U.S. Supreme Court Adopts Buckeye Institute Arguments in Protecting Homeowners from Equity Theft

May 25, 2023

Columbus, OH – The Buckeye Institute celebrated a victory in Tyler v. Hennepin County after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with arguments made by The Buckeye Institute in its amicus brief and unanimously ruled that a Minnesota law allowing the government to pocket the profits of seized property violated the U.S. Constitution.

“The court’s decision is the culmination of a long and hard-fought battle by many organizations and individuals to end unconstitutional home equity theft,” said Jay R. Carson, senior litigator with The Buckeye Institute. “The court’s unanimous decision confirmed, once again, that the government cannot seize private property, sell it for a profit, and pocket the money.” 

In writing the unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts echoed the arguments and historical precedent raised by The Buckeye Institute in its amicus brief, holding that English law dating back to the Magna Carta prohibited the government from taking more than it was due to satisfy tax obligations. Chief Justice Roberts specifically noted the ancient principle of Anglo-American law cited in Buckeye’s brief that a tax collector who seizes a taxpayer’s property is “bound by an implied contract in law to restore [the property] on payment of the debt, duty, and expenses, before the time of sale; or, when sold, to render back the overplus.” In other words, Roberts wrote, “The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but no more.” 

Carson continued, “This ruling reaffirms a principle that goes back more than 800 years to the Magna Carta, crossed the ocean with the American colonists, and was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”

Buckeye was joined on its amicus brief by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Manhattan Institute, Platte Institute, National Federation of Independent Business, and Illinois Policy Institute.

Tyler v. Hennepin County was argued by the Pacific Legal Foundation and 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. 

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