Minnesota County Robs Widow of $25,000 in Home Equity Buckeye Institute Argues in Brief to U.S. Supreme Court

Sep 23, 2022

Columbus, OH – On Thursday, The Buckeye Institute filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Tyler v. Hennepin County, asking the court to hear the case and protect the rights of people who have their property seized by the government from home equity theft. Buckeye was joined on the brief by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The idea that the government can take property only when it provides ‘just compensation’ to the owner is a principle that goes back more than 800 years to Magna Carta and one which our Founding Fathers embraced,” said Jay R. Carson, senior litigator with The Buckeye Institute’s Legal Center. “By pocketing $25,000 in profits from the sale of Ms. Tyler’s home, Hennepin County has robbed Ms. Tyler of her home’s equity, plain and simple.” 

Tyler v. Hennepin County, brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation, started when Geraldine Tyler, a widow living alone, was forced to move due to rising crime in her neighborhood. Unable to pay taxes on her condo and the rent on her new apartment, Ms. Tyler’s tax debt grew to $15,000. Officials in Hennepin County, Minnesota, seized her condo and sold it a year later for $40,000. Rather than keep $15,000 to cover the tax debt and return the remaining $25,000 to Ms. Tyler, Hennepin County pocketed the profits, robbing Ms. Tyler of her home’s equity. 

“When people don’t pay the property tax they owe, government is allowed to seize the debtor’s property and sell it at auction to pay the debt. But the state of Minnesota has a dangerous and unconstitutional habit: when it seizes property, it not only use the proceeds from the sale to pay the debt, but it keeps all the rest of the revenue for itself—that is, government keeps every dime of the surplus equity for itself,” said Dan Greenberg, general counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “For the last few years, the government of Minnesota has overcompensated itself by taking the entire proceeds of land and property sales, resulting from unpaid debts, from hundreds of property owners. This is an outrageous practice that is incompatible with constitutional prohibitions against excessive fines and against takings for public use without just compensation. The Competitive Enterprise Institute is pleased to submit an amicus brief to argue against this abusive and unconstitutional government practice.”

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UPDATE: On January 13, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert on Tyler v. Hennepin County.