Appellate Procedure - Municipal Business License Tax on Foreign Sales - P. J. Lumber Company, INC. v. City of Prichard


P. J. Lumber Company, Inc. v. City of Prichard, [Ms. 2160627, Sept. 22, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). In this unanimous decision by Presiding Judge Thompson (Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur), the court affirms the circuit court’s judgment that business license taxes imposed by the City of Prichard on P. J. Lumber Company’s international sales of lumber did not violate the Import-Export Clause of the United States Constitution.

Prichard defaulted in answering P. J. Lumber’s complaint for a refund of the taxes in question, and the circuit court entered judgment by default. Prichard subsequently filed a motion to vacate the default judgment, and P. J. Lumber did not file any challenge in the circuit court to Prichard’s motion to vacate the default judgment. On appeal, P. J. Lumber contended that the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the default judgment. The court refused to consider this issue because it was raised for the first time on appeal. Ms. *4. The court explained the rationale for requiring that an issue be raised in the trial court:

The duty of an appellate court is to review the action of the lower court to ascertain whether or not error was committed; it is not to entertain any issue whatsoever that parties wish to raise. All reviewable matters stem solely from the record. ... And it has been stated by this court that it would review a case only on the same theory that was presented to the trial court.

Ms. *5, quoting Head v. Triangle Construction Co., 274 Ala. 519, 522, 150 So. 2d 389, 392 (1963) (citations omitted).

On the merits, the court held that the business license tax on lumber exports to foreign countries does not violate the Import-Export Clause because “[t]he non-discriminatory business-license tax has no impact on the federal government’s regulation of foreign commerce, nor does it interfere with the flow of goods among the states.” Ms. *18.

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