Legal Ethics

Top Tax Court Judge in Minnesota Is Accused of Missing Deadlines, Evading Work

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The chief judge of Minnesota’s tax court is accused in a judicial misconduct complaint of routinely missing the statutory three-month deadline to issue decisions and handling fewer cases than his colleagues.

The Board on Judicial Standards filed the complaint (PDF) against Judge George Perez on Tuesday, report the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune. The board alleges Perez sometimes misrepresented his workload or health to get parties to agree to delays, concealed his misconduct by improperly dating decisions, and submitted false certifications that he was meeting statutory requirements.

The deadline problems began soon after Perez was appointed to the tax court in 1997, the complaint says. He often told others that the quality of his decisions was more important that meeting the statutory deadline.

Beginning in September 2011, Perez allegedly instructed staffers to take him out of the rotation for new cases. Three months later, he began receiving fewer case assignments than his colleagues, who received two new case assignments for each new case he assumed. the complaint says.

Perez told the board he had delayed decisions because of health issues, though he took no sick time during the period in question, the complaint says. He is also accused of failing to record absences from work when he attended conferences. In September, he worked, at most, nine calendar days, according to the complaint.

Perez’s lawyer, Frederick Finch, told the Pioneer Press his client wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoing. “Obviously, we think they will not be able to prove all the charges, or to the extent they can prove them, they’ll have no legal significance,” Finch said.

The tax court deals with appeals of property tax valuations and exemptions. Typically judges on the court each handle 4,000 to 5,000 cases a year, Finch said, a workload that “no mortal judge” can handle.

Currently Perez is the only judge on the three-member court; there are two vacancies after the resignation of one judge and the appointment of another as a U.S. bankruptcy judge, the Pioneer Press says.

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