Archive for March, 2011

Who are you to bring this lawsuit? No standing? case dismissed!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Highway J Citizens Group v. Village of Richfield - After the Village approved the annexation of some property from the Town of Polk into the Village, a group of property owners, some from the Town and some from the Village, but none from the annexed land, sued the Village to declare the annexation invalid because the annexed property was not contiguous to the Village, as required by statute.  They claimed the annexed land was essentially a “balloon on a string” and not truly contiguous under the law. 

However, the court did not reach the merits of their argument.  Instead the court ruled that the plaintiff property owners did not have standing to sue the Village.  Although the property owners tried to show individual and unique harm to themselves caused by the annexation, in fact they were not directly affected by the annexation – in other words, this was essentially none of their business.  In courts, standing asks the question “who are you to bring this lawsuit?”  Our laws generally do not permit a person to bring a lawsuit unless they have some pretty direct connection to the issues.  In the case of a Village action, individual taxpayers generally do not have standing to sue over legislative acts of their elected officials, simply on the basis of being taxpayers.  They must have something more direct that takes them out of the greater class of “everyone” and gives them some special interest in the case.  In this case, the court ruled that the property owners had no direct legal interest in the annexation.  Case dismissed.

Vacating Alleys and Standing to Sue

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

In an opinion recommended for publication, Smerz v. Delafield Town Board, the appellate court upheld a decision by the circuit court allowing the Delafield Town Board to vacate an alley, pursuant to Wisconsin Statute 66.1003(3). The plaintiffs, James Smerz, Warren Hornik, and Cheryl Hornik, had sought a judgment in circuit court that the Town had no authority to vacate the alley, and that they would be harmed by the vacation. Their main argument was that since a different statute, Chapter 236 (which concerns platting and subdividing), expressly gave counties the power to vacate alleys in platted subdivisions but did not mention towns, that a town could not vacate an alley in a recorded plat. The circuit court denied their claim. First of all, the court held that the statutes were both permissive, and not mutually exclusive. Second, since the plaintiffs’ properties did not abut the portion of the alley that was being vacated, they had no standing to bring a lawsuit against the town.  The appeals court upheld the circuit court on both grounds.