Dykema Files Amicus Brief in State Property Tax Case to be Heard by U.S. Supreme Court

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Dykema, a leading national law firm, submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC), representing the interests of Michigan’s 83 member counties, and the Michigan Association of County Treasurers (MACT), representing Michigan’s 83 county treasurers, in support of respondents in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Tyler v. Hennepin County. The case will be argued on April 26, 2023.

The Court is set to address two questions in this case pertaining to Minnesota’s tax foreclosure system, which authorizes the seizure and sale of property in response to delinquent property taxes. The first issue centers on whether the foreclosure system violates the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause by seizing and selling a home to satisfy a debt to the government and keeping the excess profit as a windfall. The Court will also consider whether the forfeiture of property worth substantially more than is necessary to satisfy a debt constitutes a fine under the Eighth Amendment.

“The issues raised in this case have the potential to upend many states’ property tax frameworks that fund the local government services people depend on, including housing, public safety, and community investment,” said Ted Seitz, member of Dykema’s Lansing office and counsel to MAC and MACT. “What’s more, Michigan has already addressed this issue in its own Supreme Court and legislature, according to its state constitution and laws—there is no need for federal intervention here.”

In their brief, MAC and MACT urge the Court to affirm the Eighth Circuit’s decision and reiterate the principles of federalism allowing states to manage their own property laws. The Michigan Supreme Court decided the issue of just compensation and fair market value in tax foreclosure in 2020, as part of Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County, and the state legislature immediately took bipartisan action to update its laws accordingly. Superseding this state process with a federal mandate would create a new federal right to determine state property tax laws.

“While foreclosure for non-payment of taxes is always the last resort and something that county treasurers try to avoid whenever possible, sometimes it’s necessary to sell a foreclosed property to maintain the revenues that keep local governments running,” said Cathy Lunsford, Midland County treasurer and president of MACT. “We urge the Court to recognize that state property tax issues are something best left to the states, in accordance with our federalist system.”

View the brief. The Dykema team that submitted the brief included Ted Seitz, Mark Magyar, Kyle Asher, and Jimmy Azadian.

About the Michigan Association of Counties

The Michigan Association of Counties is a non-profit association founded in 1898, which consists of 83 Member Michigan Counties. It is a statewide organization dedicated to representing the interests of Michigan’s counties and their elected commissioners. It also promotes the education of county officials and communication and cooperation between them, and it advocates on their behalf in the Michigan and federal legislatures.

About the Michigan Association of County Treasurers

The Michigan Association of County Treasurers was formed as a Michigan nonprofit corporation in 1934. Its members include the elected treasurers of each of Michigan’s 83 counties.