from the Harrison Circuit Court The Honorable John T. Evans,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 31C01-1105-CT-24
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT James D. Johnson Blair M. Gardner
Jackson Kelly PLLC Evansville, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana David L. Steiner Frances Barrow Deputy Attorney
General Indianapolis, Indiana.
Mother and daughter Virginia and Kristen Garwood
("Virginia, " "Kristen, " collectively,
"the Garwoods") ran a dog-breeding business from
their Harrison County, Indiana, dairy farm. On June 2, 2009,
the Indiana Department of Revenue ("DOR"), in
concert with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General
("OAG") and the Indiana State Police (collectively,
"the State"), raided the Garwoods' farm and
seized and immediately sold more than two hundred dogs in
partial satisfaction of the Garwoods' unpaid sales and
income tax liability.
The Garwoods sued a large number of public and private
defendants in Harrison Circuit Court for federal
constitutional and state-law torts arising from the raid. The
Garwoods found success against only one: Andrew Swain
("Swain") in his personal capacity, then chief
counsel for tax litigation in OAG, against whom a Harrison
County jury entered a $15, 000 verdict. The Garwoods now
appeal and seek a new trial. The State cross-appeals and
seeks reversal of the judgment against Swain.
We reverse the judgment against Swain as unsupported by
sufficient evidence. We affirm the trial court in other
and Procedural Posture
The Raid of June 2, 2009, and Events Leading to It
Stated in the terms most favorable to the Garwoods and the
judgment against Swain, and incorporating a decision of the
Indiana Tax Court regarding the principals of this case, the
events of and leading to June 2, 2009, may be summarized as
follows. In 2007, dairy prices fell, and the Garwoods'
dairy farm became less profitable. The Garwoods started
breeding dogs for retail sale to make up the lost income.
Without malicious intent, they did not register with the
Indiana Secretary of State or DOR as retail merchants. They
did not collect sales tax on the dog sales or remit sales tax
to DOR, and they incompletely or incorrectly reported their
income from the sales. They cared for their dogs properly and
sold them responsibly.
In February 2009, the Harrison County animal control officer
told Swain he thought the Garwoods' dog-breeding business
was unregistered and did not collect or remit sales tax. The
officer had received a complaint from one of the
Garwoods' alleged customers about a sick dog. Swain
relayed the message to OAG's investigations section and
asked DOR to investigate the Garwoods' tax status.
It was determined that the Garwoods were in fact selling dogs
through advertisements in local newspapers but had not
registered as retail merchants or remitted sales tax. OAG
investigators incognito purchased two puppies from the
Garwoods using funds supplied by the Humane Society of the
United States ("the Humane Society"), a private
animal-rights organization. Swain had first worked with the
Humane Society while pursuing another unregistered,
non-remitting dog-breeder for unpaid tax liability. The
Garwoods did not collect sales tax on the sale to the
A meeting was held of staff from DOR, OAG, and the Indiana
Office of Management and Budget ("OMB"), the final
decision-maker with respect to the State's enforcement
actions in this context. Swain and then-Attorney General Greg
Zoeller ("Zoeller") advocated or counseled pursuing
the same approach used against the other unregistered,
non-remitting dog breeder, and against certain other such
businesses: issuing jeopardy assessments and jeopardy tax
warrants in conjunction with criminal prosecution for tax
A jeopardy assessment, as summarized by Swain,
is an extraordinary tax remedy. Normally when . . . [DOR] . .
. says that you owe tax, . . . what's called a proposed
assessment [is issued. The proposed assessment may go through
several stages of administrative and judicial review before
it becomes a final, collectible judgment.] . . . What a
jeopardy assessment is designed to do is that if various
criteria are satisfied to the Commissioner's
satisfaction, [DOR] . . . can issue an immediate tax warrant
that turns automatically into a tax judgment which is
Tr. pp. 283-84. In particular, Swain's interpretation of
the jeopardy assessment statute's criteria hinged on the
argument that the Garwoods' failure to register, collect,
and remit in itself constituted an "act that would
jeopardize the collection of . . . taxes." Ind. Code
§ 6-8.1-5-3. The Garwoods' conduct did not satisfy
the jeopardy assessment criteria, as our tax court would
later hold, and Swain's and DOR's interpretation of
the statute was in excess of their authority. Nevertheless,
before the tax court so held, drawing in part on his
experience in the Garwoods' case, Swain would later
author an article for a state tax law publication, "Tax
Ills Behind the Mills - The Advancement of Puppy Protection,
" Ex. Vol. I, Pls.'s Ex. 2, about "combatting
puppy mills" and other participants in the unregistered,
non-remitting "underground economy" with
"civil and criminal tax enforcement techniques."
