https://twitchy.com/aaronw-313234/2023/05/26/the-supreme-court-unanimously-rules-against-home-equity-theft/

Okay everyone, time for a math problem.

Let’s say that a woman owes approximately $15,000 to the government for back taxes and penalties. So, the government seizes her home to pay for that and sells that home for approximately $40,000. Approximately, how much does the government owe the original homeowner?

If you said ‘nothing,’ you would apparently be the state of Minnesota.

But, crucially, you would not be any member of the Supreme Court.

Yes, Thursday was opinion day at the Supreme Court, and one of the opinions handed down was Tyler v. Hennepin County (2023) and that hypothetical is basically what was going on.

This thread was published just before oral argument (which was a month ago) and it does a good job providing background on the case:

That’s honestly the shocking part. She lost in the District Court and in the Eighth Circuit, and it was only at the Supreme Court that she won. But she did so unanimously.

This author is not the kind of guy to call taxation ‘theft,’ but the term ‘theft’ is extremely apt here.

You can read the opinion at this link:

It’s actually one of the shorter opinions we have seen from the Supreme Court. It is twenty pages, including the syllabus (an unofficial summary that isn’t law but is typically excellent) and the concurrence. The real meat of the opinion doesn’t start until page six of the pdf file, and finishes on page seventeen, so it’s basically only eleven pages long. But, honestly, it seemed to take longer than necessary. As one lawyer said, discussing the oral arguments:

Really, that’s pretty much the principle here. They could have saved the paper and just wrote ‘duh.’

We think the concurrence is only mildly interesting. You see, the main opinion addressed the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. As you might know, the Fifth Amendment says (in relevant part) that ‘nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation’ and, as we discussed previously, this applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The main opinion focused on that and said basically that Ms. Tyler had a right to the money that remained. Duh.

As for the concurrence, it was written by Justice Gorsuch and joined by Justice Jackson, and it basically argued that while the majority is right to say it is an illegal taking without just compensation under the Fifth Amendment, it was also an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. In other words, he isn’t disagreeing with the majority, but saying that he thinks this is another reason why the state of Minnesota should lose.

So, while there wasn’t much controversy over the decision today, there was some commentary. Ilya Somin’s discussion is pretty good:

And this commentary is fun:

To be fair, Minnesota won until they got to the Supreme Court.

Lawyers have a saying: ‘Good facts make good law. Bad facts make bad law.’ One can have no doubt that Pacific Legal scoured the country for the most sympathetic plaintiff possible. It’s frankly a basic tactic of activist lawyering.

For instance, it is not an accident that Dick Heller, the plaintiff in D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) who challenged D.C.’s draconian gun control laws worked as a police officer in the territorial courts of the district. People opposed to those laws were looking for a person with a sympathetic case and it was hard to find a more sympathetic plaintiff on that issue. Every day he carried a handgun at work, protecting federal judges. But then, when he went home at night, he was not allowed to have a handgun to protect himself, those he cared for, or his home, driving home the absurdity of D.C. gun control. If he can be trusted to carry a handgun to protect judges, how can we pretend we can’t trust him with a handgun to protect the things he is likely to care about the most?

PLF stands for the Pacific Legal Foundation.

We tend to default to respect for federal judges. Even when we disagree with them, we don’t typically think they are actually stupid. But it is mystifying that she kept losing until she got to the Supreme Court and then she won, unanimously. Normally, you don’t see that kind of record unless the Supreme Court announced a new rule of law—but that doesn’t apply here. We don’t have an explanation as of now for why the lower courts found against her.

Also, here’s one detail we haven’t seen so much focus on: Ms. Tyler also wants this to become a class action suit. Bluntly, if this is the kind of nonsense going on in any state, we hope she makes them pay through the nose—or perhaps through a different orifice, if you catch our meaning.

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