ATTORNEYS FOR PETITIONER: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
LARRY J. STROBLE STEVE CARTER
DANA L. LUETZELSCHWAB ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA
RANDAL J. KALTENMARK JOHN D. SNETHEN
BARNES & THORNBURG LLP DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
Indianapolis, IN Indianapolis, IN
DOUGLAS J. D E GLOPPER
ATTORNEY AT LAW
INDIANA TAX COURT
PAUL SHOOPMAN, )
v. ) Cause No. 49T10-0209-TA-113
CLAY TOWNSHIP ASSESSOR, )
ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF
THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW
May 18, 2005
Paul Shoopman (Shoopman) appeals the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax
Review (Indiana Board) valuing his real property for the March 1, 1995 assessment
date. On appeal, Shoopman argues that the Indiana Board erred in:
1) assigning an A+6 grade factor
to his home; 2) assigning an excellent rating to his homesite land; and
3) valuing his residual acreage as residential excess.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Shoopman owns 102.9 acres of land in Hamilton County, Indiana. Situated on
that land is Shoopmans home (complete with an indoor swimming pool, movie theatre,
and bowling alley), a boathouse, and several barns.
For the 1995 general reassessment, the Hamilton County Board of Review (BOR) assigned
Shoopmans property an overall true tax value of $2,140,300 ($734,000 for land and
$1,406,300 for improvements). In arriving at this value, the BOR assigned Shoopmans
home a grade factor of A+6. The BOR also designated one acre
of land as homesite and rated it excellent, which carried a value of
$115,000. The BOR then designated the remaining land as residential excess and
valued it at a base rate of $10,000 per acre.
Believing the assessment to be too high, Shoopman timely filed a Petition for
Review of Assessment (Form 131) with the State Board of Tax Commissioners (State
Board). In his Form 131, Shoopman claimed that his home should be
grade A+1, that his homesite land should be rated good (and therefore valued
at $30,000), and his residual acreage should be priced as agricultural acreage (i.e.,
$495 per acre). On March 11, 1998, Leon Lane (Lane), a State
Board Hearing Officer, conducted a hearing on Shoopmans appeal. On March 13,
1998, Lane conducted a site inspection of Shoopmans property. Based on his
inspection, Lane made the following recommendations to the State Board:
After inspecting the [house] and considering [the assessment regulations] . . . [i]t
is determined the grade is best described as A+1. A change [should
be] made as a result of this issue.
After inspecting the property and surrounding properties, it is determined the homesite category
is excessive and [should be] reduced to a good rating[.] A change
in the assessment [should be] made due to this issue.
After inspecting the parcel, and surrounding parcels, and considering [Shoopmans] issue and [the
assessment regulations], it is determined the land should be valued using the agricultural
land assessment formula. A change [should be] made as a result of
(Joint Stipulation of Supplement to Cert. Admin. R. at Ex. B.) STANDARD REVIEW
On August 7, 2002, the Indiana Board issued a final determination on Shoopmans
appeal. In its final determination, the Indiana Board rejected Lanes recommendations and
upheld the BORs assessment.
Shoopman initiated this original tax appeal on September 23, 2002. On December
7, 2004, Shoopman filed his written brief with the Court; the Assessor filed
her response brief on February 7, 2005. In her brief, however, the
Assessor did not respond to Shoopmans arguments; rather, she asked this Court to
dismiss Shoopmans appeal. The Court heard the parties oral arguments on April
18, 2005. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.
This Court gives great deference to final determinations of the Indiana Board when
it acts within the scope of its authority. Miller Village Prop. Co.,
LLP v. Indiana Bd. of Tax Review, 779 N.E.2d 986, 988 (Ind. Tax
Ct. 2002), review denied. Consequently, the Court will reverse a final determination
of the Indiana Board only if it is:
(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;
(2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity;
(3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory jurisdiction,
authority, or limitations;
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
(4) without observance of procedure required by law; or
(5) unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence.
Ind. Code Ann. § 33-26-6-6(e)(1)-(5) (West 2005).
The party seeking to overturn the Indiana Boards final determination bears the burden
of proving its invalidity. Osolo Township Assessor v. Elkhart Maple Lane Assocs.
L.P., 789 N.E.2d 109, 111 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003). In order to
meet that burden, the party seeking reversal must have submitted, during the administrative
hearing process, probative evidence regarding the alleged assessment error. Id. (footnote
omitted). Probative evidence is evidence sufficient to establish a given fact that,
if not contradicted, will remain sufficient. Id. at n.4.
