Trial against City of Philadelphia for Unconstitutional Real Estate Tax Assessment Practices


Blank Rome obtained a victory in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia, representing the owners of 300 commercial properties, in a two-week trial against the City of Philadelphia for the city’s unconstitutional commercial real estate tax assessment practices for tax year 2018 in Duffield House v. City of Philadelphia. Blank Rome’s case, captioned under Liberty Place Retail Assoc., et al. v. City of Philadelphia, et al., was consolidated under the Duffield House caption. This was a matter of first impression.

In the case, the City of Philadelphia reassessed commercial real estate on a city-wide basis for tax year 2018, while not doing the same for other property classifications in the city, like residential properties. The court found that the city’s actions violated the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that all taxes be imposed uniformly and without discrimination. The court further found the city’s differential treatment of taxpayers could not be justified by the city’s reasons (a purported attempt at equalization of the quality of real estate assessments or a desire to raise additional revenue).

The court therefore awarded all relief sought by Blank Rome, including an invalidation of the commercial real estate property taxes for tax year 2018, an order that any taxes owed are to be based upon tax year 2017, and an order of a refund for any overpayment of taxes, plus interest, due by July 1, 2021.

Blank Rome advised with a team including Peter F. Kelsen (Picture), Francis X. Crowley, Laurence S. Shtasel, Adam E. Laver, Melanie S. Carter, Ethan M. Simon and Christopher Cody Wilcoxson.

Involved fees earner: Melanie Carter – Blank Rome LLP; Frank Crowley – Blank Rome LLP; Peter Kelsen – Blank Rome LLP; Adam Laver – Blank Rome LLP; Laurence Shtasel – Blank Rome LLP; Ethan Simon – Blank Rome LLP; Cody Wilcoxson – Blank Rome LLP;

Law Firms: Blank Rome LLP;

Clients: Liberty Place Retail Assoc.;