Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Elderly Homeowner

Justices ruled in the case of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Geraldine Tyler, who had a condo she owned seized, foreclosed, and sold by Minnesota authorities for not paying her property taxes. 

The 94-year-old woman moved to a retirement home ten years ago but held onto the condo she owned and previously lived in. However, she did not pay the property taxes on her condo for five years, owing Minnesota’s Hennepin County roughly $15,000 in interest, penalties, and other fees. So the county followed Minnesota’s tax law, foreclosing her condo and selling it at auction in 2016 for $40,000.

Tyler filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County, claiming that this forced foreclosure violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment by having her “private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” as written in the Constitution. The lower court dismissed her filing, and the 8th Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. However, the Supreme Court justices decided in favor of Tyler, agreeing that this forced foreclosure and sale did, in fact, violate the Fifth Amendment. 

“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,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more.”

In a concurring opinion, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote, “Economic penalties imposed to deter willful noncompliance with the law are fines by any other name. And the Constitution has something to say about them: They cannot be excessive.“

As the Lord Leads, Pray with Us…

  • For wisdom for the justices of the Supreme Court as they render the final decisions in the last month of the current term.
  • For state and local governing officials to adhere to the law and the constitution as they address outstanding taxes and other civil violations.

Sources: Reuters, Fox News, JD Supra 


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