On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of a 94-year-old Minnesota grandmother who sued the state for violating her constitutional rights when county officials seized her condo for unpaid property taxes, sold it, and kept all the proceeds that exceeded what she owed.
“Geraldine Tyler owned a condo that Hennepin County seized as payment for approximately $15,000 in outstanding property taxes, penalties, interest, and costs. The home was then sold for $40,000. Under the state’s forfeiture laws, the county kept the surplus proceeds – in this case to the tune of $25,000,” Fox News reported.
“Tyler argued that the government violated the Fifth Amendment’s “Takings Clause” by confiscating property worth more than the debt owed by the owner. Lower courts ruled against her and dismissed her case, but the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously sided with her arguments and held that she brought a valid claim under the Takings Clause,” the outlet added.
The justices agreed with Tyler and ruled in her favor by a score of 9-0, delivering a victory for property owners and opponents of asset forfeiture.
“The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion. “The Takings Clause ‘was designed to bar the Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.’ A taxpayer who loses her $40,000 house to the State to fulfill a $15,000 tax debt has made a far greater contribution to the public fisc than she owed.”
In the opinion, it was stated that “Minnesota law itself recognizes in many other contexts that a property owner is entitled to the surplus in excess of her debt.”
“If a bank forecloses on a mortgaged property, state law entitles the homeowner to the surplus from the sale. And in collecting past due taxes on income or personal property, Minnesota protects the taxpayer’s right to surplus. Minnesota may not extinguish a property interest that it recognizes everywhere else to avoid paying just compensation when the State does the taking,” it continued.
Tyler’s attorneys argued that Minnesota’s policy of keeping the surplus of seized assets violated the Excessive Fines clause of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the government from imposing excessively severe fines for an offense.
“Because we find that Tyler has plausibly alleged a taking under the Fifth Amendment, and she agrees that relief under ‘the Takings Clause would fully remedy [her] harm,’ we need not decide whether she has also alleged an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment,” Roberts wrote.
In a concurring opinion, Justices Neal Gorsuch and Kentanji Brown Jackson wrote that the law favors Tyler and her argument.
“Economic penalties imposed to deter willful noncompliance with the law are fines by any other name,” they explained. “And the Constitution has something to say about them: They cannot be excessive.”
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court made headlines for a separate case that could affect future elections.
The Supreme Court is contemplating a North Carolina election case that will have a significant impact on the 2024 election regardless of the court’s decision.
The case centers on a constitutional theory known as “independent state legislature theory.” State legislatures, not state courts or governors, have considerable control over the administration of federal elections within their respective states, according to proponents.
The Supreme Court is presently considering Moore v. Harper, a case that specifically addresses the theory. Concerns exist, however, that the court may not reach a comprehensive decision on the matter prior to the 2024 elections.
According to the Washington Examiner:
More on this story via Conservative Brief:
Moore v. Harper features a dispute over North Carolina’s Supreme Court dismissing a GOP-backed apportionment plan for being too partisan. CONTINUE READING…