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State of Colorado
Years 1905 and 1906
N. C. Miller
Biennial Report of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
State of Colorado
DENVER, November 15, 1906. To the Honorable, JESSE F. McDONALD,
Governor of the State of Colorado. Sir-In compliance with the constitutional and statutory requirements of the State of Colorado, I beg leave to submit a report of the official conduct of the office of Attorney General from the 10th day of January, 1905, to the 15th day of November, A. D. 1906.
I submit herewith a complete list of criminal and civil cases pending in the various courts in which this office appeared for the State or its officers.
The opinions contained in this report do not include all that have been written during the biennial period. I have endeavored to select such as will be of more or less use hereafter, and have omitted those which have only a passing value.
A great many requests for opinions have been made by persons not entitled to receive them. These have been refused, except in a few cases. There is no law requiring the Attorney General to furnish opinions to persons other than State officers, the Legislature and State institutions.
The work of this office has been largely increased in recent years, owing to legislation which has cast additional burdens
It is no longer true that the criminal work is the most important or the most laborious. The work that requires the most time relates to the civil law. For instance, the Revenue Act imposing the inheritance tax has made an immense amount of labor for this office, and vexatious questions are raised for which there is often no precedent. Although the law imposes no duty on this office to look after the collection of the inherit
ance tax, yet the Governor has the right to direct the Attorney General to take care of all suits in which the State has an interest, and this has been done by a written order. Unless an issue is raised concerning the payment of the tax, there is no suit and we are not authorized to look into the matter.
In my judgment, the inheritance tax is becoming too large and important to be handled in this way. There has already been collected $126,214; during my term of office, a judgment has been obtained against the Stratton estate for $284,064.33, with interest from the 14th day of September, 1902, until paid. The accumulated interest now amounts to about $76,000. The latter item is disputed by the executors and it is possible a writ of error will be sued out to test the validity of the judgment directing the payment of interest. The bookkeeping and auditing department of the State is in the Auditor's office, and my judgment is that a clerk should be provided who has authority to examine all papers and inquire into all proceedings concerning the inheritance tax, and when matters appear which should be litigated the Auditor has authority to call upon the Attorney General to represent the State. It would not be just to require the Attorney General's office to look into mere matters of routine; this detail work can be done better by the Auditor's office. In one or two instances, mistakes have been discovered which would more than pay the salary of such employe. How many more mistakes exist throughout the State undiscovered, I am unable to report. The law, as it now stands, imposes some duties upon county judges, district attorneys and county treasurers in the collection of this tax. Experience shows that the State's interests can not be properly looked after by local officials. Where the State has a large interest, it should have its own representative to look after it in one of the executive offices. The administration of the law relating to inheritance taxes has raised many difficult and intricate problems concerning which no precedents are found.
During this biennial period the Supreme Court has decided that each heir of the first class should have an exemption of $10,000. A similar decision was rendered in the State of New York, and soon thereafter legislation was adopted making it clear that only one exemption of $10,000 should be deducted from the entire estate. If this is the desire of our Legislature, a similar measure should be enacted.
The increasing value of lands, as well as their growing scarcity in Colorado, has made the duties of the State Board of Land Commissioners more exacting and difficult to discharge. Four years of experience as a member of this Board has impressed upon me the importance of doing the work in that office well. I do not believe that any private individual would undertake to deliver so many important papers affecting titles to land, unless the documents were examined by a competent attorney. We have employed a special counsel at $1,500 a year, but I believe the efficiency of this counsel would be improved by putting him under the direct control and supervision of the At. torney General. I may say that I am opposed to the present plan.
The legal work connected with the land office and the collection of inheritance taxes will afford all the labor that one good attorney can possibly do well. Leaving these out of consideration, the Attorney General's office has the additional work growing out of the department of irrigation added to the Engineer's office, and the collection of corporation taxes devolving upon the Secretary of State. This extra work, along with the work that has always been heretofore in the Attorney General's office, will be all that he and two assistants can accomplish.
The care of the public lands of the State is increasing each year. I do not believe the subject receives the attention it requires from the executive officers composing the State Board of Land Commissioners. It may have been all right to form this Board from the executive officers at an early date, but the growth of business in all the departments of the State has increased so that these officers are not able to give the business the attention it deserves. It would add very little to the cost of the management of the Land Office to constitute a board of three, who would give their entire time and attention to the affairs of this department. For instance, the register now receives a salary of $3,000, and a deputy register $1,800, and a chief appraiser is paid $1,500. If a new board were made up of these three persons at a salary of $3,000 a year, the gain to the State would far exceed the increased cost to the people. The additional expense would be $1,200 in the case of the deputy register and $1,500 in the case of the chief appraiser, or, altogether, an increased expenditure of $2,700. The interests of the people would be better looked after. I have no doubt that the revenues of this office would be greatly increased and its efficiency improved if the Board could give the subject its entire attention. We have discovered in many instances that valuable tracts of land were being rented for a nominal sum, and have raised the rental. I have no doubt that many instances of this kind exist which have not come to the knowledge of the Board. I think that a constitutional amendment should be submitted to the people creating a land board of three members, giving them entire charge of the business of that office. The efficiency of the office will be improved without additional expense.
The lands of the State must be protected in regard to water, and how this can be done must be determined by inspection. This question is of such great importance that it can not be longer deferred unless the public lands of the State are to be rendered valueless. I think I can safely say that the Board, made up of executive officers, as it now is, has almost no knowledge of the physical condition of particular tracts of land. It is therefore impossible for the Board to deal with the question of irriga