Case: Morningside Community Organization v. Sabree

16-08807 | Michigan state trial court

Filed Date: July 13, 2016

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On July 13, 2016, several Detroit homeowners and a coalition of neighborhood associations from throughout the city filed this class-action lawsuit against the Wayne County Treasurer alleging Fair Housing Act (FHA) and due process violations. The plaintiffs alleged that homeowners in Detroit were being charged unlawfully assessed taxes because the city of Detroit did not reduce the property assessments when the value of their properties declined before and after the 2008 recession. The plaintiff…

On July 13, 2016, several Detroit homeowners and a coalition of neighborhood associations from throughout the city filed this class-action lawsuit against the Wayne County Treasurer alleging Fair Housing Act (FHA) and due process violations. The plaintiffs alleged that homeowners in Detroit were being charged unlawfully assessed taxes because the city of Detroit did not reduce the property assessments when the value of their properties declined before and after the 2008 recession. The plaintiffs argued that the city’s unlawful taxes and subsequent foreclosures constituted illegal discrimination and had an adverse disparate impact on African Americans, both in violation of FHA. Additionally, the plaintiffs argued that the City of Detroit failed to provide the state’s poverty tax exemption, which reduces a qualified homeowners tax burden, in violation of their due process rights. Represented by private counsel as well as the ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, the plaintiffs requested that the court grant a preliminary and final order preventing future foreclosures and the sales of “owner-occupied” homes in the city of Detroit until the lawful taxes were assessed. They also requested the court create a process for qualified homeowners to obtain the poverty exemption.

Because this is a state court case, we do not have access to all of the court documents. However, based on the docket, it is clear that a motion to dismiss was filed by the defendant on August 1, 2016, which Judge Colombo denied on September 2, 2016. Additionally, the plaintiffs moved for injunctive relief on August 12, 2016 to halt the auctions of the foreclosed homes, but this motion was also denied by Judge Colombo on September 2, 2016. Ultimately, the trial court granted summary disposition in favor of the defendants, holding that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Michigan Tax Tribunal (MTT) had exclusive jurisdiction over claims involving discriminatory assessment practices. Reasoning for the trial court’s decision can be found in the Court of Appeals opinion. 2017 WL 4182985.

On January 5, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an application for leave to appeal the trial court decision, which the Court of Appeals granted on March 13. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision on September 21, 2017. It held that the plaintiffs’ claim, while phrased as a constitutional question regarding the foreclosures, was ultimately a challenge to the validity of the property tax assessment, which was a question within MTT's exclusive jurisdiction. Therefore the Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction. 2017 WL 4182985.

The plaintiffs filed an application for leave to appeal the Court of Appeals’ judgment but the Michigan Supreme Court denied this leave for appeal on January 24, 2018 on lack of jurisdiction grounds. On July 3, 2018, Judge Colombo entered an order of dismissal because the parties came to a stipulation and settlement agreement. The plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their second amended complaint in return for the city of Detroit's stipulations. The city agreed to make changes to its poverty tax exemption program, including new notification requirements like automatic mailings and new website information. The city also agreed to remove application requirements like references and deadlines. Finally, the city agreed to exercise its right of first refusal to purchase properties of low income home owners who were affected by the 2008 financial crisis. The city agreed to exercise its right in good faith, but there are no specific requirements in the settlement agreement. The settled terms concerning the poverty tax exemption application expire in five years, and the terms concerning the city's agreement to purchase properties expires in eight years. The case is over.

Summary Authors

Mackenzie Walz (3/6/2018)

Casey D'Alesandro (3/14/2021)

People


Judge(s)

Colombo, Robert J. Jr. (Michigan)

Gadola, Paul V. (Michigan)

Saad, Henry William (Michigan)

Servitto, Deborah A. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Buddin, Kimberly (Michigan)

Cook, Marta P. (District of Columbia)

Duraiswamy, Shankar (District of Columbia)

Fancher, Mark P. (Michigan)

Grimes, Jason (District of Columbia)

Kitaba, Bonsitu A. (Michigan)

Judge(s)

Colombo, Robert J. Jr. (Michigan)

Gadola, Paul V. (Michigan)

Saad, Henry William (Michigan)

Servitto, Deborah A. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Buddin, Kimberly (Michigan)

Cook, Marta P. (District of Columbia)

Duraiswamy, Shankar (District of Columbia)

Fancher, Mark P. (Michigan)

Grimes, Jason (District of Columbia)

Kitaba, Bonsitu A. (Michigan)

Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan)

Lenox, Marne Lynne (New York)

Montag, Coty R (District of Columbia)

Quereshi, Ajmel (District of Columbia)

Ridings, Donald J Jr (District of Columbia)

Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)

Tremont, Sarah E. (District of Columbia)

Urbina, Luis (District of Columbia)

Wintermyer, Wesley (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Elhasan, Zenna F. (Michigan)

Ghannam, Jacob S (Michigan)

Kapalla-Bondi, Lara (Michigan)

Mithani, Sonal H. (Michigan)

Raimi, Charles N. (Michigan)

Stella, Davidde Alessandro (Michigan)

Trigg, Amia L. (District of Columbia)

Woolard, James L (Michigan)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

16-008807-CH

Docket [MI State Court]

Nov. 15, 2016

Nov. 15, 2016

Docket

156707

Docket [MI Supreme Court]

Morningside Community Organization v. Wayne County Treasurer

Michigan state supreme court

Nov. 29, 2017

Nov. 29, 2017

Docket

16-08807

336430

17-003480-CH

Docket

Morningside Community Organization v. Wayne County Treasurer

Michigan state appellate court

Aug. 1, 2018

Aug. 1, 2018

Docket

336430

Opinion

Morningside Community Organization v. Wayne County Treasurer

Michigan state appellate court

2017 WL 4182985

Sept. 21, 2017

Sept. 21, 2017

Order/Opinion

156707

Order

Morningside Community Organization v. Wayne County Treasurer

Michigan state supreme court

905 N.W.2d 597

Jan. 24, 2018

Jan. 24, 2018

Order/Opinion

16-08807

Stipulation and Order Settlement and Dismissal

July 3, 2018

July 3, 2018

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 26, 2022, 3 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Michigan

Case Type(s):

Fair Housing/Lending/Insurance

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 13, 2016

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A coalition of neighborhood associations and several African American Detroit homeowners

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU of Michigan

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Wayne County (Wayne), County

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Fair Housing Act/Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 2018 - 2026

Issues

General:

Disparate Impact

Housing

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black