In a great victory today for property owners in Alabama, the United States Supreme Court has issued an order denying certiorari in Case number 13-1232, Lynch, India, et al. v. the State of Alabama.
Attorney General Luther Strange’s office represented the State successfully in a case that began its journey through the court system in March of 2008. Filed in the Federal District Court in Huntsville, the plaintiffs were seeking to show that Alabama property tax revenues fail to adequately fund K-12 public schools and that this shortfall unconstitutionally shortchanges black public school students.
Success by the plaintiffs would have resulted in application of existing state and local tax millage rates to the full fair market value of all property. This would mean that timberland and farmland owners would see an increase in property taxes by at least a factor of ten, unless millage rates were reduced by subsequent local or state legislative action.
The case was brought under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 2000d of the Civil Rights Act provides that no person can be denied, on the basis of race, color or national origin, the benefits of a state program that receives public financial assistance. Generally speaking, in cases brought under the Civil Rights Act, proof of discriminatory intent is not required, simply proof that there is a disparate impact on minorities.
The trial was held in March 2011 and on October 21, 2011, Judge Lynwood Smith issued an 854 page opinion finding in favor of the State. The plaintiffs immediately appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and oral arguments were held in December 2012. The Eleventh Circuit also ruled in favor of the State and in April 2014, the plaintiffs once again appealed, this time to the United States Supreme Court.
The denial of the Supreme Court to take up the case means that the case is finally over.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Strange is facing stiff opposition in his bid for re-election for another four year term. He and his office did a tremendous job in representing the State of Alabama and landowners. Take a moment to reflect on the consequences to timberland ownership and the forest products industry had an adverse ruling come in this case.
It hasn’t been long ago that the political environment within the Office of Attorney General would have been such that we wouldn’t have had such an advocate for us. We need to keep Luther Strange as Attorney General.
Please consider supporting Luther’s campaign. He needs your financial support and your vote. Elections have consequences! Contact AFA to learn more about how to assist in this election.