A big win was had today in Court for two classes of Cincinnati taxpayers.

After more than four years of litigation — through Common Pleas Court, the Court of Appeals, an attempt for Ohio Supreme Court review and back — today Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Wende Cross signed the Order Approving Class Action Settlement in the case of Andrew White et al. v. City of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hamilton County, Ohio Common Pleas Court Case No. A1804206 (known as the “Alarms Tax Case”).

Background

The Order established a common fund of $3,277,802.25 from illegal alarms registration fees  (NOTE: not false alarm fees) collected by the City of Cincinnati from 2014 to present.  That nearly $3.3 million fund is to pay refunds to those who paid the illegal tax and attorneys fees incurred in the litigation.  The litigation in this matter was led by Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.  Finney Law Firm and attorneys Christopher Finney and Julie Gugino served as co-counsel.

As we explain in more detail here, Judge Cross certified two classes to receive refunds (a) residential and (b) non-residential payors of the Cincinnati alarms tax.  The City charged residential alarm-system-owners $50 per year to register their systems and commercial owners $100 per year to register their systems.  Last fall, the 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled the tax illegal under Ohio law and unconstitutional, overruling a trial Court ruling on the same subject.  In March of this year, the Ohio Supreme Court preserved that victory for Cincinnati property owners when it refused to accept discretionary review of the case.

Making a difference

“Making a difference” for our clients is the mission of Finney Law Firm and its capable attorneys.  In this case, we successfully enjoined the enforcement of the illegal tax and achieved more than seven years of refunds for payors.  The victory was won under both state law (the assessment was an illegal tax) and the U.S. Constitution (the tax was an infringement on free speech rights by preventing or making more difficult reporting of crimes to the police).

How to get your refund

If you were a Cincinnati alarm registration payor at any time from 2014 to today, you should already have received a postcard, email or voicemail about the refund.  If we have a current address for you (i.e., you received the postcard), you should be receiving a refund by by February 21, 2023.

If you have not gotten a mailed postcard, please make sure we have your name and current address (and the address for which the alarm tax was paid) (will post information shortly of where to write with this info).  Write to Info@OhioConstitution.Org with this information: your name, the payor’s name, your address, and the property for which the alarm registration fee was paid.

 

 

 

 

 

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Wende Cross has certified two classes in White v. Cincinnati, litigation in which both the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and Finney Law Firm represented payors of the illegal and unconstitutional Cincinnati tax on security alarm systems.  The two distinct classes certified are (a) residential and (b) non-residential payors of the Cincinnati alarms tax.

The City charged residential alarm-system-owners $50 per year to register their systems and commercial owners $100 to register their systems.  Last fall, the 1st District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled the tax illegal under Ohio law and unconstitutional, overruling a trial Court ruling on the same subject.  In March of this year, the Ohio Supreme Court preserved that victory for Cincinnati property owners when it refused to accept discretionary review of the case.

We now proceed to an an Order that will establish the amount and procedures for the restitution of the illegally-collected sums, a fairness hearing, and then distribution of the refunds to payors.  We aim for the conclusion of those steps this calendar year.  The amount of restitution is expected to be more than $3.6 million.

For questions, contact Chris Finney at 513.943.6655.

You may read the order issued April 22 here.

 

 

Today, the First District Court of Appeals for Ohio unanimously (on all counts) ruled in favor of Plaintiffs Andrew White and Vena Jones-Cox that the City of Cincinnati’s charges to property owners with alarm systems are an unconstitutional tax.  That decision is linked here.  They remanded the matter back to Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz for determination of class certification, refund of illegally-collected fees, and other matters.  Judge Ghiz originally had ruled that fee was a constitutional assessment imposed by the City.

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs are Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and Christopher P. Finney of the Finney Law Firm.

You may contact Christopher P. Finney (513.943.6655) for more information.

 

Today brought to a Finney Law Firm client a judgment for $222,836.53 for trespass onto his residential property and the removal of a tree and a portion of a wooden fence.

It’s been a big week for the Finney Law Firm in many ways, closing out yet another record year for the law firm.  And today we got our second huge, years-in-the-works victory in one week.  The Cincinnati/Alarms Registration case (final entry linked here) was five years in the making and this new “tree” case took 39 months to bring to conclusion.

The win was significant for several reasons.  First, this was the last civil trial for Hamilton County, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Judge Robert Ruehlman, the longest-ever serving Judge on the Hamilton County Common Pleas bench.  He retires from the bench January 2, 2023.    Second, awards of punitive damages and attorneys fees are fairly uncommon (either cases settle or the requisite legal standard is not met for punitive damages).  But, the Judge ruled that such standard for proof of the case and an award of attorneys fees was met by Plaintiffs, and was met by “clear and convincing evidence.”

A copy of this “tree case” order is here.  Congratulations to our client, William Chapel, and to our team consisting of Christopher Finney, Julie Gugino, Jessica Gibson and Kimi Richards, along with our expert witnesses and A/V consultant (Kevin Lewis and Media Stew!) for a wonderfully executed case from intake and filing to trial and judgment.

Now on to collections!

 

As we wrote here, in November the Ohio First District Court of Appeals in White v. Cincinnati unanimously ruled in favor of clients of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and Finney Law Firm in a challenge to the City of Cincinnati’s alarm tax scheme. The City of Cincinnati asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review that decision, a discretionary call by Court.  Historically, Ohio’s top Court accepts only about 5% of such cases for consideration.

Today, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to accept for review the First District decision.  Since that was the last stop on the railroad for the City, the inevitable next legal steps are injunction against further collection of the tax, class certification and an order of restitution before Common Pleas Court Judge Wende Cross.

Amazingly, even after the First District ruled that the tax was illegal, through today the City of Cincinnati insisted on continued collection of the tax. So, an injunction by the trial court now will be necessary.

If you are a Cincinnati alarm fee payor, you should be expecting a refund once the amount has been calculated and the procedural hurdles cleared, perhaps later this year.  If the City continues to attempt to extract alarm charges from you, respectfully decline and send them this blog entry!