Id. He would also later give a presentation to the
animal law section of the Indiana State Bar Association on
the same topic.
The State's investigation prior to this extraordinary
enforcement action was not as thorough as it could have been
and gave the Garwoods little or no benefit of the doubt. In
estimating the Garwoods' tax liability by the "Best
Information Available" ("BIA") assessment
procedure, DOR staff used the least conservative estimate of
the Garwoods' sales and income, and assessed the maximum
penalty for delinquency. The State never sought the
Garwoods' co-operation with its investigation.
DOR and OAG arrived at the Garwoods' farm early on the
morning of June 2, 2009, and demanded payment of the assessed
liabilities. When the Garwoods said they could or would not
pay, State officers seized around 240 dogs, including several
family pets, in a dramatically staged raid involving a large
media presence, a state legislator, and a group of volunteers
enlisted and directed by the Humane Societies of the United
States and of Missouri. The dogs were sold to the Humane
Society the next day for $300, less than $2 per dog, a
negligible amount relative to the nearly $300, 000 figure
alleged by DOR as the Garwoods' outstanding tax
Zoeller trumpeted the success of the raid, giving several
media interviews and congratulating his staff and DOR for
closing an alleged "puppy mill." That evening,
Swain and two OAG law student interns met Zoeller for a
celebratory toast at a hotel in nearby Louisville, Kentucky.
Zoeller and Swain would later be honored by the Humane
Society in Washington, D.C., for their work.
Proceedings in Harrison Circuit Court
On June 2, 2009, the morning of the raid, a DOR investigator
presented the jeopardy assessments to the Garwoods, Ex. Vol.
II, Defs.'s Ex. B., pp. 312-27, and demanded immediate
payment of the amounts assessed. When the Garwoods said they
could or would not pay, jeopardy tax warrants in those amounts
were filed in Harrison Circuit Court, id. pp.
328-337, and then presented to the Garwoods before seizure of
the dogs. Tr. p. 296.
The same day, DOR petitioned Harrison Circuit Court for
temporary and permanent restraining orders and an injunction
against the Garwoods continuing to do business in the state.
See I.C. § 6-8.1-8-5 (authorizing such orders).
On June 4, 2009, DOR and the Garwoods entered an agreed order
in the circuit court stipulating that the Garwoods
"ha[d] done a cash-and-carry business of selling dogs at
retail" without reporting their income from that
business, collecting or remitting sales tax on the dog sales,
or registering as retail merchants. Ex. Vol. II, Defs.'s
Ex. F, p. 353. The parties further stipulated that the
Garwoods' "unlawful acts ha[d] made it prejudicially
difficult" for DOR to collect the taxes owed by them and
that the injunction should therefore issue. Id. The
injunction was issued accordingly.
On June 8, 2009, DOR filed in the circuit court a petition
for proceedings supplemental, presumably to collect on the
outstanding balance of the judgment created by the tax
warrants. See I.C. § 6-8.1-8-8.5(b)
(authorizing DOR to initiate); Ind. Trial Rule 69(E)
("Proceedings supplemental to execution"). Soon
after, see infra Part IV, the Garwoods sought
judicial review of the jeopardy assessments in the tax court
and petitioned that court to enjoin further collection
efforts by DOR. See I.C. § 33-26-6-2
(authorizing such injunction). On August 12, 2009, Harrison
Circuit Court enjoined DOR from collecting on the judgment
pending the Garwoods' tax court appeal.
The complaint in the instant case was filed in the circuit
court on May 16, 2011, the procedural history of which is
detailed below. See infra Part V.
Proceedings in Marion Superior Court
On May 29, 2009, three days before the raid, the OAG sought a
search warrant in Marion Superior Court for the Garwoods'
property to investigate criminal tax law violations. An
investigator from that office submitted a probable cause
affidavit detailing the Garwoods' business activities and
their failures to pay income and sales tax and to register as
retail merchants. Ex. Vol. II, Defs.'s Ex. C. The warrant
issued the same day, authorizing search and seizure of
inter alia "[a]ny and all . . . canines, or
other inventory . . . found." Ex. Vol. I, Pls.'s Ex.
