Facebook Twitter



Communities may not seize property from active military personnel for unpaid taxes, regardless of the reason they failed to pay, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The justices unanimously ruled in favor of an Army colonel whose property was seized by a Maine town. State courts had upheld the seizure because his failure to pay property taxes did not result from hardship.Federal law is "unambiguous, unequivocal and unlimited" in granting active service members protection from seizure of their property for unpaid taxes, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court.

"Congress made a deliberate policy judgment placing a higher value on firmly protecting the service members' redemption rights than on occasionally burdening the tax collection process," Stevens said.

The town of Danforth, Maine, in 1986 seized 96 acres owned by Army Col. Thomas F. Conroy, a career service member who has been stationed in four foreign countries and various bases in the United States.

Conroy said he did not pay taxes on the land in 1984, 1985 and 1986 because the community did not send him a bill. Conroy said he wrote to the city asking about the tax situation but did not receive a reply, and he dropped the matter when he was sent to Italy in 1986.

The town said it sent tax notices to Conroy, but they were returned with "address unknown" stamped on them. The town then seized the land and sold it in two parcels in December 1986.

Conroy filed a lawsuit in state court against the town and the two men who bought the land. A judge upheld the seizure and sale of the colonel's land.