Geraldine Tyler’s day in court

The Supreme Court heard the case of Geraldine Tyler v. Hennepin County yesterday. C-SPAN has posted audio of oral argument in the Supreme Court here. The Eighth Circuit decision in the case — the one that the Supreme Court accepted for review — is posted online here.

Hennepin County consists mostly of the sinkhole of Minneapolis. It is the sinkhole in our back yard, and yet we haven’t gotten around to the case yet. I’m sorry about that.

The case involves a 94-year-old grandmother on whose one-bedroom condo the county foreclosed for nonpayment of $2300 in taxes. The county tacked on interest, fees, and other penalties until the total bill reached $15,000 in 2015. The county then seized Ms. Tyler’s condo and sold it for $40,000. Instead of keeping the $15,000 it was owed and refunding the surplus to Ms. Tyler, the county kept the change — some $25,000.

The county was able to victimize Ms. Tyler courtesy of Minnesota law. The “home equity theft,” as the Pacific Legal Foundation calls it, is blessed by the applicable Minnesota forfeiture statute.

Christina Martin of the foundation represents Ms. Tyler. The PLF page on the case is posted online here. The foundation provided me Ms. Martin’s statement on the case yesterday in response to my inquiry: “If you owe the government money, you should pay your debt. But the government shouldn’t be able to take more than what you owe. When the government takes more than it is owed, it violates Constitution’s promise that government will pay just compensation when it takes private property for a public use. We hope the Supreme Court puts an end to such confiscatory tax laws once and for all.”

Neal Katyal represented Hennepin County in the Supreme Court. We saw Katyal in action most recently in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He has represented the State of Minnesota pro bono in the prosecution of Derek Chauvin. He is playing Goliath to Bill Mohrman’s David.

I’m sure he feels even better about himself representing the state in the Chauvin case than he does Hennepin County in the Tyler case and he’s feeling pretty, pretty good about that. The Free Beacon’s Chuck Ross drew attention to Katyal’s bliss out on his way to court yesterday.

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