DICTA: Tyler v. Hennepin County, MN: History, Tradition, & the Meaning of Property
The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument on April 26 in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, a major property rights case that concerns the constitutionality of a government’s retention of the surplus when selling a home in satisfaction of a homeowner’s debt. The latest in a series of high-profile property rights cases adjudicated by the Roberts Court, Tyler promises to shed light on an important—and contentious—question: What are the limits of the powers of the individual states to define “property” for purposes of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment? Tyler may also furnish valuable clues about the Court’s use of “history and tradition” in constitutional analysis.
The facts of the dispute are heart-rending. In 2010, then octogenarian (and now nonagenarian) Geraldine Tyler, concerned for her health and safety, moved out of a condominium she owned and into a senior living facility. Starting the next year, Tyler neglected to pay property taxes on her former home. By 2015, Tyler owed Hennepin County, Minnesota a total of $15,000 in back taxes, penalties, interest and other costs. That year, the county government took “absolute title” to the condominium, which under Minnesota law had the effect of extinguishing all Tyler’s interests in the property. The following year, the county government auctioned the property for $40,000. In accordance with state law, Tyler received none of the proceeds.