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To the Legislature:
Section 66 of the Executive Law requires me to report to the Legislature upon the administration of my department for the preceding year. This section specifies certain items to be included in such report. It has also been customary to include such other matters as may be necessary to render a complete summary of the work of the department and to make such recommendations for changes in the statutes or in the organization of the department as experience has shown to be advisable.
This report is divided into two parts. The first contains an outline of the more important things accomplished during the past year and makes certain recommendations. The second division includes all the details required by law to be stated, together with copies of such opinions rendered during the year as seem to be of general public interest.
ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES. The last year has shown a marked improvement in the efficiency of the department and in its ability to handle the ever-increasing legal work of the State. At the last session, the Legislature gave five additional deputies at the Albany office and two deputies in the New York City Bureau. With this increase in the regular force, better organization and a more prompt dispatch of the work has been possible, and has greatly reduced the necessity of employing special counsel.
CENTRALIZATION OF WORK. A significant change in the department is that by which the Legal Department of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission was transferred to the Attorney-General and has become the Forest, Fish and Game Bureau in this office.
The Forest, Fish and Game Commissioner recently requested that the Legal Department of the Commission be transferred to the Attorney-General's office. I was glad to co-operate, and on
October 10, 1910, designated one of my deputies as Deputy Attorney-General in charge of the Forest, Fish and Game Bureau of the Attorney-General's office.
At a later place in this report I shall speak more in detail of the work accomplished by this Bureau. I refer to it here simply as a concrete step taken during the past year toward the sound policy of concentrating all the legal business of the State under its constitutional law officer. Since the consolidation of the Legal Department of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission with this office, the Lunacy Commission has recommended that its legal work should likewise be conducted by the Attorney-General. Other State departments have requested that a deputy be assigned to them so that they may be brought in closer touch with their legal advisers. During a large part of the year, in accordance with this request, I had a deputy assigned to the Comptroller. For a portion of the time he occupied a desk in the office of the Comptroller, but largely owing to the crowded condition of that office, he subsequently returned though continuing his close relationship with the business. of that department.
I am glad to report a general recognition of the soundness and advantages of a policy of concentrating all the administration of the legal work of the State under a single responsible head. In that was only can the maximum degree of efficiener with a minimum expenditure be realized.
LIBRARY. At my request last year, the Legislature granted an additional employce to have charge of the library. In accordance therewith I appointed an employee of the State Library to this position. An inventory of the books in the Attorney-General's office at Albany and in the New York City Bureau was immediately taken. Is a a result, the number of books and extent of this library is known together with missing volumes, in order to make it complete. The actual securing of these books, however, I have deemed wise to leave to the next administration. It is my belief that the library
should receive careful attention and that the recommendations of the librarian as to a judicious expenditure upon it should be carried into effect.
OFFICE ACCOMMODATION. The congestion to which I referred in my last report has increased to an even greater degree during the past year. The outside offices rented a year ago for the Special Franchise Tax Bureau and the Barge Canal Title Bureau are still retained. The Attorney-General's offices were planned when the Attorney-General had only two deputies. Now there are twenty attached to the Albany office, and the inadequacy of the accommodation can be easily imagined. It has been necessary to have most of the deputies in the library. As a result, no deputy has an office to himself, although to secure the greatest degree of efficiency the men emploved in the more important work should have separate offices.
SPECIAL FRANCHISE TAX BUREAT. In my last report I outlined the administrative changes made in the Special Franchise Tax Bureau and pointed out the complete reorganization which I had found it necessary to make in that department. During the year 1909 I succeeded in securing a settlement of approximately one-quarter of a billion of dollars litigated assessed valuations. During the year of 1910 the amount of such raluations so settled has arisen to more than one and one-half billions, thus increasing the results on the first year's efforts in the second year six-fold.
The chief reason for these numerous settlements has been the vacation of references and transferring of proceedings for trial to extraordinary terms of court. Various corporations as soon as they learned that these terms were to be convened in New York City endeavored in many ways to defeat and delay my efforts. I was accordingly forced to prepare nearly three hundred attidavits and seek the assistance of the courts in having the places of trial changed and references vacated. Mr. Justice Chester granted the motions which I made at Special Terni, and his orders were sustained by the Appellate Division. As a result, the corporations were brought face to face with the alternative of trial before a judge in court or a settlement. In New York city alone more than
twenty million dollars of taxes have been paid into the treasury. Like results were obtained throughout the State and an equal amount of taxes was paid.
These taxes are local in their nature and belong to the locality where the special franchise is situated. The direct benefit of the payment of this forty millions of dollars of taxes must necessarily be to lessen the tax rate in each locality. In the past these local tax districts have not felt the full benefit of this law as the payment of these taxes was delayed by litigation.
No doubt litigation will arise in the future, but it is hoped that most of the taxes will be paid by reducing the amounts to the value of real estate in each locality.
A number of steam railroads are attempting to procure a construction of the statute exempting their occupancy of the public highways from its provisions. They were successful in securing a favorable decision upon this question from a referee to whom the cases had been referred under the administration of my predecessor. When his report came before the Supreme Court for confirmation it was held that steam railroads were subject to the tax. An appeal has been taken from this decision by the railroad companies to the Appellate Division, but has not yet come on for argument.
In connection with this mass of litigation, work almost without limit has devolved upon this department. It is difficult to convey an adequate conception of the daily routine necessary to care for the large mumber of proceedings constantly being instituted. The thousands of cases involve the keeping of records, the preparation of returns, the making out of various motion papers, negotiations for settlement, a careful scrutinizing of final orders for errors in form and rate equalization, and the notification of local authorities, all of which require vigilance and care.
At times it has been necessary for me to utilize practically my entire office force un those matters. The decision of the ('ourt of Appeals in the cases brought by the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and Buffalo Gas Company to compel the filing of a further return by the State Board of Tax Commissioners has greatly increased the clerical and legal work in connection with these litigations. The court held that the general allegations which had been in use in substantially