Last week we saw a huge win at the U.S. Supreme Court for property owners — especially elderly property owners.
And it was a clean sweep — all nine justices agreed.
It centered on a dispute over a Minnesota condominium owned by Geraldine Tyler, a 94-year-old grandmother, who fell behind on her property taxes.
Hennepin County seized and sold the property over approximately $15,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest she owed.
As a practical matter you have to wonder what was the rush?
She’s 94! But that wasn;teven the issue.
The county sold the unit for $40,000, paid off her outstanding tax lien and then pocketed the $25,000 excess.
The high court ruled a week ago yesterday that the county’s actions were a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which provides that "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the court, reasoning that "The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but no more.
"The Takings Clause 'was designed to bar 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,'" Roberts’ opinion stated.
"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," Roberts said.
"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," Roberts added.
Tyler lost her case at both the trial level and in the circuit court of appeals.
But outrageous as her story is, it’s not unique.
Until last week this was permitted in 13 states, plus the District of Columbia.
And Tyler’s case isn’t even the most egregious example, according to Billy Binion, Reason associate editor..
"At 76 years old, Bennie Coleman lost his D.C. home over a $134 bill. The government sold the $197,000 house & kept the profit," he said, adding the most heartbreaking part.
"For months, Bennie slept on the porch — with dementia — thinking he'd locked himself out."
But it doesn’t end there.
"Then there's Tawanda Hall, who fell $900 behind on a property-tax payment plan for her Michigan home. After penalties, she owed $22,642," Binion tweeted.
"The gov't seized her $300,000 house, sold it, and kept the profit. The surplus totaled $286,000." He concluded, "This is not a joke."
And the list goes on and on.
In any jurisdiction in the country, if you bilk someone out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can expect to spend years in prison — unless you’re the county tax collector.
In that instance you pop open the Champaign, throw a celebration, and expect to get a nice promotion.
Until last week this legalized governmental theft was also permitted in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
On the same day the Supreme Court gave Geraldine Tyler a sense of relief (and dignity), it also ended an Idaho couple’s 15-year battle with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over their right to build their dream home on their own property.
The United States wasn’t merely founded on the principles of freedom and capitalism. Private property ownership also factored into the equation.
And that may be what disturbs politicians and bureaucrats the most. They like to think of everything as being all theirs.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to Newsmax. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.