Al Qaeda Lawyer Neal Katyal Blown Out in Supreme Court Ruling

Unanimous Court rejects Katyal's argument that county can seize old woman's home and take all the profits

Neal Katyal / Getty Images
May 25, 2023

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday against a left-wing lawyer after he tried to convince the justices that a Minnesota county was right to take all the profits from the sale of a home it confiscated from an elderly woman.

Supreme Court justices were unconvinced by arguments last month from lawyer Neal Katyal, who once defended Al Qaeda terrorists. Katyal defended Hennepin County, which contains Minneapolis, after it confiscated an elderly woman's condo and took all the profits from its sale over a small unpaid tax. The county received $40,000 from the sale of Geraldine Tyler's condo after the county seized the property in 2015 over $2,300 in unpaid taxes. Tyler, now 94, owed $15,000 in total with penalties and interest on the unpaid taxes.

The High Court ruled that states that seize and sell private property to make up for unpaid taxes cannot keep more from the sales than what a taxpayer owed.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court's opinion. "The county had the power to sell Tyler’s home to recover the unpaid property taxes," Roberts wrote, but added that the county "could not use the toehold of the tax debt to confiscate more property than was due."

The justices appeared unconvinced by Katyal's arguments in April. Justice Neil Gorsuch mocked the lawyer’s argument that expensive properties could be seized for minuscule missing payments. "So a $5 property tax, a million dollar property, good to go?" Gorsuch asked Katyal, who answered in the affirmative.

Katyal, who was acting solicitor general under former president Barack Obama, is no stranger to representing controversial defendants. He is known as a member of the "al Qaeda 7," a group of lawyers who represented al Qaeda terrorists against the Bush administration.

In 2020, Katyal appeared before the Supreme Court to defend Nestlé and Cargill, who faced charges of abetting child slavery at cocoa plantations in Africa.