The Illinois State Bar Association has asked a Cook County judge to order state regulators to back off of prosecutions against lawyers the state agency has accused of appraising real estate without a license, because the lawyers purportedly included real estate comps and other real estate value metrics in property tax appeals.
In a complaint filed July 11 in Cook County Circuit Court, the ISBA has taken issue with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, its secretary Bryan A. Schneider and its real estate division director Kreg T. Allison. The suit is in response to “separate prosecutions against two lawyers, claiming that briefs the lawyers submitted in support of their position regarding the proper assessed value of their client’s property constituted the development of an appraisal without a license.”
The IDFPR Real Estate Division filed its complaint against G. Terence Nader on April 3 and against David Bass on April 20. Nader filed a brief supporting an appeal to the Property Tax Appeal Board; the IDPFPR complained it “contained an analysis of comparable sales and opinion of value for the subject property”. Bass filed before the DuPage County Board of Review and the IDFPR objected to “an analysis of income approach and option of value for the subject property.”
The ISBA noted the Property Tax Appeal Board’s residential appeal form allows submission of an appraisal, but only requires the appellant to reference at least three comparable properties. Nader, the complaint added, “used publicly available data to provide the information required … for seven comparable properties.” He reported the age of the homes, the square footage of properties and dwellings, sale prices per square foot, assessed values of land and improvements and improvement assessment per square foot.
Like Nader, Bass, who works for Field and Goldberg, LLC, identified himself as an attorney and his filing “did not purport to be from an appraiser or contain an appraisal of the subject property.”
In its complaint, the ISBA cited the 2002 state law requiring the IDFPR to adopt Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice as published by the Appraisal Standards Board of the Appraisal Foundation. While that document has specific definitions for an appraiser, stipulating they must act “in a manner that is independent, impartial and objective,” the ISBA argued lawyers representing clients regarding property tax assessments are clearly advocates for their clients and are “ethically required to lack the independence, impartiality or objectivity emblematic of an appraiser.”
The ISBA said the IDFPR’s prosecution of Nader and Bas is impeding the ability of all property tax lawyers to effectively represent clients, interfering with their ability to practice law and interfering with clients’ ability to retain effective representation. It wants the court to issue a declaratory judgment asserting the IDFPR lacks the authority to prosecute licensed attorneys for helping clients appeal property tax assessments, and notes only the Illinois Supreme Court can regulate the practice of law in the state.
Further, the ISBA said the IDFPR’s “ongoing and threatened prosecution of licensed Illinois lawyers” for supporting clients in assessment cases must be resolved by the court issuing an enjoinder barring the agency from such actions. In addition, the ISBA asked the court for a writ of prohibition along the same grounds.
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, of Chicago, is representing the ISBA in the matter.