9, p. 81.
On June 22, 2009, the State charged the Garwoods with eight
counts of tax evasion by information filed in Marion Superior
Court. Ex. Vol. II, Defs.'s Ex. I. On May 18, 2010,
Virginia pleaded guilty to Class D felony evasion of income
tax and Class D felony failure to remit or collect sales tax;
Kristen pleaded guilty to Class D felony evasion of income
tax. Both women admitted that the facts contained in the
probable cause affidavit and information were true and served
as the factual basis for their pleas. Ex. Vol. II,
Defs.'s Ex. G, p. 360 (Kristen's plea agreement),
Defs.'s Ex. H, p. 364 (Virginia's plea agreement).
The Garwoods were sentenced the same day, and their sentences
were suspended to probation.
Proceedings in the Tax Court
On June 10, 2009, the eighth day after the raid and two days
after DOR initiated proceedings supplemental in Harrison
Circuit Court, the Garwoods protested the jeopardy
assessments administratively to DOR and requested a hearing.
See I.C. § 6-8.1-5-1 (general protest
procedure; DOR "shall" hold hearing if requested);
Clifft v. Ind. Dep't of State Revenue, 660
N.E.2d 310, 317 (Ind. 1995) (protest procedure permits
protest of jeopardy assessments); 45 Ind. Admin. Code
15-5-8(c) (same; DOR "may" hold hearing if
requested). On June 22, 2009, the same day the Garwoods were
charged in Marion Superior Court, DOR by letter
"respectfully decline[d] the opportunity to conduct the
hearing requested" and pointed the Garwoods to Harrison
Circuit Court instead, where, DOR believed, "the relief
requested . . . [was] best available." Ex. Vol. I,
Pls.'s Ex. 15.
On June 29, 2009, less than three weeks after they lodged
their protest, and a week after DOR denied the requested
hearing, the Garwoods sought judicial review of the jeopardy
assessments in the tax court. On both parties' motion,
proceedings were continued until October 20, 2010, when DOR
moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. DOR
read Deaton incorrectly, see supra ¶
12 note 2, to mean that its jeopardy tax warrants had become
final judgments of Harrison Circuit Court and could not be
challenged in the tax court. The tax court disagreed.
Garwood v. Ind. Dep't of State Revenue
(Garwood I), 939 N.E.2d 1150, 1154 (Ind. T.C. 2010).
The tax court held further that the Garwoods'
administrative remedies with respect to the jeopardy
assessments were exhausted when DOR denied the requested
hearing. Id. at 1156. DOR sought a writ of mandamus
and prohibition from our supreme court to prohibit the tax
court from exercising jurisdiction, but that application was
DOR and the Garwoods each moved for summary judgment. The
Garwoods claimed that the jeopardy assessments were invalid
because DOR had denied them constitutional due process in
refusing to hold the hearing requested. On August 29, 2011,
the tax court avoided the constitutional question and held
instead that DOR had exceeded its authority under the
jeopardy assessment statute. Garwood v. Ind. Dep't of
State Revenue (Garwood II), 953 N.E.2d 682, 684
(Ind. T.C. 2011). The tax court held the Garwoods' mere
failure to register, collect, and remit did not in itself
rise to an "act that would jeopardize the collection of
. . . taxes." Id. at 688 (quoting I.C. §
6-8.1-5-3). The court's opinion took a generally dim view
of what it characterized as DOR's effort to "wiel[d]
the power of jeopardy assessments as a sword to eliminate a
socially undesirable activity . . . [rather than] to fill the
State's coffers with the tax liabilities the Garwoods
purportedly owed." Id. at 690. The tax court
concluded the jeopardy assessments were "void as a
matter of law." Id.
DOR sought transfer to our supreme court. On March 16, 2012,
transfer was granted but vacated as improvident on May 15,
2012, after briefing and argument. Ind. Dep't of
State Revenue v. Garwood, 966 N.E.2d 1258 (Ind. 2012)
(mem.). That was the end of the jeopardy assessment protest.
On August 29, 2011, ten days after the tax court decided
Garwood II and declared the jeopardy assessments
void, Virginia sought a tax refund from DOR, claiming the
dogs seized by DOR were worth far more than her actual tax
liability and she was therefore owed the difference: more
than $100, 000. On May 29, 2012, two weeks after our supreme
court vacated its grant of transfer in Garwood II,
DOR offered Virginia a little over $100. DOR then issued
proposed assessments, the normal mechanism for challenging a
taxpayer's self-reported tax liability, see I.C.
