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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

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  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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