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June 07, 2023 Practice Points

Rendering Unto Caesar

Supreme Court invalidates Minnesota’s taking of surplus funds after tax sale.

By Kevin H. Brogan

In a 9-0 decision issued May 25, 2023 in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Hennepin County, Minnesota, violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment (“[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”) when it sold Geraldine Tyler’s house for $40,000 to satisfy a $15,000 tax bill, with the county keeping the $25,000 for itself. The Court cut through the county’s arguments that Tyler lacked standing and distinguished cases where the taxpayer had an opportunity to recover the excess value.

The court concluded:

The Takings Clause was designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole. A taxpayer who loses her $40,000 house to the State to fulfill a $15,000 tax debt has made a far greater contribution to the public fisc than she owed. The taxpayer must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but no more.

Geraldine Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, et al, No. 22-166, slip. op., at 14 (U.S., May 25, 2023) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

The decision has been the recipient of widespread public support across political lines and will surely serve to reinvigorate analysis of the effects of the Takings Clause.

Kevin H. Brogan is a partner with Hill Farrer in Los Angeles, California.

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