Governor Dayton appointed Tamar N. Gronvall to the Minnesota Tax Court for a six-year term, which began in January 2017 and will expire on January 2, 2023.
Before her appointment to the Tax Court, Ms. Gronvall was General Counsel in the Office of Legal Services at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, where she led a team advising the agency in areas of consumer protection, banking, insurance, energy, insurance fraud, contracts, and employment law. She also was a Manager of Tax Litigation, Bankruptcy and Education Division of the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General.
Judge Gronvall has an extensive history in public service, government, commerce, litigation, and tax. Here are a few of Judge Gronvall’s initial rulings as a Tax Court Judge:
Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. (Downtown Minneapolis Parking Ramp)-Petitioner v. County of Hennepin-Respondent and InterPark Holdings, LLC-Intervenor, File Nos: 27-CV-13-6683, 27-CV-14-6579 (Minn. T.C. June 2, 2017)
Type of Decision: Evidence, Protective Order, Procedural
Summary: Macy’s objected to parts of the County’s appraisal that included third party non-public data through a Motion in Limine The parties stipulated to allow InterPark to intervene in Macy’s Motion in Limine for the purposes of protecting InterPark’s data that it had provided to the City of Minneapolis. The Court held a hearing on the issue and encouraged the parties to work to stipulate to a protective order to protect InterPark’s information. Macy’s and InterPark were able to agree and stipulate to the protective order terms, but the County did not agree. Macy’s and InterPark filed the proposed order and the County asked for direction from the Tax Court on how to object to the proposed protective order. The Court permitted the County to submit written objections.
Comment: Judge Gronvall encouraged the parties to work together to collaborate on a solution for the protective order and was willing to provide procedural guidance to the County.
University Court LLC v. County of Hennepin, File No: 27-CV-15-07947 (Minn. T.C. June 2, 2017)
Type of Decision: Discovery
Summary: The County served Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents and University Court did not respond within the required 30 days. The County requested to meet and confer with University Court. University Court asked for an extension, which the County allowed. When the extension expired the County asked again for discovery responses, but received no response from University Court. The County then filed a Motion to Compel. University Court filed no response and did not appear at the hearing. The County’s motion to compel was granted with expenses and attorney fees.
Comment: This is a straight forward failure by a party to comply with discovery and Judge Gronvall handled it according to the rules. Moral of the story, if you don’t respond you will probably lose.
Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. (Downtown Minneapolis Parking Ramp) v. County of Hennepin, File Nos: 27-CV-13-6683, 27-CV-14-6579 (Minn. T.C. June 19, 2017)
Type of Decision: Discovery
Summary: The County sought to compel discovery of information regarding offers to purchase or sell the property. The County’s Motion to Compel was granted. Although Macy’s had received multiple letters of intent or expressions of interest, it claims that because those documents either expressly or impliedly disclaimed contractual liability they did not constitute offers. The Court found that the County satisfied the procedural requirements to compel discovery, and that the the letters of intent were responsive to the County’s request for information on all offers. In other words, in this case letters of intent are offers. In addition, even though the purchase agreement was finalized after the close of discovery Macy’s was required to supplement its discovery responses.
Comment: Judge Gronvall followed the procedural rules for considering the motion to compel and concluded in the County’s favor that the letters of intent are offers, and discovery responses must be supplemented after the close of discovery even if the information was not created until after the close of discovery.
Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc. (Downtown Minneapolis Parking Ramp)-Petitioner v. County of Hennepin-Respondent, and InterPark Holdings, LLC-Intervenor, File Nos: 27-CV-13-6683, 27-CV-14-6579 (Minn. T.C. July 28, 2017)
Type of Decision: Evidence and Protective Order
Summary: Macy’s Motion in Limine to exclude portions of the County’s appraisal that included third party nonpublic data was denied. The expert reports were temporarily sealed and if InterPark alleges that the parties’ expert reports include proprietary or sensitive information it may file a motion to permanently seal the relevant portions. In short the County redacted nonpublic information in its discovery responses, but included the information in its appraisal. Macy’s objected on discovery grounds. The Court found that, among other things, Macy’s was not prejudiced, so its motion to exclude portions of the County’s appraisal was denied. The Court also protected InterPark’s third party information and provided an avenue for further protection for InterPark if any is needed.
Comment: Judge Gronvall decided this issue in favor of the County, but did place significant weight on the whether Macy’s was prejudiced by the failure to disclose in discovery, which Judge Gronvall found it was not. This is consistent with many decisions of the Tax Court to include evidence rather than exclude. In addition, Judge Gronvall’s willingness to protect third party information is a positive sign for taxpayers that provide information to assessor.
Judge Gronvall has shown in her early rulings that she follows discovery rules closely, has preferred to include more evidence rather than less, encourages parties to work together, and protects third parties. The decisions can be found here.