§ 6-8.1-51, which Virginia protested. By August 27,
2012, DOR had not ruled on Virginia's new protest, and
she appealed for the second time to the tax court.
DOR again moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and on the basis that the same action, the case
before us now, was pending in Harrison Circuit Court.
See T.R. 12(B)(8). Without explanation, the tax
court declined to address DOR's 12(B)(8) claim and
instead held that it had jurisdiction and denied DOR's
motion to dismiss. Garwood v. Ind. Dep't of State
Revenue (Garwood III), 998 N.E.2d 314, 315
(Ind. T.C. 2013). DOR then moved for summary judgment,
claiming that Virginia was actually seeking compensatory
damages rather than a tax refund. The tax court saw no
barrier to Virginia's "prosecut[ing] her claim for
compensatory damages, . . . asserted concurrently with her
refund claim, " in that forum. Garwood v. Ind.
Dep't of State Revenue (Garwood IV), 24
N.E.3d 548, 551 (Ind. T.C. 2014). The tax court therefore
denied DOR's motion and ordered the matter set for trial.
Id. The outcome of those proceedings does not appear
in the record before us or from further decisions of the tax
court. The matter was apparently still ongoing at the time of
trial in this case. See, e.g., Tr. pp. 124, 861,
Proceedings in This Case
The Garwoods filed their initial complaint in this case in
Harrison Circuit Court on May 19, 2011, three months before
the tax court's Garwood II decision invalidated
the jeopardy assessments. On June 17, 2011, the case was
removed to federal district court and then remanded for lack
of all defendants' consent on October 11, 2011.
Garwood v. State of Indiana, No. 4:11-cv-72, 2011 WL
4826998 (S.D. Ind. Oct. 11, 2011).
On July 3, 2012, within two months of our supreme court's
decision to vacate transfer in Garwood II, the
Garwoods filed their second amended complaint. That complaint
pleaded seven claims against fifty-six defendants. The
Garwoods alleged the state-law torts of conversion,
defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress
("IIED"). Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Garwoods
alleged denial of procedural due process under the due
process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal
constitution, unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth
Amendment, and selective enforcement under the equal
protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, under
42 U.S.C. § 1985, the Garwoods alleged conspiracy to
violate their civil rights.
These claims were brought against numerous employees of DOR
and OAG, Zoeller himself, the state legislator, and state
police officers, all in their personal and official
capacities, as well as the state police and the State of
Indiana ("the State defendants"); the Harrison
County animal control officer and the county itself
("the County defendants"); employees of the Humane
Societies of the United States and Missouri, and the
organizations themselves ("the Humane Society
defendants"); and several private parties ("the
By January 2015, several State defendants and most or all the
Humane Society, County, and Private defendants had been
dismissed by agreement of the parties, and the remaining
State defendants moved for summary judgment. The State argued
the Fourth Amendment, procedural due process, equal
protection, and conspiracy claims failed; the defendants were
entitled to official immunity in their personal capacities
and not subject to suit in their official capacities; and the
tax court had exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter
of the suit. Appellee's App. pp. 2-41. On January 29,
2015, the trial court entered judgment as a matter of law in
favor of the State on the § 1985 conspiracy claim, the
defamation claim, and all official capacity claims under
§ 1983. The remaining issues were to be tried; the
jurisdictional issue was not addressed.
The Garwoods tried their case to a Harrison County jury over
six days, February 22, 2016, to February 29, 2016, against
eleven State defendants; one was dismissed by agreement
during trial. Between summary judgment and trial, the
Garwoods appear to have abandoned their Fourth Amendment
claim in favor of a substantive due process claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment. All over the Garwoods' strident
objections, the trial court declined to give preclusive
effect to Garwood II and admitted only the
opinion's clear holding invalidating the jeopardy
assessments; admitted the jeopardy assessments; admitted the
jeopardy tax warrants; admitted the Garwoods' plea
agreements in the criminal case and a transcript of the
Garwoods' May 18, 2010, change of plea hearing in Marion
Superior Court; and refused the Garwoods' proffered final
instruction that a void judgment is, "from its
inception, . . . a complete nullity and without legal
effect." Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 88.
