Sunday, July 9, 2017

Conservative Activist State Supreme Court Justices Cut Taxes for Wealth Property Owners, calling Assessor Inspections an "unreasonable search and seizure."

These two odd stories came together for me today, and amazingly, could have huge implications.

For some reason, the activist conservative majority on our State Supreme Court now considers the ability of local governments to assess property taxes an...invasion of privacy? Believe it or not, their decision on Friday not only cheats communities owed taxes, but certainly could be applied in other possible state inspections...maybe?
A Wisconsin law that requires homeowners to let assessors inside as a condition for challenging their property taxes is unconstitutional as applied to a pair of Racine County property owners, the state Supreme Court ruled last week ... in a 5-2 decision, visits amount to unreasonable searches and that assessors need to get warrants if they can’t obtain the homeowners’ consent.
What's not a crime scene right, so what does paying your taxes on the value of a property you own have to do with getting a court ordered search warrant now? And how could it be an "unreasonable search?"
The ruling involves Vincent Milewski and Morganne MacDonald, who own a home in the town of Dover in Racine County ... they tried to challenge their 2013 property tax assessment in front of a town review board. The board refused to hear the challenge because Milewski and MacDonald wouldn’t let an assessor inside their home. Under state law, people who refuse an assessor’s request to view their property can’t contest the assessment to local review boards.
That's the common sense part of this. And two courts agreed...but not our activist conservative court Justices. Try and wrap your head around this lunacy, and the courts bizarre reach to protect willful deception:
The state Supreme Court reversed that ruling. Writing for the majority, Justice Dan Kelly said Milewski and MacDonald were faced with a difficult decision: relinquish their constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches so they could challenge the assessment or exercise their rights and forfeit their ability to contest the assessment. Kelly said an assessors’ visit without consent is a search as defined in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures ... it can’t be read to require a viewing that violates the Fourth Amendment.
The town failed to show how assessing taxes is such a special need that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply, which means assessors must obtain search warrants to enter without consent, he wrote. Assessors can use other means to gather information about the property, he said. 
This is insane...and why can't this be applied to other local inspections, building codes or whatever the hell else?  
It didn't help that AP reporter Todd Richmond chimed in with his own personal jab. Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley, the only two liberal-leaning justices, dissented. Abrahamson wrote in a joint dissent with Bradley that such choices are common in the law and are seen as constitutionally valid. She also complained the majority opinion is overly complex and intricate — even though her dissent goes on for 47 pages compared with Kelly’s 53 pages — and doesn’t say what should happen next.
Billionaires New Weapon to Avoid Taxation. Witness the First Judicial Tax Cut: At the same time, I just discovered a June 1 story in Urban Milwaukee by Bruce Murphy about billionaire Diane "turn the state red" Hendricks, who was once filmed meeting with Scott Walker and getting him to admit his plan was to divide and conquer labor in the state. Too bad she didn't wait a little longer: 
Small 1600 Sq Ft home? 
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a “Watchdog” report today jumping on Urban Milwaukee’s stories showing the huge home of billionaire Diane Hendricks was under-assessed and a follow-up story we did with the Town of Rock lawyers admitting mistakes were made, that Hendricks had refused entry to an assessor and the assessment would now be revisited. Considering that Hendricks is the second-richest self-made woman in America, and that “she’s been paying a fraction of the property taxes that would typically be associated with a sprawling mansion such as hers,” as the JS story notes.

The story leads off like a think piece posing the question of how an assessment should be handled when a taxpayer doesn’t allow an assessor to view the home, with some reporting on two residents of the Town of Dover, Vince Milewski and his wife, Morganne MacDonald, who live 60 miles away from Hendricks and saw their assessment increase after they barred the assessor ... Hendricks’ huge mansion was under-assessed as a 1,663-square-foot home and the assessor hadn’t been allowed to visit the property. But the Journal Sentinel was able to get Accurate Appraisal ... to reveal they weren’t aware that Hendricks had built a newer, 8,500-square-foot home and had never seen the building permits taken out when the home was built.
Now you can see why the State Supreme Courts decision was so profoundly big. It could be considered a major "judicial branch tax cut for the wealthy." That's called legislating from the bench.
The JS makes clear that the reconsideration of the assessment that Town of Rock lawyers promised Urban Milwaukee has now taken place. Addie Ebert, Accurate Appraisal’s assessor for the town, told the newspaper that Hendricks "gave them a limited tour of the compound. They rode around the property in a utility vehicle, but at no time were they brought to the mansion. “However, she said, they could see the house was not the two-bedroom ranch Accurate had recorded in its files.”

“Some time after the tour, Ebert said she contacted Hendricks’ representative again and asked for access to the mansion. She was told it wouldn’t happen for security reasons. “They did eventually supply us with the data (on the home)’ Ebert said.” As a result the home’s assessment nearly tripled, going from $445,700 last year to $1,205,500 this year, the paper reported. Hendricks annual property tax bill (went up) by $12,204. Depending on when the new home was finished — in 2011 or 2012 — she may have underpaid by as much as $55,000 or more.


  1. And guess who are the only ones who have the time and money to spend in challenging their assessment? RICH PEOPLE AND CORPORATIONS!

    And guess who ends up paying higher property taxes when the rich and corporate force lower assessments due to a city not having the time and money to have it be worth the fight to keep the assessment high? WE DO!


  2. I know, and I'm not sure how this is going on under the radar. Big story.