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. 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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