Before the Court reaches the merits of Shoopmans claims, it must first address
the Assessors claim that Shoopmans appeal should be dismissed. (See Respt Resp.
Br. at 8.) Because the Assessor alleges that Shoopman failed to timely
file his petition for judicial review (see Respt Resp. Br. at 4-8), the
Court, for the reasons stated below, treats the Assessors argument as one asserting
that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the particular case.
Every action has three jurisdictional elements: 1) jurisdiction of the subject matter;
2) jurisdiction of the person; and 3) jurisdiction of the particular case.
Carroll County Rural Elec. Membership Corp. v. Indiana Dept of State Revenue, 733
N.E.2d 44, 47 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2000). Subject matter jurisdiction is the
power of a court to hear and determine the general class of cases
to which the proceedings before it belong. Id. (quotation and citation omitted).
Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction depends on whether the type
of claim advanced by the petitioner falls within the general scope of authority
conferred upon the court by constitution or statute.
Id. (citation omitted) (footnote
added). A judgment rendered by a court lacking subject matter jurisdiction is
void and may be attacked at any time. Foor v. Town of
Hebron, 742 N.E.2d 545, 548 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001) (citation omitted). The
appropriate means to challenge a courts subject matter jurisdiction is a Trial Rule
12(B)(1) motion. Ind. Trial Rule 12(B)(1).
In contrast, jurisdiction over a particular case refers to a courts power to
hear and determine a specific case over which it has subject matter jurisdiction.
Carroll County, 733 N.E.2d at 50 (citation omitted). Consequently, just because
a court maintains subject matter jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that it has
jurisdiction over the particular case. Whether a court has jurisdiction to hear
a specific case depends upon the existence of particular facts contained within the
case. Id. A judgment rendered by a court that
lacks jurisdiction over a particular case is voidable and must be timely objected
to or it is waived. Foor, 742 N.E.2d at 548. The
appropriate means to challenge a courts jurisdiction over a particular case is a
Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion, not a Trial Rule 12(B)(1) motion. See Carroll
Co., 733 N.E.2d at 50.
In her brief, the Assessor advances the argument that, based on a series
of statutory amendments and transitional rules, Shoopman was procedurally required to file his
petition by April 1, 2002, but did not; accordingly, the Court should dismiss.
(See Respt Resp. Br. at 4-8.) Because Indiana courts have generally
held that issues involving the procedures for initiating or perfecting an appeal (whether
prescribed by statute or trial rule) go to a courts jurisdiction over the
particular case, the Court construes the Assessors argument as such. See, e.g.,
Greer v. State, 685 N.E.2d 700, 702-04 (Ind. 1997) (explaining that failure to
timely file praecipe in a direct appeal from a criminal conviction pursuant to
Indianas Post-Conviction Rule 2(1) goes to jurisdiction of a particular case); Browning v.
Walters, 620 N.E.2d 28, 31 (lnd. Ct. App. 1993) (failure to verify complaint
goes to courts jurisdiction over the particular case); Miller Village Props. Co., 779
N.E.2d at 989-90 (failure to name the proper parties as respondents in an
appeal deprived the court not of its subject matter jurisdiction, but of its
jurisdiction over the particular case).
As previously stated, the issue of a courts lack of jurisdiction over a
particular case must be raised at the earliest opportunity possible or it is
waived. Foor, 742 N.E.2d at 549 (quoting City of Marion v. Antrobus,
448 N.E.2d 325, 329 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983)). Typically, the earliest opportunity
possible is in a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion. See id. at 549-50.
See also Harp v. Indiana Dept of Highways, 585 N.E.2d 652, 659
(Ind. Ct. App. 1992). In this case, however, the Assessor did not
file a motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(6). In fact, she
filed no motion whatsoever.
Even if this Court were to construe the Assessors brief as a motion
to dismiss, the Assessor missed her earliest opportunity possible to raise the jurisdictional
defect: Shoopman filed his appeal in September, 2002 and the Assessor did
not raise this issue until she filed her brief in February, 2005.
Nevertheless, in December of 2003, counsel for the Assessor moved to dismiss certain
other named respondents because they were not proper parties to the appeal.
The Court concludes that that was the earliest opportunity possible for the Assessor
to challenge the Courts jurisdiction over the case. See Foor, 742 N.E.2d
at 550. Her failure to do so waived the issue; as a
result, the Court now turns to the merits of Shoopmans case.
