Saturday, February 19, 2011

Auto-reply from the Judge

Short of an emergency injunction requiring action because someone is in imminent physical danger, has there ever been a more rapid response from a judge to a filing in a civil case?  It sure seems to me that Judge Wettick had an auto-reply set for the filing yesterday morning by County Councilman, and Chief Executive Candidate, Chuck McCullough.  By the end of the day the response came and it was denied, and denied on mulitple grounds just to make sure there was no misunderstaning.  As Tim transcribes from the Judge:
"You're just too late. You're the wrong person to do this. And I'm denying the petition."
I think that pretty much lacks equivocation. Though for added measure this paragraph is too fun not to mention
Judge Wettick repeatedly shook his head through the councilman's arguments, noting how long his order had been public record. "Why is this an emergency? It's been going on forever. You found out about my order just recently?" he asked.
Reportedly McCullough tried to argue he just found out about the assessment a few months ago. I guess he does not read here. Raises the question of what they do on County Council if he missed the whole reassessment issue somewhere along the way.  Note the Judge's personal timeframe on 'forever' is not hyperbole.  Litigation of county property assessment issues have been before him since Larry Dunn fired the assessors in the mid 1990's. 

McCullough must be the consummate litigator.  Dude must just live in court.  He is like an actor in a one-man play since he plays all the parts.  Plaintiff, defendent, counsel for plaintiff, counsel for the defense, in civil, criminal, even orphan's court....   sometimes all in the same week it seems.

But this isn't about McCullough's legal manuever at all.  Let's bet he is not the last to attempt to try and stop reassessments from happening.  Memo to all politicians, of all parties, philosophies, and candidacies:  When it comes to assessments, there is not any chance the reassessment will be halted.  There is no new legal case to file.  The county attempted to litigate this specific case continuously for 5 years.  They lost.  They appealed.  They lost.  They appealed the appeal... and lost.  They appealed the lost appeal of the appeal... and lost... and were attempting to appeal again against all logic when they finally surrendered. Hiroo Onoda didn't hold out much longer.

If you want to see the final surrender document, that is if you really need something beyond the State Supreme Court ruling against them...  here it is.  A simple declarative statement from the county solicitor requesting that the n'th order appeal be withdrawn.  The result is that the judge is presiding over the county's assessment, and there really is no recourse, because technically they have at this point agreed to what is happening.  Granted I am using the term "agreed" a bit loosely, but still.  If the county tried to back away from this less than tacit agreement I am pretty sure the judge is going to whale on them.

If there is some new grounds for appeal, it's hard to imagine it is not based on an argument that has been argued before...  and denied.  The only thing I think is plausible is an agument that the final withdrawn appeal was issued under a form of duress.  Duress in that I lay good money that the good Judge was nanoseconds from holding individuals and the county itself in contempt for their utter denial of the obvious. Some may recall the final frantic spasms in all of this which included the Chief Assessor publicly blasting the county in and out of court until he was told to go home.  

Have not heard much of Ed Schoenenberger since he left town.  Mr. Google does not give much hint of what he is up to.  Maybe his separation package from the county was lucrative enough to give him a long vacation to Aruba? Nonetheless....

These proceedings are closed.


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

What if the Legislature writes legislation halting the assessments, and Corbett signs it with a flourish? What then? Will Wettick and the Appeals Court and the PA Supreme Court just continue shaking their heads and auto-replying in the negative? Can a judge command the National Guard?

Saturday, February 19, 2011 5:26:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I believe the Judge's ruling rests solely on state constitutional issues. Interpreted equal protection.. and so forth and so on. So legally, some new piece of PA code would be irrelevant to where Allegheny County is right now.

That being said, there is the law and there is reality. Would some new piece of legislation open up an avenue for another attempt at litigating a delay? Sure. and would some appeals court feel some pressure to delay? Possibly.

So while we are waiting for Godot.. consider the question:
How many counties, and thus how many legislators, would want there to be some new statewide paradigm for assessments. I am betting not many.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 5:33:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Hiroo Onoda is still alive, which may be a good omen for somebody in local politics. (I had to check Wikipedia to see that I knew who he was.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011 8:30:00 PM  

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