ACADIAN PROPERTIES NORTHSHORE, L.L.C.
LOUIS FITZMORRIS, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ST. TAMMANYPARISH ASSESSOR, RODNEY J. STRAIN JR., IN HISCAPACITY AS EX-OFFICIO TAX COLLECTOR, AND THELOUISIANA TAX COMMISSION
Appeal from The 22nd Judicial District Court,
Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana Trial Court No.
2015-12803 The Honorable Reginald T. Badeaux III, Judge
S. Reich Lawrence R. Plunkett Jr. Metairie, Louisiana
Attorneys for Plaintiff/ Appellant, Acadian Properties
Patrick J. Berrigan Slidell, Louisiana Attorney for
Defendant/ Appellee, Louis Fitzmorris, in his capacity as St.
Tammany Parish Assessor
Charles M. Hughes Jr. Mandeville, Louisiana Attorney for
Defendant/ Appellee, Rodney J. Strain Jr., in his capacity as
Ex-officio Tax Collector
D. Hoffman Jr. Covington, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/
Appellee, Louisiana Tax Commission
BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, AND CRAIN, JJ.
case involves a challenge to an ad valorem property
tax assessment. The plaintiff appeals a summary judgment
dismissing its petition with prejudice. Finding a procedural
error, we vacate the summary judgment and remand for further
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Properties Northshore, L.L.C., owns an eight-acre parcel of
land in St. Tammany Parish. Beginning in 2008, the property
was assessed as "bona fide timberland, " which
meant its assessed valuation was determined based on the
parcel's use value instead of its fair market value.
See La. Const, art. VII, § 18; La. R.S.
47:2301-09. In 2015, citing Acadian's efforts to develop
the property for a shopping center, the St. Tammany Parish
Assessor's Office notified Acadian the property did not
meet the requirements for "timberland"; therefore,
it was not eligible for the use value assessment. As a
consequence, the Assessor sought additional taxes and
penalties for several prior years in question, including 2012
responded by suing Louis Fitzmorris, in his capacity as St.
Tammany Parish Assessor; Rodney J. Strain, Jr., in his
capacity as the St. Tammany Parish Tax Collector; and the
Louisiana Tax Commission. Acadian's petition focused on
two claims: (1) for the 2012 assessment, the Assessor could
not retroactively change the use value as qualified
timberland and assess additional taxes for that tax year; and
(2) for the 2014 assessment, the Assessor ignored the proper
classification of the property as bona fide timberland.
Acadian paid the 2014 taxes under protest and sought a refund
of those taxes.
the defendants answered, Acadian filed a motion for partial
summary judgment challenging the validity of the
"retroactive" 2012 assessment. The motion was set
for hearing on November 21, 2016. Twelve days before the
hearing, the Assessor filed an opposition to Acadian's
motion and a "cross-motion for summary judgment, "
seeking dismissal of all of Acadian's claims. Relying on
several alternative arguments, the Assessor maintained
Acadian did not exhaust its administrative remedies, the
property did not qualify for a use value assessment, and
Acadian was statutorily barred from challenging the assessed
value of the property due to its failure to timely contest
district court ordered Acadian to appear and show cause on
December 20, 2016, why the Assessor's motion for summary
judgment should not be granted. The order, which was
apparently filed with the Assessor's motion, contained a
type-written hearing date of November 21, 2016, but the
signed order replaced that date with a hand-written date of
December 20, 2016.
November 21, 2016 hearing on Acadian's motion for partial
summary judgment, Acadian's attorney objected to the
timeliness of the Assessor's opposition and requested
that the opposition be stricken and opposing counsel be
prohibited from presenting oral argument. Acadian's
attorney noted, "[The Assessor] also filed something
which is entitled a [cross] motion for summary judgment. It
was not properly filed, it was not properly noticed, [and] it
is not set for hearing today."
district court denied Acadian's partial summary judgment
motion and granted the Assessor's cross-motion. When
Acadian's attorney objected that the Assessor's
motion was not before the court, the district court said it
would "suspend the rule of the Court and allow them to
file late." A judgment was signed on December 14, 2016,
denying summary judgment for Acadian, granting the
Assessor's motion, and dismissing Acadian's petition
with prejudice. ...