RKC Plays Major Role in Defending Alabama Against Lawsuit Contesting the State’s Property Tax System
Judge Confirms In Lynch v. Alabama that Alabama's Property Tax Structure Is Not Discriminatory and Does Not Violate the United States Constitution
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell attorneys John Tally and Bert Spence were members of the litigation team that successfully defended the State of Alabama, its Revenue Commissioner and Governor against a discrimination lawsuit that challenged the state’s property tax system, representing successively Alabama Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley. U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith ruled in Lynch v Alabama that the State’s property tax system is not unconstitutional in an 854-page opinion.
This decision rejects the claims that the current system of funding schools is biased against children in poor communities and violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. The plaintiffs requested a court order requiring the state’s property tax laws to be rewritten.
The trial, which lasted a month, included 36 witnesses and more than 700 documentary exhibits covering much of Alabama’s history in the Black Belt and the series of referendums resulting in the country’s lowest property tax rates.
The plaintiffs had asked the court to order that the state's property tax laws be rewritten, including ending special low rates for large agricultural and timber land owners.
“The inability of plaintiffs to prove both that the challenged constitutional provisions are the product of a racially discriminatory intent, and that the provisions produce a racially- disproportionate effect, mandates the application of a “rational basis” standard of judicial review,” wrote Judge Smith. “That lenient test produces, as it nearly always does, a ruling in favor of defendants.”
Tally has broad trial experience in a wide range of cases across the state of Alabama. For example, he successfully defended the State of Alabama in Knight v. Alabama, 476 F. 3d 1219 (11th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 127 S. Ct. 3014 (2007), a class action challenging certain tax policies contained in the Constitution of Alabama as part of the litigation known as the Alabama Higher Education Desegregation case.
Tally has represented clients in the areas of insurance coverage, fraud and bad faith claims, defense of cases based on products liability, business torts, employment, FELA, banking, and civil rights. He has defended a wide variety of product claims including drugs and medical devices, chemicals, and heavy equipment. He has represented manufacturers of engines and other components of military, commercial, and general aviation aircraft.
In addition to his experience in the products and insurance fields, Tally has numerous jury trials in employment cases in state and federal courts. He was involved during the early 1990s in what was at the time the largest employment discrimination class action in the nation.
Spence has a broad background in civil litigation. He has represented clients in commercial/banking, class actions, product liability, pharmaceutical/medical device, workplace exposure, toxic tort, insurance coverage and bad faith, and general tort issues. For over three years (2005-2008) he served as the chief litigation counsel in the legal department of one of the top 10 banks in the U.S. Spence has an extensive appellate practice and has rendered numerous decisions as an arbitrator in consumer, commercial and construction cases. In addition, he has authored and advocated for passage many pieces of legislation in the tort reform/civil justice and healthcare arenas.
The State of Alabama’s defense in the Lynch case was led by Drayton Nabers of the law firm of Maynard, Cooper & Gale.
Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell provides litigation and counseling services in a wide range of civil practice areas including products liability, commercial litigation, intellectual property, environmental, employment, insurance, professional liability, health care and administrative law. Offices are located in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Tallahassee and Birmingham, Alabama.