A Superior Court judge has ruled that 10 cable TV companies may proceed with their civil rights lawsuit against the Orange County assessor's office for what they allege is discriminatory treatment.
Judge Jonathan H. Cannon's ruling Thursday reversed an August decision by another judge dismissing the lawsuit. In that decision, then-Superior Court Judge Gary Taylor--now a U.S. District Court judge--ruled that the companies could not bring their suit until they had exhausted all possible administrative remedies for the allegedly unfair property tax assessments.
The 10 companies, including Times Mirror Corp.-owned Dimension Cable Co., are contesting County Assessor Bradley L. Jacobs' method of valuing their property. The method, which the companies say is not used in assessing other kinds of businesses, greatly increased their tax bills, to as much as triple their previous obligations.
The cable companies appealed their new tax bills to the Assessment Appeals Board and filed the civil rights lawsuit, which asks for punitive and compensatory damages.
A three-member Assessment Appeals Board ruled in late August in favor of Cablevision of Orange in the first of the appeals. The board's written findings were released in November, and the assessor's office appealed the decision to Superior Court.
Chip Reveal, a Minneapolis-based attorney representing the cable companies, said Cannon agreed with the companies' contention that administrative remedies need not be exhausted before proceeding with the separate, civil rights lawsuit. Besides, Reveal added, the administrative process has effectively been exhausted, because the appeals board has already ruled in the companies' favor, and yet the assessor refuses to abide by the panel's decision.
"Having won that, it still hasn't resulted in any policy change," Reveal said.