Limtiaco v. Camacho
Camacho, the Governor of Guam, filed a Request for Declaratory Judgment in the Supreme Court of Guam, asking for an interpretation of the phrase “aggregate tax valuation of the property on Guam” and requesting guidance on how the government is to ascertain the “aggregate tax valuation” when determining whether the debt limitation has been exceeded. Section 11 of the Organic Act of Guam limits public indebtedness to 10% of the aggregate tax valuation of the property on Guam. Based on section 11, the Attorney General of Guam, had refused to authorize bonds worth $394 million that the Governor wanted to issue. The Governor argued that the phrase “aggregate tax valuation” means the appraised value, as distinguished from assessed value, of the property on Guam. The Attorney General argued that the term “valuation” in Section 11 is the same as the term “value” in local statutes governing Guam real property taxes, where it is defined as 35% of the appraised value.
The Supreme Court of Guam sided with the Governer, finding that the allowable public indebtedness under Section 11 should be calculated using the appraised value of the property on Guam, as reflected on the certified tax roll in effect at the time the debt is incurred. The court further concluded that the issuance of the bonds would not violate the debt-limitation clause contained in Section 11 of the Organic Act.
The Attorney General petitioned for appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the petition was pending, Congress changed the jurisdiction of appeals from the Guam Supreme Court from the Ninth Circuit to the United States Supreme Court. In general, the time limit for petitioning the Supreme Court is within ninety days of the lower court's judgment; this case was pending in the Ninth Circuit for almost two years before the statutory change caused the court to dismiss it. For this reason, the Supreme Court asked the parties to brief the question whether its ninety day statute of limitations was tolled while the case was pending in the Ninth Circuit.
Whether the Supreme Court of Guam erred in interpreting the phrase “aggregate tax valuation” in the Guam Organic Act’s debt-limitation provision, 48 U.S.C. � 1423a (emphasis added), as tying the limit on borrowing by the Guam territorial government to the full value of property on Guam rather than to assessed value for the purposes of taxation.
In addition to the Question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question:
Whether the time for filing a petition for writ of certiorari from this Court was tolled while a petition for writ of certiorari or writ of certiorari with respect to the same judgment was pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.