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Guardian Energy LLC v. County of Waseca

Supreme Court of Minnesota

April 10, 2019

Guardian Energy, LLC, Relator,
v.
County of Waseca, Respondent.

          Tax Court Office of Appellate Courts

          Thomas R. Wilhelmy, Gauri S. Samant, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for relator.

          Brenda Miller, Waseca County Attorney, Waseca, Minnesota; and Marc J. Manderscheid, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Kevin K. Stroup, Barry R. Gronke, Jr., Stoneberg, Giles & Stroup, P.A., Marshall, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Inc.

         SYLLABUS

         A tax court order is not a final, appealable order under Minn. Stat. § 271.10, subd. 1 (2018), if a post-order motion calls into question the finality of the value determinations made in the original order and the tax court stays entry of judgment on that order to address the post-order motion.

         Motion to dismiss granted; writ of certiorari discharged and appeal dismissed.

          OPINION

          HUDSON, JUSTICE.

         We remanded this case to the Minnesota Tax Court in 2015 after concluding that the external-obsolescence calculations made by the tax court in valuing relator Guardian Energy's property were not reasonably supported by the record. Guardian Energy, LLC v. County of Waseca, 868 N.W.2d 253 (Minn. 2015). The tax court then issued a new order in 2016 that again addressed external obsolescence and made findings and conclusions regarding the value of Guardian's property (the "2016 Order"). Before judgment was entered on that order, respondent Waseca County filed a motion that requested correction of computational errors made by the tax court through amended findings. After the County filed its motion, the tax court stayed entry of judgment. Before the tax court ruled on the County's motion, Guardian sought review of the tax court's order in our court. Because we conclude that the County's unresolved motion and the tax court's stay of entry of judgment rendered the 2016 Order not "final" within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 271.10, subd. 1 (2018), we discharge the writ of certiorari and dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         FACTS

         In 2009, Guardian purchased an ethanol-production facility located in Janesville. The Waseca County Assessor assessed property taxes based on its estimate of the property's market value for 2009, 2010, and 2011, and Guardian challenged each year's assessment by filing petitions with the tax court. The challenges were consolidated, and in 2014 the tax court issued an order determining the fair market value of the property for each tax year.

         Guardian appealed the tax court's order to our court. In 2015, we affirmed the tax court's determination that the property's ethanol tanks were taxable real property, vacated the tax court's valuation determinations because its external-obsolescence calculations were not reasonably supported by the evidence, and remanded the case to the tax court, giving it the option to reopen the record. Guardian Energy, 868 N.W.2d at 261, 267.[1]

         After additional proceedings in the tax court, on September 28, 2016, the tax court issued the 2016 Order. The tax court stayed entry of judgment on this order for 15 days- until October 13. On October 13, the County filed a "motion for correction of computational errors," asking the tax court to "amend its findings and conclusions to correct computational errors" so that the judgment would "accurately reflect the market value" of Guardian's property. The County brought its motion under Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02, 60.01 and Minn. Stat. § 271.08, subd. 1 (2018). See also Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 7 (2018) ("[T]he Rules of . . . Civil Procedure for the district court of Minnesota shall govern the procedures in the Tax Court, where practicable."). Guardian opposed the County's motion. On October 31, the tax court stayed entry of judgment "pending further order of the court."

         On November 21-after the tax court had stayed entry of judgment but before the County's motion was resolved-Guardian filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with our court. See Minn. Stat. ยง 271.10, subd. 2 (2018) (directing the petitioner who seeks review of a tax court decision to "obtain from the supreme court a writ of certiorari"). In its accompanying statement of the case, Guardian stated that the 2016 Order disposed of all claims and was a "final order." Acknowledging the County's October motion, Guardian noted that the motion "does not impact the finality" of the 2016 Order. Eleven days later, on December 2, the County filed a notice ...


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