Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 2, 2009

Supreme Court Grants Cert. in Commerce Energy

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted certirorari in Levin v. Commerce Energy Inc., No. 09-223.  Here are the questions presented:

  1. Did Hibbs v. Winn, which addressed the scope of the Tax Injunction Act's bar against federal cases seeking to enjoin the assessment and collection of state taxes, eliminate or narrow the doctrine of comity--applied in Fair Assessment in Real Estate Association v. McNary--which more broadly precludes federal jurisdiction over cases that intrude on the administration of state taxation?
  2. Do either comity principles or the Tax Injunction Act bar federal jurisdiction over a case in which taxpayers allege, on equal protection and dormant commerce clause grounds, that their tax assessments are discriminatory relative to other taxpayers' assessments?

The Sixth Circuit decision (554. F.3d 1094) followed the approach of the Seventh and Ninth Circuits, and rejected the Fourth Circuit's approach, in holding that comity did not bar an action by retail natural gas suppliers that challenged tax benefits Ohio provides to local natural gas distributors, but not retail natural gas suppliers.

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