Judge Clears Hurdles In Racial Discrimination Suit Challenging Cook County Illinois’ Property Tax Assessment System
CHICAGO – In a court order handed down yesterday, Circuit Judge Celia Gamrath held that three community organizations seeking to challenge Cook County Illinois’ property tax assessment system have the legal standing they need to bring a racial discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in 2017 on behalf of a Fair Housing Center represented by Jeffrey Taren of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless and two other community organizations, alleging that property owners in majority-Hispanic and majority-Black neighborhoods were twice as likely to be over-assessed and therefore over-taxed as majority-White neighborhoods. The Assessor’s Office asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but in yesterday’s ruling, the Judge wrote that the organizations had adequately stated their discrimination claim under the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Judge Gamrath also validated their claim under the federal Fair Housing Act, which alleges that the Assessor’s Office’s flawed system places a disproportionate burden on Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, impacting the affordability of homeownership, the rental market and the availability of housing.