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91 S. Cal. L. Rev. 263 (2017-2018)

handle is hein.journals/scal91 and id is 293 raw text is: 



      Although sometimes difficult to detect, governmental power abuses
 can have detrimental impacts. Property tax assessments provide an
 effective lens to examine this phenomenon because, given the complexity of
 calculating property tax assessments, it is difficult for citizens to know
 when local government has exceeded its legitimate taxing authority and
 crossed into the realm of illegal extraction. Michigan is an ideal case study
 because it protects property owners by making assessment-related power
 abuses more visible through a unique state constitutional provision.
 property tax assessments cannot exceed 50 percent of a property's market
 value. Abuses have persisted nevertheless. Between 2011 and 2015, one in
four properties in Detroit were subject to property tax foreclosure, and
inflated property tax assessments that violate the Michigan Constitution
are the unseen thread in this complex tapestry offoreclosure.
     Against this backdrop, this Article makes three primary contributions.
First, no other article has argued and proven that property tax assessments
in Detroit are illegal. Using assessment and sales data from 2009-2015for
the entire City of Detroit, we find that property tax assessments are
substantially in excess of the state constitutional limit, and this illegality is

     *. Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law; Research Professor, American Bar
     t. Assistant Professor of Economics, Oakland University. The authors give their sincere thanks
to the following people who gave this Article a close read and provided helpful comments: Robert
Ellickson, Carol Rose, Lee Anne Fennell, Joseph Singer, Evelyn Brody, Tracy Gordon, and Gary
Sands. The authors are grateful for the opportunity to have presented this paper at the Property Works
in Progress (PWIP) conference at Boston University and the Empirical Critical Race Theory
Conference at Yale Law School, as well as in faculty workshops at the University of Iowa College of
Law, Vanderbilt University Law School, University of Michigan Law School, University of Windsor
Faculty of Law, University of Georgia School of Law, and the American Bar Foundation. A heartfelt
thanks to Data Driven Detroit and Loveland Technologies, which were instrumental in acquiring the
data used in this Article. Last but not least, we would like to thank our research assistants, Roisin
Duffy-Gideon and Ayla Syed, for their exceptional work. The National Science Foundation funded this

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