Supreme Court to 10th Circuit appeals court: Take another look at the TABOR case

Supreme Court to 10th Circuit appeals court: Take another look at the TABOR case

Monica Mendoza

Denver Business Journal

June 30, 2015


The U.S. Supreme Court today ordered the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit its ruling on a case challenging the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The hight court vacated the earlier decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Kerr v. Hickenlooper when it ruled that a group that included state lawmakers had standing to challenge TABOR in court.


The 24 plaintiffs — state lawmakers, public officials, educators and private citizens — sued in 2011 to overturn TABOR, which Colorado voters approved in 1992. The law gives Coloradans the right to vote on state tax and spending increases. The plaintiffs argue that TABOR removed from the legislature the power to enact tax legislation.


Gov. John Hickenlooper was named as a defendant in the lawsuit and was represented by then-Attorney GeneralJohn Suthers , who asked that the case be dismissed. In July 2012, U.S. District Judge William Martinez ruled the lawsuit could go to trial, denying the state’s motion to dismiss.That ruling was appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Last year, the 10th Circuit said ruled that the lawsuit could proceed to trial, without ruling on the merits of the case, but Suthers’ office appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.


The high court’s ruling now sends the case back to the 10th Circuit with orders to reconsider in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday involving Arizona’s process for drawing congressional district lines. The case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, involves similar questions of whether state lawmakers can bring suit against citizen approved ballot issues.


“We are grateful that the Supreme Court recognized the problems with the 10th Circuit’s ruling,” said Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “As we’ve said all along, we believe this case to be without merit, and we look forward to once again defending TABOR.”


TABOR foes said they too want to see the merits tried in court.


“While the case will have to go back to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, CFI (Colorado Fiscal Institute) looks forward to seeing the merits of the case finally argued in court,” said Carol Hedges, CFI director. “This case is about how TABOR strips away from the Colorado legislature a power that is fundamental to having a republican form of government as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”


Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of Advancing Colorado, a nonprofit education and advocacy group, said the case is an attack on taxpayers’ rights.


“Coloradans have every right to a voice in tax policy, and we cannot afford to lose that right,” he said.