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Court: No rehearing based on another decision

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The Indiana Tax Court granted a petition for rehearing to clarify its ruling that a Hamilton County property qualified for a charitable/religious exemption. The Tax Court also denied rehearing a St. Joseph County case that claimed the decision in that case should be reconsidered based on the original ruling in the Hamilton County case.

On Wednesday, the Tax Court granted the petition for rehearing in Oaken Bucket Partners, LLC v. Hamilton County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals, et al., No. 49T10-0612-TA-113, and affirmed its previous decision in its entirety. The Tax Court held that a portion of Oaken Bucket's real property qualified for a charitable/religious purposes exemption for the 2004 tax year under Indiana Code Section 6-1.1-10-16. The Hamilton County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals and the county assessor filed a petition for rehearing because they believed the court committed reversible error when it failed to find Oaken Bucket had been prejudiced and that the earlier decision conflicts with Travelers' Insurance Co. v. Kent, 50 N.E. 562 (Ind. 1898), and Spohn v. Stark, 150 N.E. 787 (Ind. 1926).

The Tax Court disagreed, finding that when it determined that the Indiana Board's final determination wasn't supported by substantial evidence, it necessarily meant that the court found that Oaken Bucket had been prejudiced, wrote Judge Thomas Fisher. I.C. Section 33-26-6-4 doesn't state that a party may only be harmed when it suffers financial loss, but that the actions of the Indiana Board are the catalysts of prejudice.

Judge Fisher didn't find Oaken Bucket to conflict with the 1898 or 1926 decisions from the Indiana Supreme Court and pointed out that in 1975 the legislature rewrote the statute those cases relied on and removed certain words to make it less restrictive.

"In this case, the totality of the evidence established that Oaken Bucket possessed its own charitable purpose and that its property was both occupied and predominately used for religious purposes," he wrote.

The Tax Court denied rehearing in Jamestown Homes of Mishawaka, Inc. v. St. Joseph County Assessor, No. 49T10-0802-TA-17, which the court originally handed down the same day as its ruling in Oaken Bucket. The Tax Court affirmed that Jamestown Homes of Mishawaka wasn't entitled to a property tax exemption on apartments it leased to low- and moderate-income people for below-market rent. Jamestown petitioned for rehearing, believing the Tax Court has to reconsider its decision based on the ruling in Oaken Bucket, and because the Tax Court created a new burden of proof.

In Oaken Bucket, there was no question the subject property was occupied and used for religious purposes; Jamestown, however, failed to show that its federal-subsidized, low-income housing was property used for a charitable purpose, Judge Fisher wrote.

Jamestown also claimed the Tax Court strayed from applying the well-established test for determining whether property qualifies for the exemption and applied a "new test." But the Tax Court didn't apply a new test and actually just explained to Jamestown that in order to meet its burden of proof, it had to do more than make statements that the provision of low-income housing is a charitable purpose, wrote the judge.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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