Anderson v. County of Wright, 86-CV-19-2167

CourtTax Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtJane N. Bowman, Judge
PartiesHarlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson, Petitioners, v. County of Wright, Respondent. Harlan Anderson, Petitioner, v. County of Wright, Respondent.
Decision Date03 February 2021
Docket Number86-CV-20-2479,86-CV-19-2167

Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson, Petitioners,
v.

County of Wright, Respondent.

Harlan Anderson, Petitioner,
v.

County of Wright, Respondent.

Nos. 86-CV-19-2167, 86-CV-20-2479

Tax Court of Minnesota, Regular Division, Wright County

February 3, 2021


This matter came before The Honorable Jane N. Bowman, Judge of the Minnesota Tax Court, on November 4, 2020, on Wright County's motions for partial dismissal.

Petitioners Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson are self-represented, as to Court File Number 86-CV-19-2167. Petitioner Harlan R. Anderson is self-represented as to Court File Number 86-CV-20-2479.

Brian J. Asleson, Chief Deputy County Attorney, represents respondent County of Wright.

ORDER DENYING THE COUNTY'S MOTION TO PARTIALLY DISMISS

Respondent Wright County moves to partially dismiss parcels from the above-captioned petitions, arguing that petitioners failed to comply with Minnesota Tax Court Rule 8610.0010 (2019) and Minnesota Statutes section 278.02 (2020), and that the petitions failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court, upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, now makes the following:

ORDER

1. Wright County's motion to partially dismiss for failure to comply with Minnesota Administrative Rule 8610.0010 and Minnesota Statutes section 278.02 is denied, without prejudice.

2. Wright County's motion to partially dismiss petitioners' challenges to parcels enrolled in the Green Acres program is denied.

3. Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson shall within thirty days amend their Pay 2019 Petition (86-CV-19-2167) to include either their signatures or that of an attorney representing them, so as to comply with Minnesota Tax Court Rule 8610.0010.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

MEMORANDUM

Jane N. Bowman, Judge

I. Background

On April 23, 2019, the petitioners-Harlan R. Anderson, Mary J. Anderson, Richard A. Anderson, and Mark W. Anderson-timely filed a property tax petition (later assigned file number 86-CV-19-2167), contesting the January 2, 2018 "[e]stimated market value" of fifteen parcels (the "Pay 2019 Petition").[1] Attached to the petition, which was signed only by Harlan Anderson, were two letters from Mr. Keith Triplett, Chief Deputy Wright County Assessor.[2] These letters described Wright County's approval of reductions in value for almost all of the parcels currently under petition, as well as the County's desire to seek an increase in per-acre value at the local board level.[3]

On May 27, 2020, Harlan Anderson timely filed a property tax petition concerning the same fifteen parcels, but for the January 2, 2019 assessment (the "Pay 2020 Petition"), indicating "Appraisal by income Potential" as the reason for the appeal.[4] In addition to the two letters, mentioned above, Mr. Harlan attached to the Pay 2020 Petition the Cokato Township Board of Appeals and Equalization's April 9, 2018 and February 10, 2020 Meeting Minutes.[5]

With October 2, 2020 motions addressed to only Harlan Anderson, the County moved to partially dismiss these two petitions for: (1) failure to comply with Minnesota Administrative Rule 8610.0010 (2019) and Minn. Stat. § 278.02 (2020); and (2) failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted concerning parcels enrolled in Minnesota's Green Acres program.[6] Although Harlan Anderson did not file a response, he opposed the motions at the hearing.[7] Mary Anderson, Richard Anderson, and Mark Anderson did not appear at the hearing.

II. Wright County's Motions to Partially Dismiss for Failure to Comply with Minnesota Administrative Rule 8610.0010 and Minn. Stat. § 278.02

A. Minnesota Administrative Rule 8610.0010

As to the Pay 2019 Petition, all four Anderson family members are listed as petitioners.[8] Noting that Harlan Anderson signed the petition as a "representative," the County argues his representation of the other named petitions "is not permitted under Minnesota law." [9] On this basis, the County asserts that the parcels owned by the others must be dismissed.[10] The relevant portion of the administrative rule concerning representation in tax court states the "following persons may practice before the tax court in a regular division matter … an individual, when representing the individual …." Minn. R. 8610.0010(C). In support of the motion, Wright County attached an affidavit stating "[Harlan Anderson] has not cured the Petitions or retained a licensed attorney for representation." [11]

Mary Anderson, Richard Anderson, and Mark Anderson, as named petitioners, are able to represent themselves concerning their parcels. See Minn. R. 8610.0010(C). At the hearing, Wright County acknowledged this, but took issue that they did not sign the petition individually.[12] Rule 11 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure states that "[e]very pleading … shall be signed … by the party." Minn. R. Civ. P. 11.01 (2020).[13] The Rule further states: "An unsigned document shall be stricken unless omission of the signature is corrected promptly after being called to the attention of the attorney or party." Id.

Rule 11 makes clear the lack of signatures is a curable defect. This court declines to partially dismiss the Pay 2019 Petition for lack of signatures, to allow Mary Anderson, Richard Anderson, and Mark Anderson an opportunity to cure the defect. As such, petitioners have thirty days to cure the defect, by either amending the petition to include their signatures, or the signature of an attorney representing them. See Save Our Creeks v. City of Brooklyn Park, 699 N.W.2d 307, 312 (Minn. 2005) (holding courts have "the adjudicatory authority to permit a party to amend a defective pleading in order for the matter to go forward").

The Pay 2020 Petition, listing Harlan Anderson as the only petitioner, is signed by him.[14]This court denies the County's motion because the Pay 2020 Petition does not violate Minnesota Administrative Rule 8610.0010, as Harlan Anderson can represent himself.

B. Minnesota Statutes section 278.02

Wright County next argues the parcels not owned by Harlan Anderson must be dismissed as Minn. Stat. § 278.02 only "allows for 'several parcels of land in or upon which the petitioner has an estate, right, title, interest, or lien …' to be 'included in the same petition.'" [15] Indeed, to bring a property tax petition, a petitioner must have ...

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