New Legislation Would Abrogate Case Law Holding Evidence of Assessed Tax Value Inadmissible in Condemnation Proceedings
On December 2, 2011, Councilmember Jack Evans introduced the Real Property Tax Assessment Evidence Clarification Act of 2011 (B19-602). The legislation would amend D.C. Code § 16-1317, which concerns civil procedures for condemnation proceedings initiated by the District of Columbia; specifically, it would add the following sentence: “The owner of property subject to the condemnation proceeding may elect to present as evidence the assessed value of the property, as determined by the Office of Tax and Revenue, if the assessed value for the tax year in which the taking occurred is greater than the District’s appraised value placed upon the property.” The legislation appears to be a response to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ decision earlier this year in DeSilva v. District of Columbia, 13 A.3d 1191 (D.C. 2011), which reviewed a trial court’s final judgment in a condemnation proceeding initiated by the District. The Court of Appeals held, in relevant part, that the trial court properly refused to allow the condemnee to introduce into evidence the assessed tax value of the subject real property for the purpose of proving the property’s market value. Id. at 1199. In support of this holding, the Court of Appeals said that it was bound by the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Johnson & Wimsatt, Inc. v. Reichelderfer, 50 F.2d 336 (D.C. 1931), which it quoted as follows: “‘It is widely recognized that appraisements of property by tax assessors for purposes of taxation are not reliable guides of market value, and consequently not admissible in condemnation proceedings.'” DeSilva, 13 A.3d at 1199 (quoting Johnson & Wimsatt, 50 F.2d at 337). This evidentiary rule is reflected in the following standardized civil jury instruction regarding condemnation proceedings: “You may not consider the assessed value placed upon the property for taxation purposes as an indication of the property’s value. You should not allow yourselves to be influenced by the assessed value in any manner.” Standardized Civil Jury Instructions for the District of Columbia § 22.14 (2011 rev. ed.). The Real Property Tax Assessment Evidence Clarification Act of 2011 would abrogate the aforementioned case law by allowing a condemnee to introduce as evidence the assessed tax value of the subject real property if the assessed tax value for the tax year in which the taking occurred is greater than the appraised value placed upon the property by the District for the purpose of condemnation. The legislation has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.