Kathrein v. City of Evanston, IL, No. 12-2958 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
In 2008 the Kathreins challenged Evanston’s Affordable Housing Demolition Tax under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Tax required a property owner seeking to demolish any residential building to pay the greater of $10,000 per building, or $3,000 per unit. The measure is to “provide a source of funding for the creation, maintenance, and improvement of safe and decent affordable housing; proceeds go to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund. The Kathreins alleged that a developer, learning of the Tax, lowered his bid on their property. The sale fell through. The Kathreins also alleged the unconstitutionality of the Tax Injunction Act (TIA), 28 U.S.C. 1341, which forbids federal courts to enjoin assessment or collection “of any tax under State law,” so long as there is a remedy in state court. The district court dismissed. A Seventh Circuit panel reversed in part, holding that the Demolition Tax was a regulatory device, not a tax under the TIA, because it provided a deterrent against demolition of residential buildings and raised little revenue. Before the district court could resolve remaining claims on remand, the Seventh Circuit, en banc, rejected the approach to identifying a tax taken in the Kathrein case, holding that an “exaction designed to generate revenue” was a tax, contrasted to fines “designed … to punish,” and fees that “compensate for a service,” but did not directly overrule the Kathrein decision. The district court applied the new holding and again dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the decision of the en banc court did effect an intervening change in the law.