Howard Jarvis to appeal dismissal of its fire fee suit

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Last week, after Sacramento California Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang dismissed its suit claiming the State Fire Prevention Fee was invalid, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association announced it plans to appeal that decision.

“Dismissal of this case was an abuse of discretion and rewards the state for creating delay,” said HJTA’s Director of Legal Affairs Tim Bittle in an HJTA press release.

HJTA claimed that the state residents, in State Responsibility Areas such as the Hill, who are assessed the fee, receive no direct benefit for the governmental charge.

However, last week, Chang dismissed the case for lack of sufficient action in the five years since it was originally filed.

In the press release, HJTA argued that the case had been fully briefed, including the filing of hundreds of pages of state budgetary evidence showing how fee revenue was being spent. Also, HJTA had submitted more than 600 affidavits from rural property owners testifying that they paid the fee but received nothing in return for it.

Despite this, HJTA opined in its release that “the judge decided not to read or to rule on the briefs and evidence. Instead she dismissed the case on the grounds that it should have been set for a hearing sooner, ignoring an earlier ruling that, due to its complexity, the case was exempt from any specific deadline.”

In her decision, the judge said there was no specific nor statutory exemption for this case.
“In the first two years, the state kept the case tied up in procedural motions,” Bittle said. “Then it fought our ability to represent all payers as a class. Then it insisted we publish notice of the case in 19 different newspapers. Finally, it buried us in over 12,000 pages of discovery responses which took months to read and sort in order to find the hidden evidence that proved our case. And now the Attorney General complains that we waited too long? That’s crooked.”
“… we will appeal this ruling as a bizarre miscarriage of justice and we will continue to fight for the refunds that are owed to rural Californians for this illegal and now suspended tax,” stated HJTA president Jon Coupal in the release.

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