Attorney General Paxton filed an amicus brief to defend the property rights of Americans. In a Utah-led brief filed before the U.S. Supreme Court, Paxton highlighted that the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment guarantees that the government will provide “just compensation” when it takes private property for public use. At issue in the case is the fact that certain states have not been safeguarding citizens’ property rights in this regard.  

If individuals do not pay their property taxes in a set amount of time, the government can foreclose on a property. To then recover the unpaid property taxes, the government can sell the property. Sometimes, including in this case, the proceeds from the property’s sale are far larger than the unpaid tax amount. In most states, the government will recover the amount of unpaid property taxes and then return the excess funds from the sale to the former owner of the property. 

But that did not happen in this case. Instead, the government kept the excess funds, effectively stripping the former property owner of compensation that she was fairly owed under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The amicus brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and ensure that the property rights of all individuals are respected, regardless of which state they reside in. 

The amicus brief states: “The property tax regimes of most states, including Utah, comply with the Fifth Amendment by taking in foreclosure only the amount owed and returning any surplus to the property owners. A minority of states, including Minnesota, have adopted property tax regimes that do not provide such protections. Instead, when those states foreclose on property tax liens, they often keep all of the remaining equity, even when the proceeds are orders of magnitude greater than the amount owed. This practice violates the Constitution and often causes starkly unjust results for the most vulnerable property owners, including the elderly, disabled, and low-income individuals.” 

To read the amicus brief, click here.