Schneider v. County of Hennepin

Decision Date26 April 2019
Docket Number27-CV-18-18325
PartiesJoe Schneider and Anne Schneider, Petitioners, v. County of Hennepin, Respondent.
CourtTax Court of Minnesota

Petitioners Joe Schneider and Anne Schneider are self-represented.

Jane N.B. Holzer, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, represents respondent County of Hennepin.


This matter came before The Honorable Tamar Gronvall, Judge of the Minnesota Tax Court, for case management purposes.

This matter concerns petitioners' challenge, pursuant to Minn Stat. § 429.081 (2018), to a special assessment by the City of Champlin. Under Minnesota law, such a challenge must be filed as a district court action, and must be heard and decided by the district court (rather than the tax court). See id. ("Within 30 days after the adoption of the assessment, any person aggrieved may appeal to the district court by serving a notice upon the mayor or clerk of the municipality.").

As will be further explained below, petitioners' section 429.081 special assessment challenge was filed in the Hennepin County District Court, the filing fee paid and was denominated by court administration as a tax court action. Once the matter arrived in tax court, respondent Hennepin County, represented by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, moved to dismiss on the ground that the tax court is without jurisdiction to hear and decide a special assessment challenge. To assist the court in ascertaining its jurisdiction, we now grant petitioners 30 days to either: (1) file and serve in accordance with law an amended notice clearly indicating: (a) the nature of the action they are pursuing, and (b) the court in which they seek to pursue that action (district court or tax court); OR (2) notify the tax court that they intend to have the matter decided by this court.



During a March 12, 2019 hearing on respondent Hennepin County's motion to dismiss, petitioner Joe Schneider stated that on November 6, 2018, he visited the Hennepin County District Court's Self-Help Center and explained that he wished to challenge a special assessment. Schneider indicated that he was advised to file his challenge on a Tax Court Form 7. A Tax Court Form 7, however, is not the proper form on which to file a district court action challenging a special assessment. Nevertheless following the advice he had received, Mr. Schneider filed petitioners' challenge in Hennepin County District Court on a Tax Court Form 7. In Box 7 of the form (which asks the taxpayer to indicate the error alleged), Mr. Schneider checked "Other (please specify)" and wrote-somewhat obscurely-"Spec Assessments."

Likely because petitioners' action had been filed on a Tax Court Form 7 and only obscurely indicated that it was a special assessment challenge, the Hennepin County Court Administrator's Office interpreted petitioners' filing as a tax court action (rather than a district court action), and entered the matter in the district court's case-management system as "Case Type: Tax Court." After receiving notification that the matter had been denominated a tax court action, this court entered the matter in its separate case-management system.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office, representing Hennepin County, subsequently moved the tax court to dismiss the case on the ground that a challenge to a special assessment pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 429.081 must be heard and decided by the district court. Petitioners opposed the County's motion to dismiss.

A court has the power to determine its own jurisdiction. See, e.g., Reid v. Indep. Union of All Workers, 200 Minn. 599, 601-02, 275 N.W. 300, 301 (1937). See also Langer v. Comm 'r of Revenue, 773 N.W.2d 77, 80 (Minn. 2009) (noting court's duty to evaluate its own subject matter jurisdiction). But the Tax Court does not have jurisdiction over section 429.081 special assessment appeals. Minn. Stat. § 429.081 ("Within 30 days after the adoption of the assessment, any person aggrieved... may appeal to the district court...).

The foregoing facts indicate that one of two things occurred in this case. Either petitioners: (1) sought to file a section 429.081 special assessment challenge in district court, but did so using the wrong form; OR (2) filed a tax court action asserting a claim over which the tax court has no jurisdiction. The first alternative would involve a simple error of form. Cf Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.04 cmt. (2000) (noting that court administrators should not "reject documents for filing for noncompliance with the form requirements of the rules" and commenting: "[a]ny deficiency as to form should be dealt with by appropriate court order, including in most cases an opportunity to cure the defect.").

Allowing petitioners to file an amended notice will assist the court in ascertaining its jurisdiction. The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure "govern the procedures in the Tax Court where practicable." Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 7 (2018)....

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