finds herself very frequently litigating not alone in her own courts, but as well in the United States courts, here and in Washington, D. C.
The following pages will give in part the records of this office and will serve to illustrate the scope, kind and result of the matters with which this department has dealt and has to deal.
It will be observed that quite a number of these cases referred to hereafter more in detail were not only important because of the amount of money involved, but as well because of principles of law decided. A large part of the State's revenue for last year was collected only after protracted liti- . gation. I refer especially to the tax cases against the Georgia Railroad & Banking Company, the Central of Georgia Railway Company, the tax imposed upon dealers in beverages in imitation of or substitute for wine, beer, liquor, etc., and to the Neal Bank litigation, involving the question of the priority of the State's lien upon $204,000 of the State's money in the Bank at the time of its failure and appointment of a receiver. These four cases alone involve a million of dollars and over.
The volume of correspondence in this office is greatly increased by letters from county officials requesting official opinions upon matters of gravity and importance to the administration of county affairs, and while strictly speaking this is not a part of the duties of the office of Attorney-General, yet these requests can not be ignored. I must answer these letters although I can render no official opinion thereon.
ARBITRATIONS IN 1908.
During the year 1908 I represented the State before the board of arbitrators in quite a number of cases, where the aomunt of taxes due by the corporation was in question. The return of the companies had been rejected by the ComptrollerGeneral and he had assessed the property, which
assessment being objected to arbitrators were chosen, who being unable to agree umpires were selected and the question of amount argued before each board.
There has been some slight recession from prior years upon the values fixed upon certain corporate property by boards of arbitration. These values no doubt were more or less affected by the prevailing panic and depression of business.
I have insisted before boards of arbitration that railroad property and all public utility corporations should return their property for taxation as the law requires, at its true market value and in representing the State in the enforcement of the orders of the Railroad Commission, where they were being attacked by railroads as prescribing rates which were confiscatory, the companies were entitled to earn a fair return on the value of its property. In other words when railroads returned their property for taxation by the public it should be substantially the same as when they seek to tax the public for their support and maintenance. The right of capital to earn a fair return on its investment is conceded, but capital in turn should contribute by way of taxation to the support of government its pro rata measured by actual value. The Constitution of this State requires "all taxation shall be uniform upon the same class of subjects and ad valorem upon all property subject to be taxed. ment is used by railroad companies before arbitration boards that individuals in this State do not return their property for taxation at its fair market