It’s rumored (but not officially confirmed) that Judge Paul Czajka has tossed out the Hudson Property Owners Coalition tax lawsuit without addressing its merits.
Sources indicate that Czajka’s ruling dodges the substance of the group’s request for an immediate injunction—filed way back in early July—by arguing that HPOC lacks legal “standing” to contest the City of Hudson’s assessment. The ruling is said to be based on some notion that since the group did not formally exist at the time of the reassessment, it has no right to contest it.
Challenging standing is an increasingly common method for judges and defendants to avoid dealing with a thorny case. This gambit gets the case off the busy court’s desk, and allows the defendant to slip away without ever mounting a real defense. Its use has become increasingly common in both tax lawsuits and land use disputes. For example, in our area at least one prior Hudson tax lawsuit and a challenge to demolition of buildings in Catskill have met this fate. Many legal analysts believe the tactic to be overly-deferential to politicos and developers; but in New York as on the national level, it’s become a more and more common tactic.
Now, it should be said that these reports don’t quite add up in that (A) the suit was joined by a number of private property owners, who certainly “existed” at the time of the new assessments even if HPOC didn’t; and (B) such groups quite commonly don’t form until after a grievance has occurred... Why would someone form a taxpayers’ group if everything’s fine?
If the reports are correct, Czajka would appear to expect citizens to have a pre-crime knowledge à la Tom Cruise in Minority Report: the ability to see into the future, and act pre-emptively to anticipate a misdeed. But since this rumored decision makes little sense, and all we have at this point are secondhand reports, we’ll have to wait and see what the actual documents say...