July 23, 2012
On June 4, 2012, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Armour v. Indianapolis, a case involving municipal assessments for a sewer improvement project. The question presented in this case was whether a local government violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause when it forgave the obligations of taxpayers who had elected to pay on a multi-year installment plan, but refused to refund lump sum payments made by similarly situated taxpayers who had paid their assessments up front and in full.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 6-3 that the government did not violate the Equal Protection Clause when it refused to to refund any of the lump sum payments, because the government had a rational basis for distinguishing between the lump sum and installment plan groups. Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Breyer’s opinion. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia and Alito.
To discuss the case, we have David Bernstein, who is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law.