Plaintiff’s brief inadequate to maintain claim with Wisconsin Court of Appeals

by Kaitlin Heinen

Patrick J. Riley, Mary J. Riley, and Daniel S. Riley v. Town of Nasewaupee
(Wisconsin Court of Appeals, March 5, 2013)

Betty Riley acquired a 42-acre shoreline property in Door County in 1988. She died in March 2007, and her children–Patrick, Mary, and Daniel–received the property from her estate in July 2011. Much of the property is wetlands. In 1994, the wetlands were mistakenly removed from zoning maps. This error resulted in a 1-year increase in the assessed value from $256,500 to $431, 400. Betty never objected to the tax assessment. In August 2010, the Door County zoning administrator informed the Rileys of the error and indicated that the zoning maps had been remedied. In September, the Town of Nasewaupee mailed a preliminary notice of assessment the 2010 value of $841,900 would be reduced to $498,500 for 2011. In November 2011, filed a claim for recovery of taxes overpaid from 1994-2010, totaling $68, 662.48. The Town disallowed the claim, so the Rileys brought suit in circuit court. The court granted the Town’s motion, so the Rileys appealed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

The Rileys argued that the time limitations in Wis. Stat. § 74.35(5) should not apply to them. That section requires that a claim for recovery of unlawful taxes be filed with the taxing district “by January 31 of the year in which the tax is payable.”  So this would require the Rileys to have submitted a claim about their 2010 real estate taxes no later than January 31, 2011.  Since the Riley’s claims was filed with the Town in November 2011, it was too late to contest any taxes from 2010 or earlier. However, the Rileys contended that they did not have an enforceable claim under Wis. Stat. § 74.35 “until the [a]ssessor filed a Notice of Assessment setting the new assessed value … on May 18, 2011.”  The Rileys did not provide any legal authority or argument; rather, in their filing with the Court of Appeals they simply restated the circuit court’s ruling and “boldly declare, ‘This cannot be the law.’” The Rileys concluded their brief, stating that “the provisions of [Wis. Stat.] § 70.43 impose upon the assessors the duty of correcting the assessment and making provision for reimbursement of the parties affected.” According to the Court, “Unfortunately, the Rileys fail to explain the significance of this, much less develop a reasoned argument.  Further, in their poorly edited reply brief, the Rileys clarify that they are not relying on § 70.43, ever though they insist that statute is ‘part of the context of this case.'”

“The Wisconsin Court of Appeals does not decide issues that are inadequately briefed or are unsupported by legal authority.” The Rileys’ brief lacked both reasoned legal argument and supporting legal authority, so the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s ruling.

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