On February 8, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Celia Gamrath held that three community organizations have legal standing to proceed with their lawsuit alleging that Cook County’s residential property tax assessment system is racially discriminatory in violation of state and federal law. The lawsuit, filed in 2017 by Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and South Suburban Housing Center, alleged that residential property owners in majority-Hispanic and majority-Black neighborhoods were twice as likely to be over-assessed, and therefore over-taxed, as property owners in majority-White neighborhoods. Under Joseph Berrios, who until recently served as the Cook County Assessor, the Assessor’s Office had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. But in yesterday’s ruling Judge Gamrath concluded that the organizations had stated claims under the the Illinois Civil Rights Act and federal Fair Housing Act.
The community organizations are represented by Robert Libman and Matthew Owens of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, Aneel Chablani and Barbara Barreno-Paschall of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Matthew Piers and Charlie Wysong of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, and Jeffrey Taren of MacDonald, Hoague & Bayless. Their lawsuit asks the court to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the adoption of a fair, accurate, transparent, lawful, and nondiscriminatory residential property tax assessment system.
A copy of the court’s order can be found here. A press release from Miner, Barnhill & Galland’s co-counsel, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, can be found here.