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Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

August 16, 2019

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

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

          ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT: JESSICA R. GASTINEAU SPECIAL COUNSEL - TAX LITIGATION OFFICE OF CORPORATION COUNSEL Indianapolis, IN

          ORDER ON RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Martha Blood Wentworth Judge.

         Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC (CHH) has challenged the 2010 assessment of its real property. The Marion County Assessor has moved to dismiss CHH's entire appeal or alternatively one of the six claims presented in its Petition for Judicial Review ("Petition") due to a variety of alleged procedural failures. Upon review, the Court denies the Assessor's Motion.

         FACTS

         CHH owns the JW Marriot Hotel located in downtown Indianapolis, Center Township, Marion County, Indiana. (Pet'r Pet. Judicial Review ("Pet'r Pet.") ¶ 15, Ex. A at 1.) On October 13, 2010, the Assessor mailed a Form 11 to CHH, increasing the assessment of its then partially complete hotel from $18, 479, 100 to $86, 987, 100 for the 2010 tax year. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 16-20.) CHH subsequently filed a "Notice to Initiate an Appeal" ("Form 130") with the Marion County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA). (Pet'r Pet. ¶ 22, Ex. A at 3-4.) The PTABOA took no action on CHH's Form 130. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶ 23.)

         In May of 2017, CHH's attorneys received an e-mail from the Assessor's office, which indicated that "various properties in downtown Indianapolis were not assessed as partially complete." (See Pet'r Resp. Opp'n Resp't Mot. Dismiss ("Pet'r Resp. Br.") at 2, 12.) Believing that its property was assessed inequitably, CHH transitioned its appeal to the Indiana Board on June 6, 2017, by filing a "Petition for Review of Assessment Before the [Indiana Board]" ("Form 131 petition").[1] (See Pet'r Pet. ¶ 24, Ex. A at 2.) CHH claimed in its Form 131 petition that its 2010 assessment violated "the Constitution of the United States of America, including but not limited to the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, including but not limited to Article X, Section 1." (Pet'r Pet., Ex. A at 2.) The Indiana Board, however, did not conduct a hearing on CHH's Form 131 petition. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 9-10.)

         On May 1, 2018, CHH filed its first direct appeal with the Court pursuant to Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-5(g), claiming its 2010 assessment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, its civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Property Taxation and Equal Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Indiana's Constitution, and Indiana's market value-in-use standard. See Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion Cty. Assessor (Convention Headquarters I), 119 N.E.3d 245, 246-47 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2019). On January 25, 2019, the Court dismissed CHH's appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding it was filed before the maximum time for the Indiana Board to give notice of its final determination elapsed. See id. at 250. As a result, the matter was remanded to the Indiana Board for action consistent with the Court's opinion. Id.

         On March 1, 2019, CHH filed its second direct appeal with the Court claiming, among other things, that its 2010 assessment violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as its civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Convention Headquarters Hotels, LLC v. Marion Cty. Assessor (Convention Headquarters II), 126 N.E.3d 80, 81 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2019). On May 22, 2019, the Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because CHH had once again filed the appeal before the maximum time for the Indiana Board to give notice of its final determination elapsed. See id. at 82-84. Accordingly, the Court remanded the matter to the Indiana Board for action consistent with its opinion. See id. at 84.

         On June 28, 2019, after the maximum time for the Indiana Board to give notice of its final determination elapsed, CHH filed its third direct appeal with the Court. (See Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 11, 13.) CHH's third direct appeal alleged, just as its first and second direct appeals, that the 2010 assessment of its real property violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, its civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("1983 Claim"), the Property Taxation and Equal Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Indiana's Constitution, and Indiana's market value-in-use standard. (See, e.g., Pet'r Pet. ¶¶ 44-96.) On July 18, 2019, the Assessor filed a Motion to Dismiss. On August 5, 2019, after the matter was fully briefed, the Court took the Assessor's Motion under advisement. Additional facts will be supplied when necessary.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The Assessor maintains that CHH's appeal should be dismissed "for [various] procedural failures[.]" (Resp't Mot. Dismiss.) More specifically, the Assessor asks the Court to dismiss CHH's appeal with prejudice because it did not include a request that the Indiana Board prepare a certified copy of the administrative record in its Petition. (See Resp't Corrected Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss ("Resp't Br.") at 2-6.) Alternatively, the Assessor requests that the Court dismiss CHH's 1983 Claim pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(1) and 12(B)(6) because a) it was not timely filed; b) CHH failed to file a tort claim notice; and c) CHH failed to include the 1983 Claim in its Form 131 petition to the Indiana Board. (See Resp't Br. at 6-10.)

         I. Failure to request a certified copy of the administrative record

         The Assessor contends that to invoke this Court's jurisdiction CHH needed to include a request in its Petition that the Indiana Board prepare a certified copy of the administrative record as required by Indiana Tax Court Rule 3(F). (See Resp't Br. at 2-6.) The Assessor explains that CHH's failure to do so places the Court at a disadvantage by preventing it from "easily distinguish[ing] between an appeal brought after all evidence has been presented at trial, an appeal brought to avoid trial on the eve of trial, an appeal brought to delay scheduled depositions, or an appeal brought when a ...


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