REALLY, DON’T THREATEN YOUR CITIZENS WITH LEGAL ACTION BECAUSE THEY MADE NEGATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR TOWN
I have written a couple of posts recently about a smackdown administered to a town in Iowa that had its attorney threaten a citizen with legal action because the citizen wrote disparaging comments about the town. If you want to read the town’s abject surrender after it was sued by the ACLU on behalf of the citizen, Lowering the Bar has posted the injunction that was agreed to by the town, as well as the complaint.
This item goes all the way back to 2005, but since Lowering the Bar has a random posts sidebar, I had the good fortune to spot it. (Yes, I have again been reduced to trolling Lowering the Bar for material.)
The line I am talking about, which I could recite from memory without having even seen the linked post, was this: “Loosen up Sandy baby, you’re too tight.”
No disrespect to a (retired) Supreme Court Justice is intended by this post. Judging from the conversation related in the highly entertaining interview excerpt quoted in the linked post, I don’t think the Justice felt disrespected by the original line, or at least she was able to see the humor in the situation.
I HAVE MY DOUBTS ABOUT WHETHER THIS TAX AVOIDANCE STRATEGY WILL WORK – SOUNDS LIKE FORM OVER SUBSTANCE TO ME
Taxpayer operates a business that is not eligible for a favored tax treatment because of the nature of the services performed. Taxpayer creates two entities, one of which does the work that is not eligible for favored treatment, and the other of which claims all of the profit from that work. That way, all of the profit supposedly qualifies for the favored tax treatment.
Will that work? I think that falls into the category of form over substance. I don’t think it will work.
The National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2017 Annual Report to Congress discusses several topics of interest, including the denial of passport applications by individuals who have a “seriously delinquent federal tax debt.” The Advocate says that she has made “several recommendations to ensure taxpayers receive adequate advance notice and an opportunity to be heard” before the IRS makes the determination that the debt is “seriously delinquent.”
That sounds like it should address some of the criticism of that law.
MESSAGE TO MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS - DON’T THREATEN TO SUE YOUR CITIZENS FOR MAKING DISPARAGING COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR TOWN
Remember that town in Iowa whose attorney threatened a citizen with a slander of title claim for making disparaging comments about the town? The town got smacked down by a federal judge and agreed to apologize, pay damages to the citizen, and pay the citizen’s legal fees.
A welcome, but not too surprising, outcome.
A while back I wrote about a law adopted in Seattle that forces residential landlords to rent their properties to the first minimally qualified applicant, regardless of other factors. I pointed out that such a requirement would likely lead to a reduced supply and higher prices for rental housing.
Now comes word that a Washington Superior Court judge has invalidated that law, on the ground that it deprives property owners of the right to freely dispose of their property, which the court recognized as a fundamental attribute of property ownership.
Nobody is suggesting that a property owner should be free to refuse to sell or rent property based on the prospective buyer/tenant’s personal characteristics. The problem here is that in an effort to prevent any possible discrimination, lawmakers are taking away a basic liberty that should be enjoyed by everyone. If I choose to eat at one restaurant over another because the wait staff at the first restaurant treats me better than the wait staff at the other restaurant, shouldn’t I be free to make that choice?
Now, why isn’t the District of Columbia law that mandates a right of first refusal for residential tenants when the landlord wants to sell his or her property, invalid for the same reason that the Seattle law was found to be invalid?
I was surprised, and mildly interested, to learn that Arizona is one of the five states with the lowest first time pass rates for its bar exam. The rate is under 65%, lower even than California, which I would have guessed would be the lowest just because it has a reputation for having a low pass rate, and a high number of applicants.
The five states with the highest first time pass rates have rates of almost 84% up to almost 87%.
I think the 65% pass rate for Arizona (that’s for 2017) is lower than it was when I took the bar exam over thirty years ago. I wonder why it’s lower now, and why it’s so low overall?
I don’t get what’s going on with residential landlords and tenants in Washington DC. I don’t get much of anything that goes on there, but this is something that I thought I knew something about. There’s a law on the books there that requires a residential landlord to give a tenant a right of first refusal if the landlord decides to sell the property. The law seems to be predicated on the notion that the tenant’s right to remain in the property can be terminated by a change of ownership.
But that’s not how it works, at least in jurisdictions like Arizona where common law property rules still have some vitality. If I rent my property (whether it’s residential or commercial) to you under a lease for a term of months, you have the right to stay in the property for the length of that term whether I continue to own the property until the end of the term or not. I can transfer ownership of the property to someone else if I want to, but that ownership is subject to your lease until the lease expires. Once the lease expires, however, I can terminate your occupancy whether I want to move into the property myself, sell it to someone else who wants to occupy it, or lease it to someone else.
Nice try, attorney representing a town that tried to silence a critic. Unless the law in your state is vastly different from the law everywhere else that I have ever heard of on this topic, slander of title has a specific meaning: doing something that affects title to or an interest in a specific parcel. Negative comments that allegedly diminish the value of all property in a municipality do not constitute slander of title, unless the municipality owns or has a mortgage on all the property within its boundaries. The fact that the municipality taxes all property within its boundaries based on the value of each parcel doesn’t give the municipality an interest in the property.
That’s without even mentioning the obvious violation of the critic’s First Amendment rights.
The contents of this blog, this web site, and any writings by me that are linked here, are all my personal commentary. None of it is intended to be legal advice for your situation.