Federal lawsuit over Detroit property tax assessment dismissed

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Bernadette Atuahene, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, center, speaks at a press conference on Feb. 13, 2020 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center where housing rights activists and elected officials announced a federal class action lawsuit against the City of Detroit over delayed property tax notices in 2017. The lawsuit is one of several remedies sought for the city's inflated property tax bills in the years following the Great Recession.

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Detroit over the late delivery of more than 260,000 residential property tax notices in 2017.

The delayed deliveries violated the due process rights of all Detroit homeowners because they lost the ability to appeal their property taxes, according to the suit, which was filed last year.

But U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds dismissed the case, in part, because she ruled the court lacks jurisdiction to settle disputes within state tax systems. Edmunds noted that Detroit homeowners had other options to appeal under state law and that the city extended the time frame to appeal because of the late notices.

“Because there is a state remedy that is plain, speedy and efficient, this court, a federal court, lacks subject matter jurisdiction over these claims,” Edmunds wrote in her opinion.

The lawsuit, filed by the Chicago law firm Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum, also named Mayor Mike Duggan, Deputy CFO/Assessor Alvin Horhn, Wayne County and state tax officials as defendants.

Horhn, in a statement, said “the case never had any merit.”

“We’re pleased that the judge recognized how quickly the city provided a simple and efficient solution to make sure every homeowner that wanted to appeal their assessment had the time they needed to do it,” his statement read.

Sam Schoenburg, one of the lawyers representing Detroit homeowners, declined to comment Friday on the suit’s dismissal.

On Monday, however, the homeowners in the case appealed the judge’s dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, said their lead attorney, Rami Fakhouri.

“Detroiters deserve their day in court, and we look forward to continuing the effort to hold defendants accountable for their due-process violations,” Fakhouri said in a statement.

Published by Detroit Free Press

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