The D.C. government will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling ordering the District of Columbia to refund $41 million collected in professional taxes from such people as lawyers, doctors and architects who work in the city, Corporation Counsel Judith Rogers said yesterday.
The decision to appeal came after Rogers' own assertion when the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the District on Feb. 12 that there did not appear to be a basis for appeal.
Roger's office filed a request with the appeals court yesterday to delay execution of its refund order -- scheduled to take effect next Tuesday -- until the District is able to file a formal appeal with the Supreme Court.
Attorneys for professionals who successfully challenged the five-year-old tax immediately accused Mayor Marion Barry and his administration of seeking only to buy time by going through the motions of an appeal.
Once an appeal is filed, the high court could quickly refuse to hear the case. If the justices agreed to give the District a hearing, however, the full appeals process could take months. The high court woud be likely to stay the refund order until it ruled.
The mandated refund of the tax constitutes a major portion of a budget deficit estimated by city officials to be at least $84.5 million for the current fiscal year. The appeals court order also bars the District from collecting $7.5 million it had hoped to bring in from the tax this year, bringing the total impact of the decision to $48.5 million.
"This is simply an attempt to delay payment into the next fiscal year," said Bradley McDonald, one of the attorneys who represented the professionals. "We feel this is an improper undertaking, and we intend to file papers in opposition."
Rogers said she made the decision to file the appeal after a series of consultations with the mayor, Barry said through a spokesman that he left the decision on whether to appeal in Rogers' hands.
If the court of Appeals grants the stay requested by the District, Rogers and her staff will have until May 12 to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. Four justices of the high court must agree to hear the case before it can be accepted.