Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a significant ruling in a class action case handled by Keogh Cox partners Chris Jones and Nancy Gilbert. The case involved tax credits for solar panels. The Court’s ruling overturned a lower court decision that held an Act of the Legislature unconstitutional. After the plaintiffs’ Application for Rehearing was denied, the Court’s decision is now final.
In Ulrich, et al. v. Kimberly Robinson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, 2018-0534 (La. 3/26/19), 2019 WL 1395316, the class action plaintiffs were persons who purchased and installed residential solar panel systems in their homes. When they claimed the solar electric system tax credits on their 2015 state tax returns pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6030, the tax credits were denied by the Louisiana Department of Revenue, based on Act 131 of the 2015 legislative session. Act 131 capped the maximum amount of solar panel tax credits to be granted by the Department of Revenue, and the plaintiffs’ claims were made after the cap was exhausted.
When their claims for the tax credits were denied, plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to declare Act 131 unconstitutional. During the pendency of the suit in the district court, the Louisiana Legislature enacted Act 413 which provided additional funding for solar tax credits. Under Act 131, all taxpayers whose solar panel tax credit claims were previously denied would receive the entirety of their tax credits over installments. The district court declared Act 131 unconstitutional and concluded that Act 413 did not moot the controversy.
Because the district court declared Act 131 unconstitutional, the Department directly appealed the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Oral arguments occurred in October of 2018. In the Court’s recent opinion, it concluded that Act 413 mooted the controversy. According to the Court, the plaintiffs no longer maintained a “justiciable controversy” because Act 413 provided for the payment of the entirety of the previously denied tax credits. Accordingly, the Court overruled the district court’s judgment that declared Act 131 unconstitutional. Plaintiffs filed an Application for Rehearing and that request was recently denied, making this decision final.
Chris Jones is a partner with Keogh Cox in Baton Rouge, LA. He focuses his practice on class actions and mass torts, and handles these matters in courts throughout the country. He is a life-long resident of Baton Rouge, where he lives with his wife and four children.