Ronald R. Johnson and Dee L. Johnson, Relators,
County of Hennepin, Respondent.
Court Office of Appellate Courts
R. Johnson, Dee L. Johnson, Excelsior, Minnesota, pro se.
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jane N.B.
Holzer, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
the tax court did not err in determining that it lacked
jurisdiction to consider the taxpayers' motion and the
record supports the tax court's findings and conclusions,
the decision of the tax court is affirmed.
and decided by the court without oral argument.
case considers whether the tax court lacked jurisdiction to
consider a motion filed in a case arising from a tax petition
that was automatically dismissed by operation of law. In
2015, Ronald and Dee Johnson ("Johnsons") filed a
petition in tax court challenging Hennepin County's
("County") assessment of their 2015 property taxes
("2015 petition"). Over 1 year later, the County
notified the tax court that the Johnsons' 2015 petition
had been automatically dismissed by operation of law because
the Johnsons had not paid a portion of their 2015 property
taxes by the date required by law. The Johnsons then sought
to bring a motion before the tax court regarding their 2015
petition. The tax court declined to consider the
Johnsons' motion, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction
to do so because the Johnsons' petition had been
automatically dismissed by statute and had not been
reinstated. Because we conclude that the tax court did not
err, we affirm.
December 4, 2015, the Johnsons filed a petition with the tax
court challenging the County's assessment of their real
property taxes for the 2015 tax year, payable in 2016.
See Minn. Stat. § 278.01, subd. 1(a) (2016)
(allowing property owners to file a petition in tax court
asserting that a county "partially, unfairly, or
unequally assessed [the taxpayer's property] in
comparison with other property"). Under section 278.01,
subdivision 1(a),  the Johnsons' petition challenged the
County's January 2, 2015 assessment of $6, 856.34. The
assessment included ad valorem taxes and special assessments
for 2015. In their petition, the Johnsons alleged that the
County's assessment (1) estimated a market value that was
greater than the property's actual market value; (2)
unequally assessed their property when compared with other
property; (3) incorrectly classified their property; and (4)
was based, in part, on property exempt from taxation.
year after the Johnsons filed their petition, on December 8,
2016, the County notified the tax court that the 2015
petition had been automatically dismissed under Minnesota
Statutes section 278.03 (2016). Section 278.03, subdivision
1, requires a property owner to pay the assessed taxes while
a petition is pending, regardless of the pending and
outstanding legal challenge to the assessment. Absent a court
order "permitting the petitioner to continue prosecution
of the petition without payment," if a property owner
fails to pay "the amount required when due," then
the petition "and all proceedings thereunder" are
"automatically" dismissed. Minn. Stat. §
278.03, subd. 1.
County maintains that the Johnsons' petition was
dismissed by operation of law because the Johnsons failed to
pay their second-half tax payment. Section 278.03,
subdivision 1, sets forth a timeline for two tax payments
that must be paid by a property owner while a petition is
pending in court. First, after a property owner files a
petition, the property owner has until the following May 16
to pay 50 percent of the tax levied for the assessed year.
Minn. Stat. § 278.03, subd. 1. Here, the parties do not
dispute that the Johnsons timely paid this first required
payment, $3, 428.17.
if the petition proceedings have not yet been completed by
the following October 16, the property owner must pay a
second-half payment for the tax levied-a portion of the
"unpaid balance" of the tax levied (50 percent or
80 percent, depending on the amount of the unpaid balance).
Id. Here, based on an affidavit of a Real Estate and
Tax Specialist for Hennepin County, the tax court found that
the Johnsons "did not make the required second-half
payment" or any second payment by October 16, 2016.
Johnson v. County of Hennepin, No. 27-CV-15-20952,
2017 WL 6813395, at *1 (Minn. T.C. Nov. 28, 2017). In fact,
the record shows that after May 2016, ...