At the close of evidence, the State moved for a directed
verdict in its favor as to all claims and all defendants. The
court took the motion under advisement after briefing and
argument, and denied it on February 29, 2016. The jury
returned a $15, 000 compensatory verdict against Swain, $7,
500 each for Virginia and Kristen, for one or more
constitutional injuries. The Garwoods' counsel, three
lawyers from two firms, petitioned for more than $300, 000 in
attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The court
awarded counsel $40, 000 in fees plus $4, 750 costs for each
plaintiff, for a total award of $89, 500.
The Garwoods timely appealed. The State cross-appealed. The
Garwoods seek a new trial against the same defendants except
Swain. The Garwoods claim the trial court abused its
discretion by failing to collaterally estop the State to
litigate issues decided by the tax court in Garwood
II, or alternatively by failing to admit the tax
court's Garwood II decision in its entirety; by
failing to exclude the jeopardy assessments or to give an
instruction as to their voidness; and by failing to exclude
records of the criminal proceedings against them. The
Garwoods' lawyers also seek an increase in their fee
award under § 1988. On cross-appeal, the State claims
that the trial court erred by failing to grant Swain either
absolute or qualified immunity, and that the judgment against
Swain was unsupported by sufficient evidence.
Before proceeding to the merits of these claims, in light of
the importance of the question and its appearance at several
junctures of litigation, we first clarify our jurisdiction
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
We have a duty to investigate our jurisdiction over the
subject matter of a case on appeal if it appears doubtful.
Albright v. Pyle, 637 N.E.2d 1360, 1363 (Ind.Ct.App.
1994). Subject matter jurisdiction is jurisdiction over the
general class of actions to which a case belongs. K.S. v.
State, 849 N.E.2d 538, 542 (Ind. 2006). Such
jurisdiction is the power of a court to decide a case.
Austin Lakes Joint Venture v. Avon Utils., Inc., 648
N.E.2d 641, 645 (Ind. 1995); State ex rel. Young v. Noble
Cir. Ct., 263 Ind. 353, 356, 332 N.E.2d 99, 101 (1975).
A court of this state has only such jurisdiction - that is,
only such power - as granted to it by statute or our
constitution. State v. Sproles, 672 N.E.2d 1353,
1356 (Ind. 1996).
Upon review, we lack jurisdiction to the extent the trial
court lacked it. Albright, 637 N.E.2d at 1364; 4
C.J.S. Appeal and Error §§ 50, 76 (2007).
By statute, the tax court has exclusive jurisdiction over
"original tax appeals." I.C. § 33-26-3-3. An
original tax appeal is a case that arises under the tax laws
and comes within an appeal from a final determination of a
state revenue agency. Id. § 1. To the extent
the Garwoods' case was an original tax appeal, therefore,
the tax court had jurisdiction over it to the exclusion of
Harrison Circuit Court and every other court of this state.
See Sproles, 672 N.E.2d at 1356.
A case arises under the tax laws if it "principally
involves collection of a tax or defenses to that
collection." Sproles, 672 N.E.2d at 1357. Our
supreme court has construed the tax court's
jurisdictional mandate broadly. State ex rel. Zoeller v.
Aisin USA Mfg., Inc., 946 N.E.2d 1148, 1153 (Ind. 2011).
This ensures a "single authoritative voice on state tax
matters, " Bielski v. Zorn, 627 N.E.2d 880, 886
(Ind. T.C. 1994), cited in Sproles, 672 N.E.2d at
1357 n.13, by "channel[ing] tax disputes to a single
specialized tribunal . . . ." Aisin, 946 N.E.2d
at 1152. A case principally involves tax collection or
defenses to it if the taxpayer, on statutory, constitutional,
or other grounds, contests or challenges tax liability
imposed on her by the tax laws.
In Sproles, a taxpayer sought a declaratory judgment
in the circuit court invalidating a tax lien on a real
property interest filed by DOR for nonpayment of the
controlled substances excise tax ("CSET") in
conjunction with the State's criminal prosecution of the
taxpayer for possessing marijuana. 672 N.E.2d at 1355. The
taxpayer claimed that imposition of the tax, following his
criminal conviction, violated the federal constitutional
prohibition on double jeopardy. Id. Our supreme
court held the tax court had jurisdiction over the action to
exclusion of the circuit court. Id. at 1357. This
was because the taxpayer's "declaratory relief
action squarely challenge[d] the validity of an Indiana tax
statute as applied, " and "the Legislature intended
that all challenges to the tax laws - regardless of the legal
theory relied on - be tried in the Tax Court."
