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Tax Court lets owners’ appeal go forward in alleged ‘puppy mill’ case

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The former owners of an alleged puppy mill in Harrison County may pursue their claim that because the state overreached in using jeopardy tax warrants to seize their animals and property, they are entitled to a refund of the value of the taken property.

The Tax Court on Thursday denied a state motion to dismiss the appeal in Virginia Garwood v. Indiana Dept. of State Revenue, 82T10-1208-TA-46. The state argued the court lacked jurisdiction because a related suit was pending in a Harrison County trial court.

Long-running litigation voided the tax warrants used in 2009 by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to demand more than $142,000 in sales taxes the state claimed were owed by Virginia and Kristin Garwood, who the state accused of running a puppy mill. The Garwoods pleaded guilty in May 2010 to Class D felony charges of failing to pay sales taxes.

Zoeller had described the use of jeopardy tax warrants in the case as an “Al Capone” approach to taking down what was described as a puppy mill on a dairy farm. Police, state agents and dozens of animal rescue workers raided the farm in 2009.

The state served jeopardy assessments on the Garwoods and demanded they pay $142,368 immediately or their personal property would be seized. When they couldn’t pay, 244 dogs and puppies were seized. The animals, some of which tested positive for disease, were sold by the state to the Humane Society for a total $300.  

After the Tax Court voided the use of the warrants, the Garwoods formally requested a refund of the value of the seized animals, cash and other property, claiming they were owed a refund of $122,684.50. The state disputed the claim, and the Garwoods brought the current suit the state unsuccessfully moved to dismiss.

“Based on the totality of ... jurisdictional facts, the Court finds that Garwood’s case ‘arises under Indiana’s tax laws’: she filed a refund claim with the Department ... and now seeks to have the validity of her claim resolved by this Court," Senior Judge Thomas Fisher wrote.

The state argued that Garwood sought to recover money that wasn't paid and that the claim is for compensatory damages rather than a refund of sales taxes. "The Court, however, is not persuaded by either of these arguments," Fisher wrote, denying the motion and lifting a stay imposed in August.


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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