Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Dothan Eagle. June 29, 2022.

Editorial: A common right

In contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on controversial issues such as abortion and prayer at a public school function, the Alabama Supreme Court’s recent work seems downright pedestrian.

However, its ruling last week in a case about proceeds of tax sales and property owners’ rights will have significant consequences for those who find themselves in those circumstances.

The case involved two Alabama businesses with overdue property taxes for which the counties seized the property and sold it to cover the overdue tax bill.

The properties in question were sold for an amount greater than taxes owed, and the county governments kept the excess revenue, denying claims from the property owners for the proceeds.

Common sense suggests that wrong, and the state’s high court agreed – even tracing its logic back to the Magna Carta:

“We conclude that the right of a property owner to recover excess funds that are generated from a tax sale is a vested right that existed at common law,” the court stated in its ruling. “Property rights are common rights.”

Along similar lines, perhaps the court could next explore situations in which a person is arrested and their property and assets are seized, but if charges are dropped or they are acquitted at trial, their property or assets are not returned. That’s wrong, too, but still occurs in some cases.