The shared feature of similar cases directed to or kept
within the tax court's jurisdiction was the
taxpayers' claim that controlling law prohibited the
imposition of tax liability created by the tax laws.
State ex rel. Att'y Gen. v. Lake Super. Ct., 820
N.E.2d 1240 (2005) (rejecting "distinction for
[jurisdictional] purposes between a challenge to assessments,
whether procedural or substantive, and any other basis to
contest a tax" in constitutional challenge to real
property assessments); State v. Costa, 732 N.E.2d
1224, 1225 (2000) (state constitutional challenge to property
tax levy under Health Care for the Indigent program); Bd.
of Tax Comm'rs v. Montgomery, 730 N.E.2d 680, 686
(2000) (same); Clifft v. Ind. Dep't of State
Revenue, 660 N.E.2d 310 (1995) (one year before
Sproles, tax court's jurisdiction unquestioned
in challenge to CSET jeopardy assessments grounded on
constitutional rights to procedural due process, equal
protection, and protection against self-incrimination);
Zayas v. Gregg Appliances, Inc., 676 N.E.2d 365
(Ind.Ct.App. 1997) (claim against retailer for allegedly
improperly collecting sales tax on delivery fees), trans.
denied, discussed in Aisin, 946 N.E.2d at 1156;
UACC Midwest, Inc. v. Ind. Dep't of State
Revenue, 667 N.E.2d 232 (Ind. T.C. 1996) (claim for tax
refund grounded in disagreement over applicable tax rate),
discussed in Aisin, 946 N.E.2d at 1158. By contrast,
liability to DOR because of clerical error leading to unjust
enrichment is not tax liability imposed by the tax laws and
does not rise under the tax laws. Aisin, 946 N.E.2d
Harrison Circuit Court had jurisdiction over the instant case
because the Garwoods did not seek to challenge tax liability
imposed by the tax laws. We cannot overlook the
"fundamental difference" between what the Garwoods
sought to recover (damages) and what the Garwoods originally
owed DOR (their tax liability). Id. To the Garwoods,
it seems, this suit was basically an enforcement action: a
trial on damages for injuries proved by the tax court's
voiding of the jeopardy assessments in Garwood II,
now repackaged as state and constitutional torts for a court
of general jurisdiction. When the trial court failed to give
Garwood II preclusive effect, the Garwoods argue on
appeal, the Garwoods "lost the value of the
[tax court's] decision . . . ." Appellant's
Reply Br. at 7 (emphasis added). As the Garwoods' counsel
said in his opening statement after a brief recitation of the
State's conduct, "[T]he facts that support all of
this are largely undisputed." Tr. p. 151. What was still
disputed was how much those facts were worth in damages.
It is true that the Garwoods could have also challenged their
tax liability in Garwood II by means of the
constitutional theories advanced in the instant case,
could have joined any remaining claims, federal and state, in
that forum as well. However, such joinder of claims was not
mandatory, and lack of it does not impede our review. To the
extent that the Garwoods' claims could have been brought
in the tax court as a basis for tax-law relief, the State
might have opposed them here as res judicata. However, it did
We conclude that the proper course is to take this case as it
came to Harrison Circuit Court via the Garwoods' second
amended complaint, filed after the decision in Garwood
II. The question presented by this case then
becomes, assuming the tax-law violation, do that violation
and the circumstances surrounding it give rise to tort
liability of any kind? Proceeding thusly comports with the
legislative purpose declared in Sproles and
Aisin, and with the parties' actual course of
litigation. Through the Garwoods' second amended
complaint, the invalidation of the jeopardy assessments in
Garwood II was treated and put to the jury as a
fact. See Tr. pp. 129-30 (ruling on admissibility).
The settled and limited purpose of the tax court's
exclusive jurisdiction is to ensure the uniform
interpretation of the tax laws. Aisin, 946 N.E.2d at
1152. The tax court has already spoken conclusively to the
statutory question at the heart of this litigation in
Garwood II. Neither the jurisdictional value of
finality nor that of validity, see Restatement
(Second) of Judgments §§ 11 cmt. d, 12 (Am. Law
Inst. 1982), would be served by returning this case to the
tax court to decide the constitutional and tort-law
consequences of its earlier tax-law holding. The
Garwoods' claims were validly asserted in Harrison
Circuit Court, and that court's decision is properly and
squarely in front of us.
Assured of our jurisdiction on this basis, we proceed to
consider the merits of the parties' appeals, ...