ILNews

Court tosses property assessment suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Tax Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's property tax assessment system because the petitioning taxpayers didn't exhaust their administrative options.

Indiana Tax Judge Thomas G. Fisher ruled Nov. 9 in Mel Goldstein, et al. v. Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, et al., No. 49T10-0709-TA-45, which was brought by 14 taxpayers and 10 citizen groups from across the state.

Indianapolis attorney John Price filed the suit in September on behalf taxpayers statewide pushing for tax reform, and Judge Fisher heard arguments Oct. 31. The suit included counts relating directly to Marion County and the recently passed income-tax increase and property-tax refunds, while the others focus on tax-rate equality and assessment practices statewide.

In his ruling, the judge said petitioners didn't meet the requirements for the appeals court to have jurisdiction. One is that a case must arise under the state's tax laws, while the second is that the suit appeals a final determination of either the Department of Revenue or Board of Tax Review.

But that didn't happen, and Judge Fisher wrote in a footnote that only two of the total 24 petitioners started the administrative appeals process. He said that amounts to "a failure to exhaust administrative remedies" that deprives the Tax Court of subject matter in a case.

While petitioners conceded they hadn't exhausted all the options administratively, Price argued that a past Indiana Supreme Court decision allows the tax appeals court to take on this case anyhow because it involves an issue of significant public interest.

Judge Fisher declined to accept that invitation.

"This Court is acutely aware of the public's discontent with the purported inadequacies of Indiana's property assessment and taxation system," he wrote. "What the Petitioners are asking the Court to do, however, is to create and confer upon itself subject matter jurisdiction where subject matter jurisdiction does not exist. This the Court cannot do."

Though he dismissed the suit, Judge Fisher also noted in a final footnote of the ruling that the petitioners can still have a day in court if they go through their administrative remedies.
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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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