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Tax Court Decision Holds that Taxpayer Counsel May Not Communicate with Assessor Without Consent of Municipal Attorney

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Martin Allen of the firm recent obtained a decision from the Tax Court in Kolvites v Manville (unreported), which has become a case frequently cited for its holdings. The Court held that a case cannot be dismissed at the County Board for lack of prosecution if the taxpayer’s attorney on the day of the hearing faxes a proposed stipulation of settlement to the Tax Board because that action is not “deliberate and contumacious.” Also important was the Court’s finding that the taxpayer’s attorney’s actions may have implicated the “long standing rule that an attorney may not communicate directly with parties represented by counsel without the permission of that counsel. R.P.C. 4.2.” The Presiding Judge of the Tax Court, in his decision, stated:

“While it may be common, . . . , for taxpayers’ counsel to discuss settlement with tax assessor, the court doubts that such negotiations are conducted without the prior approval of municipal counsel. If the court is mistaken in this regard, taxpayers’ counsel would be wise to modify this practice. Direct communication with a party who is represented by counsel with out first obtaining the consent of that counsel runs contrary to the rules of professional conduct applicable to all attorneys.”


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