Al Qaeda Lawyer Defends Seizure of House From Elderly Lady

Justices ridicule Neal Katyal's defense of county that seized woman's home over $2,300 in unpaid taxes

Neal Katyal / Getty Images
April 27, 2023

A left-wing lawyer who once defended al Qaeda terrorists argued before the Supreme Court Wednesday that a Minnesota county was in the right when it confiscated an elderly woman's condo and took all the profits from its sale over a small unpaid tax. 

Supreme Court justices appeared unconvinced by lawyer Neal Katyal’s defense of Hennepin County, which contains Minneapolis, according to the Associated Press. The plaintiff in the case, Geraldine Tyler, now 94 years old, didn’t get any of the $40,000 the county received from the sale of her condo. The county seized the property in 2015 over $2,300 in unpaid taxes. Tyler owed $15,000 total with penalties and interest on the unpaid taxes. 

"At bottom, she’s saying the county took her property and made a profit on her surplus equity. It belongs to her," Justice Clarence Thomas said Wednesday. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch ridiculed the county’s position that expensive properties could also 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's defense referenced historical events dating back to 1272, as well as the Court’s recent striking down of Roe v. Wade, the Associated Press reported. "I just don’t understand what on earth any of that history has to do with this case," Gorsuch said of Katyal's historical references.

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

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

Katyal, a frequent face on MSNBC, rose in popularity in 2017 for leading challenges against former president Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on countries including North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. 

Published under: Neal Katyal