On appeal, Shoopman alleges that the Indiana Board erroneously graded his home, erroneously
rated his homesite land, and erroneously valued his residual acreage. The Assessor,
on the other hand, has chosen not to respond at all to these
arguments, arguing instead the jurisdictional defect issue only. The Assessors failure to
respond to Shoopmans issues is akin to failure to file a brief.
See Hacker v. Holland, 575 N.E.2d 675, 676 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991) ([a]n
appellees failure to respond to an issue raised by an appellant is akin
to failure to file a brief), trans. denied. Accordingly, the Indiana Boards
final determination is subject to reversal upon Shoopmans showing of prima facie error
on these issues. See id.
Prima facie means at first sight, on the first appearance; on the face
of it; so far as can be judged from the first disclosure; presumably;
a fact presumed to be true unless disproved by some evidence to the
contrary. Harrington v. Hartman, 233 N.E.2d 189, 191 (Ind. Ct. App. 1968)
(internal quotation and citation omitted). This standard prevents two evils that would
otherwise undermine the judicial process. By requiring the [petitioner] to show some
error,  the court, not the parties, decides the law. By allowing
the [petitioner] to prevail upon a showing simply of prima facie error, [the
Court] avoid[s] the improper burden of having to act as advocate for the
absent [respondent]. Vukovich v. Coleman, 789 N.E.2d 520, 524 n.4 (Ind. Ct.
Shoopman argues in his brief that the Indiana Board ignored the recommendations of
its hearing officer, Leon Lane, in direct contravention of Indiana Code § 6-1.1-30-12.
(Petr Br. at 11-15.) That statute provides, in pertinent part:
With respect to . . . a hearing conducted by a hearing officer
under section 11 of this chapter, the . . . hearing officer
shall submit a written report of his findings to the state board of
tax commissioners. . . . After reviewing the report, the board may take
additional evidence or hold additional hearings. The board shall base its final
decision on the report, any additional evidence taken by the board, and any
records that the board considers relevant.
Ind. Code Ann. § 6-1.1-30-12 (West 1998). See also 2001 Ind. Acts
198 § 117(c).
See footnote The Court holds this constitutes a prima facie showing
For the foregoing reasons, the Indiana Boards final determination is REVERSED. The
matter is REMANDED to the Indiana Board to instruct the appropriate local assessing
officials to, with respect to Shoopmans March 1, 1995 assessment, reduce the grade
on his home to A+1, rate his homesite land as good and value
it accordingly, and to value his remaining acreage as agricultural land.
Shoopman also initially claimed that the Indiana Board erred in assigning
his neighborhood an
excellent rating. Shoopman, however, subsequently withdrew this issue.
(See Petr Br. at 20; Oral Argument Tr. at 8.)
It appears from the administrative record, however, that approximately 71 of
these acres received negative influence factors, ranging from 25% to 75%. (
Cert. Admin. R. at 91.) See also Ind. Admin. Code tit. 50,
r. 2.2-4-10(a)(9) (1996).
On December 31, 2001, the legislature abolished the State Board of
Tax Commissioners (State Board). 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 119(b)(2). Effective
January 1, 2002, the legislature created the Indiana Board of Tax Review (Indiana
Board) as "successor" to the State Board.
Ind. Code Ann. §§ 6-1.5-1-3;
6-1.5-4-1 (West Supp. 2004-2005); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 95. Thus, when
the final determination was issued on Shoopmans appeal in August 2002, it was
issued by the Indiana Board.
This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over all original tax appeals.
Ind. Code Ann. § 33-26-3-3 (West Supp. 2004-2005). An original tax appeal
is one that arises under Indianas tax laws and is an initial appeal
of a final determination made by the Indiana Department of State Revenue, the
Indiana Board of Tax Review, and, in limited instances, the State Board of
Tax Commissioners or the Department of Local Government Finance. See Ind. Code
Ann. § 33-26-3-1 (West Supp 2004-2005); Ind. Code Ann. § 33-26-3-2 (West Supp.
2004-2005); 2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 116.
This provision makes Indiana Code § 6-1.1-30-12 applicable to the Indiana
Petitions for review filed under IC 6-1.1-15-3 with respect to notices of action
of the county property tax assessment board of appeals issued before January 1,
2002, that are pending before the state board of tax commissioners on December
(1) are transferred to the Indiana board of
tax review; and
(2) are subject to the law in effect before
amendments under this act.
The state board of tax commissioners shall transfer to the Indiana board of
tax review by January 1, 2002, the records relating to each petition for
review referred to in this subsection.
2001 Ind. Acts 198 § 117(c).