D.C. Council Holds Hearing on Bill to Allow Evidence of Assessed Tax Value in Condemnation Proceedings

On February 9, 2012, the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary held a public hearing on, inter alia, the Real Property Tax Assessment Evidence Clarification Act of 2011 (B19-602). The hearing was presided over by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson. The legislation, if enacted, would have the effect of abrogating case law holding that evidence of assessed tax value is inadmissible in condemnation proceedings in the District of Columbia. To read a prior post discussing the legislation, click here.

Two ANC commissioners and three private-sector attorneys testified in favor of the legislation. They generally each argued that it is unfair to exclude evidence of assessed tax value in condemnation proceedings where the District alleges that the subject property is worth less than the assessed tax value. They further argued that the legislation provides an appropriate remedy for that perceived unfairness by allowing evidence of assessed tax value to be admitted into evidence in such cases. Chairman Mendelson questioned, inter alia, whether the legislation was necessary given that the parties to a condemnation proceeding are permitted to present as evidence independent appraisals of the subject property’s fair market value.

Only one witness testified in opposition to the legislation; specifically, William Burk, Esquire, who is the Chief of the Land Acquisition & Bankruptcy Section of the Office of Attorney General. Mr. Burke testified on behalf of the executive branch of the District. He argued, inter alia, that evidence of assessed tax value should not be admissible in condemnation proceedings because it is inherently unreliable and that allowing such evidence to be admitted would be inconsistent with the rules of evidence of a majority of states. He did not know for certain, however, whether such evidence is admissible in condemnation proceedings in Maryland or Virginia. Mr. Burke agreed to provide a written supplement to his oral testimony discussing the rules applicable in those states. Chairman Mendelson commented, inter alia, that the fairness issue raised by supporters of the legislation will likely be an important consideration for other members of the Council in deciding whether the legislation should be enacted.

Noticeably absent from the hearing was Councilmember Jack Evans who introduced the legislation on December 2, 2011. Councilmember Evans is a member of the Judiciary Committee. The legislation has no co-sponsors.

The record will remain open for submission of written statements on the legislation until February 23, 2011. Persons interested in submitting written statements should refer to the hearing notice for information about how to submit written statements. To view the hearing notice, click here. To view a video of the hearing, click here. [Update: On March 23, 2012, The Washington Post published an article about the legislation stating, among other things, that Councilmembers Mendelson and Evans are not inclined to support moving the legislation forward. To read the article, click here.]