Michael Best is proud to announce that members of its Property Tax Team have won a very significant case in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of our client, Metropolitan Associates. On March 25, 2011, in a major decision affecting all Wisconsin property owners, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that amendments the Wisconsin Legislature enacted in 2008, which allowed individual municipalities to restrict the rights of property owners to challenge their tax assessments in court, were unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clauses of the Wisconsin and United States Constitutions. The Court held that the Legislature had no constitutional basis under the Equal Protection clause to provide one class of Wisconsin citizens with significantly fewer assessment appeal rights than all other Wisconsin citizens, based only on the municipality in which they live or own property.
In 2001, the Supreme Court held that an earlier statute which prevented Milwaukee County citizens from fully contesting their assessments in court was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause. However, in 2008, at the request of a number of state assessors, the Legislature enacted new legislation in an attempt to circumvent the 2001 decision, which gave each municipality in the state the option to eliminate its citizens’ rights to fully contest their assessments in court. In the Metropolitan
decision, the Court held that the new legislation violated the Equal Protection clause for the same reasons that the earlier legislation was held unconstitutional. The Court reiterated the important principle that all taxpayers and property owners throughout Wisconsin are entitled to the same set of rights to challenge their assessments in court.
This major decision vindicates the rights of all commercial, industrial and residential property owners in Wisconsin, and will help property owners throughout the state obtain tax assessments that are fair and equitable.