D.C. moves to dismiss tax-lien suit

We've previously written about a Takings Clause case filed to challenge Washington D.C.'s practice of permitting private companies to buy tax liens, institute foreclosure proceedings, and keep the entire value of the property (not just the amount needed to satisfy the debt). On Friday, D.C. moved to dismiss the suit on a variety of procedural grounds plus one substantive one: according to the District, citing mostly authority from the 1950s and '60s, the Takings theory is a loser. In the words of one of D.C.'s key authorities, "[t]he total forfeiture seems extremely harsh when overdue taxes amount to only two or three percent of the property's value. But oppressive statutes must be tempered by the legislature, not the courts." Balthazar v. Mari Ltd., 301 F. Supp. 103, 106 n.6 (N.D. Ill. 1969), aff’d, 396 U.S. 114 (1969) (citing Nelson v. New York City, 352 U.S. 103, 110-11 (1956)). Nelson, in turn, rejected a Takings Clause claim against New York City's retention of property (in one instance) or proceeds of a property sale (in a second instance) in excess of amounts the owners of the properties owed the city, although the chief claims in that case appear to have been procedural due process and equal protection.

These cases were decided long before the Supreme Court's modern Takings Clause jurisprudence. I wonder what today's Court would think.

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