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Heyde v. Pittenger

January 20, 2009

RAYMOND R.S. HEYDE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE RAYMOND R.S. HEYDE REVOCABLE TRUST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY PITTENGER, CHAIRMAN, TAZEWELL COUNTY BOARD OF REVIEW, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant Richard Brehmer's Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Kristal Deininger and Jim Unsicker. For the reasons set forth below, Brehmer's Motion for Summary Judgment [#69] is GRANTED IN PART and MOOT IN PART, and the Motion for Summary Judgment [#71] by Deininger and Unsicker is GRANTED IN PART and MOOT IN PART.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims are asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Raymond R.S. Heyde ("Heyde"), is the trustee for the Raymond R.S. Heyde Revocable Trust. As trustee, Heyde holds title to residential property ("the property") located in Tazewell County, Illinois. Heyde's complaint arises out of the total taxable assessment value ("assessment") on the property. He alleges the Defendants intentionally set the assessment at levels grossly exceeding the property's fair market value in retaliation for filing complaints with the Tazewell County Board of Review (the "BOR").

In the fall of 2003, Heyde received a Notice of Assessment (the "2004 Assessment") in which the property's assessment was reported at $207,720. Subsequently, Heyde challenged said value by filing a complaint with the BOR, and the BOR thereafter decreased the assessment to $140,000.

In August 2004, Heyde received a Notice of Assessment ("2005 Assessment") in which the property's assessment was reported at $149,850. Heyde again filed a complaint with the BOR, arguing the assessment exceeded 33 1/3% of the property's fair market value. In support of his complaint, he included a January 1, 2004, appraisal of his home that placed the value of the property at $420,000; this would result in an assessment of $140,000. However, the BOR affirmed the assessment.

In January 2005, the property was appraised at a fair market value of $435,000. In September 2005, Heyde received a Notice of Assessment ("2006 Assessment") in which the property's assessment was reported at $156,776. Once again, Heyde challenged the assessment by filing a complaint with the BOR, which at that time was comprised of Defendants Gary Pittenger ("Pittenger"), Lloyd Orrick ("Orrick"), and Joe Varda ("Varda"). The BOR thereafter increased the assessment from $153,776 to $436,276, which would result in a fair market value of $1,308,828. Given the original 2005 assessment of $156,776, Heyde argues the assessment increase to $436,276 is grossly disproportionate to 33 1/3% of the property's fair market value.

Subsequent to the BOR's increase in assessment, Defendant Richard Brehmer ("Brehmer"), the Tazewell County Assessor, reported the property's assessment at $458,860. Defendant, Jim Unsicker ("Unsicker"), at the time serving as Acting Supervisor of Assessments for Tazewell County, then mailed a Notice of Assessment ("2007 Assessment") to Heyde containing the $458,860 value. In May 2007, Heyde filed a complaint with the BOR, once again arguing the assessment grossly exceeded 33 1/3% of the property's fair market value. However, the BOR, then comprised of Defendants Pittenger, Rob Paulin ("Paulin"), and Robert Kaieser ("Kaieser"), affirmed the assessment at $458,860.

In October 2007, Brehmer reported the property's assessment at $476,410. Defendant Kristal Deininger ("Deininger"), Acting Supervisor of Assessments for Tazewell County, subsequently mailed a Notice of Assessment ("2008 Assessment") to Heyde containing the $476,410 amount.

Heyde brought this action on July 6, 2007, against BOR chairman Pittenger and former BOR members Orrick and Varda. On December 14, 2007, he amended his complaint to include current BOR members Paulin and Kaieser as defendants, as well as Tazewell County assessment officials Deininger, Unsicker, and Brehmer. In his Amended Complaint, Heyde asserts that the Defendants intentionally set the property's assessment at levels grossly disproportionate to 33.33% of its fair market value and thereby deprived him of his equal protection rights (Counts I and II), conspired to violate his equal protection rights (Count III), and retaliated against him for previously exercising his right to challenge assessments (Count IV), all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants Pittenger, Orrick, Varda, Paulin, and Kaieser have previously been dismissed. The remaining Defendants have moved to dismiss this litigation as premature and for summary judgment on the merits. This Order follows.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment should be granted where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of disputed material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Any doubt as to the ...


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