August 17, 2017

Groups ask Supreme Court to grant PLF’s petition in Wayside Church v. Van Buren County

By Christina M. Martin Attorney

This week several groups filed “friend of the court” briefs supporting PLF’s Supreme Court petition in Wayside Church v. Van Buren County.

Two of the amicus briefs—one by AARP and the other by the Buckeye Institute—focus on the need for the Court to review Michigan’s unjust tax foreclosure law. Under this unjust and unconstitutional law, Van Buren County took Wayside Church’s property, sold it for $206,000 to pay around $16,750 in property taxes, penalties, fees, and interest. The County then pocketed all of the remaining profit as a windfall. Similarly, the county took the farm and home where Henderson Hodgens grew up, and sold it for $47,750 to pay a $5,900 debt. The County kept the entire profit, even though it already got significant benefit from the penalties and high interest rate due under state law. The amicus briefs offer additional arguments that explain why the County violated the constitution when it took the surplus profit and why it is important that the Court overturn the practice.

The other two briefs—one by Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and the other by NFIB Small Business Legal Center, The Cato Institute, and Southeastern Legal Foundation—ask the Supreme Court to review an important jurisdictional issue in this case. As they succinctly explain, this case presents the Supreme Court with a great opportunity to open the federal courthouse doors to individuals who seek to enforce their Fifth Amendment right to just compensation. Congress intended that the federal courthouses be open for these sorts of claims and there is no reason to deny individuals of that right.

We are grateful for these organizations’ support and hope the Supreme Court will grant the petition to remedy the injustice suffered by our clients.

learn more about

Wayside Church v. Van Buren County, Michigan

When Michigan property owners fall behind on their taxes, the state allows counties to seize and sell the land, and keep all sale proceeds–no matter how small the tax debt or how valuable the property. Van Buren County reaped a major windfall after selling three properties with relatively small tax debts, including a church. PLF believes local governments violate the Takings Clause of the Constitution when they keep the surplus, and has asked for Supreme Court review.

Read more

What to read next