(Rexburg Standard Journal)—The United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Hennepin County, Minnesota, violated the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause when it sold Geraldine Tyler’s home to satisfy a tax bill and kept the excess money for itself.
Tyler is a 94-year-old grandmother who, after moving from her one-bedroom condominium into a senior community, accumulated unpaid taxes on her condo, plus interest and penalties.
Hennepin County seized Tyler’s condo and sold it for $40,000, extinguishing the $15,000 debt that Tyler owed. But instead of returning the excess money to Tyler, Chief Justice Roberts disapprovingly wrote, “The County kept the remaining $25,000 for its own use.”
Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief with the Court in support of Tyler citing the common law dating back to the Magna Carta, which required the government to return excess money to the taxpayer after a debt was satisfied.
In its ruling, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the Court’s decision is grounded on historical principles that can be traced back to 1215 “in the Magna Carta.” Roberts further noted this means “that a government may not take more from a taxpayer than she owes.” To emphasize this principle rooted in English law, Roberts concluded the opinion by writing, “The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more.”
Buck Dougherty, Liberty Justice Center Senior Counsel, said, “The Supreme Court’s opinion today restores common sense principles in favor of taxpayers like Ms. Tyler. Hennepin County illegally took Ms. Tyler’s equity in her condominium without just compensation, and that is never right.”