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Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

January 25, 2019

CONVENTION HEADQUARTERS HOTELS, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
MARION COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

          ORDER ON APPEAL FROM THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW PURSUANT TO INDIANA CODE SECTIONS 6-1.1-15-4 AND 6-1.1-15-5

          ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER DAVID A. SUESS DANIEL R. ROY BENJAMIN A. BLAIR FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT CURTIS T. HILL, JR. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA KELLY S. THOMPSON ZACHARY D. PRICE DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL

          Martha Blood Wentworth, Judge

         Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC (CHH) has appealed the assessment of its real property for the 2010 tax year, claiming it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Property Taxation and Equal Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Indiana's Constitution, and Indiana's market value-in-use standard. CHH also seeks an award of costs, fees, and expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988(b). As a threshold matter, however, the Court must determine whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over CHH's appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         CHH owns the JW Marriott Hotel located in downtown Indianapolis, Center Township, Marion County, Indiana. (Pet'r Pet. Judicial Review ("Pet'r Pet.") ¶¶ 6, 15.) On October 13, 2010, the Assessor mailed a Form 11 to CHH that increased its 2010 assessment from $18, 479, 100 to $86, 987, 100. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 7, 19, Ex. A at 2-3.) On November 24, 2010, CHH filed a Form 130 Notice to Initiate an Appeal with the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA). (See Pet'r Pet. ¶ 21.) The PTABOA, however, took no action on CHH's Form 130. (Pet'r Pet. ¶ 22.)

         Nearly seven years later, on June 6, 2017, CHH filed a Form 131 Petition for Review with the Indiana Board of Tax Review ("Form 131 petition").[1] (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 7, 23, Ex. A.) The Indiana Board assigned a specific petition number to CHH's Form 131 but, like the PTABOA, took no further action on CHH's assessment challenge. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 7, 10-11.)

         On May 1, 2018, CHH filed a "Petition for Judicial Review" ("Petition") with the Tax Court, alleging that the Court had subject matter jurisdiction over its appeal because it arose under Indiana's tax laws. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 4, 10-11.) CHH also alleged that its appeal was properly before the Court pursuant to Indiana Code §§ 33-26-3-1, 33-26-3-2, 6-1.1-15-4, and 6-1.1-15-5. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 4, 8, 10-13.)

         On June 4, 2018, after holding a case management conference, the Court ordered the parties sua sponte to file briefs on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. That same day, however, the Assessor notified the Court that he had caused the case to be removed to federal court. On August 29, 2018, after the federal court remanded the case to the Tax Court, the parties filed an "Agreed Motion for Briefing Schedule" on the question of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court granted their Motion the next day, ordering them to file simultaneous briefs on October 12, 2018, and simultaneous response briefs on October 19, 2018.[2]

         LAW

         Subject matter jurisdiction, the power of a court to hear and determine a particular class of cases, can only be conferred upon a court by the Indiana Constitution or by statute. Grandville Co-op., Inc. v. O'Connor, 25 N.E.3d 833, 836 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2015). Consequently, the "'[t]he only relevant inquiry in determining whether any court has [] subject matter jurisdiction is to ask whether the kind of claim which the plaintiff advances falls within the general scope of the authority conferred upon [the] court by the constitution or by statute.'" Marion Cty. Auditor v. State, 33 N.E.3d 398, 400-01 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2015) (quoting Pivarnik v. N. Ind. Pub. Serv. Co., 636 N.E.2d 131, 137 (Ind. 1994)).

         The Tax Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. Ind. Code § 33-26-3-1 (2018). Its enabling legislation gives the Tax Court "exclusive jurisdiction over any case that arises under the tax laws of Indiana and that is an initial appeal of a final determination made by" the Indiana Board. I.C. § 33-26-3-1. The Tax Court also has "any other jurisdiction conferred by statute[.]" Ind. Code § 33-26-3-2 (2018). See also Ind. Code ยง 33-26-3-3 (2018) (stating that the Court does not have ...


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