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Prof. Laura Thomas and Student Attorneys Participate in ABA Teleconference

APRIL 21, 2011—Today, Clinical Professor Laura Thomas and several student attorneys in the Law School's Civil Practice Clinic participated in an American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division teleconference entitled "Lessons in Public Education: A Community's Challenge to Property Tax Assessments."

Thomas and clinic students are currently pursuing a property tax assessment lawsuit: Odunlade et al. vs. City of Minneapolis, County of Hennepin, et al. (No. 27-CV-10-26849). In the teleconference, Thomas, John Braun (’11), Erica Davis (’12), Michael Gavigan (’11), and Jonathan Moler (’11) discussed their work in developing the lawsuit alleging systematic property tax assessment discrimination in the Minneapolis communities of Near North, Camden, and Phillips. They also answered questions from other teleconference participants. Sitso W. Bediako (’08) of Gray Plant Mooty moderated the discussion.

When a city fails to respond to significantly decreased property values in a community, residents are forced to shoulder a larger share of the property tax base than they should under the law. The "market value" of a residential property, as that term is defined by law (a recent arms-length transaction), should drive the property tax assessment process. The lawsuit alleges that market value is not allowed to drive the property tax assessment process in the three Minneapolis communities; in fact, in those communities, the market value of residential properties is largely disregarded by the City of Minneapolis. This affects both the property owners and owners of comparable properties in the same communities.

Clinic students did a sales ratio study and compared tax assessment across the entire City of Minneapolis to prepare the lawsuit. It alleges violations of plaintiffs' federal due process and equal protection rights, due process rights under Article I, Section 8, of the Minnesota Constitution, and rights to uniform taxation under Article X, Section 1, of the Minnesota Constitution. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants have violated Minnesota Statute §§ 273.061, 273.11 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.


Civil Practice Clinic

Back row: Jonathan Moler (’11), John Braun (’11), and Erica Davis (’12)
Front Row: Michael Gavigan (’11) and Professor Laura Thomas