SALEM, Ohio — A group of attorneys representing the state, the governor and the state’s tax commissioner are asking that a lawsuit filed against the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value program be dismissed, or at the least moved to Franklin County, where state offices are located.
Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine, and attorneys for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Ohio Tax Commissioner Joseph Testa, filed a motion Sept. 16 asking the lawsuit be dismissed.
The original case was filed June 26 in the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, and seeks more than $1 billion that attorneys and farmers say was illegally collected through unlawful increases to the state’s CAUV program.
It was filed by co-attorneys Kevin Roberts, of the Roberts Law Firm in Olmsted Falls, and Benjamin Calkins, of the Calkins Law Firm in Chagrin Falls.
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, and predict more than 100,000 landowners could join the suit. Four primary plaintiffs were listed when it was filed: Bruce A. Vance, of Jefferson, Ohio; G. Frederick Pierce-Ruhland, of Kingsville; Joseph K. Blystone Trust, of Canal Winchester; and Bruce Achor, of Clinton County.
The plaintiffs argue that the current round of CAUV taxes, which increased by two to three times over previous values, did not properly consider all land use values.
According to the plaintiffs, the values were based on crop commodities — like corn, soybeans and wheat — and neglected to take into consideration acres that grow other crops, such as grapes, woodlands or pastureland, or are not suited to grow crops.
Argue to dismiss
But attorneys for the state say the suit should be dismissed, partly because the state has immunity against such suits.
“Under well-settled law, the state is immune from suit, unless the General Assembly has expressly waived the state’s immunity by statute,” according to attorneys for the state.
They also argue that a court of common pleas, which is where this case has been filed, cannot suspend or stay an order of the tax commissioner, because of the state’s sovereignty over such matters.
And, attorneys for the state say the case fails to “set forth any claims upon which relief may be granted,” because the state bars such a suit in the first place.
If the case is not dismissed, the defendants ask that it be transferred to Franklin County, because that is the where defendants live and work, and because that is the location where the decisions were made that are being questioned.
Attorneys for the landowners said they plan to file a response to the motion to dismiss. A Sept. 30 magistrate’s order gave the plaintiffs an extension, to submit their response by Oct. 15.
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