Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc.

PETITIONER: Diffenderfer
RESPONDENT: Central Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc.
LOCATION: Odessa Junior College

DOCKET NO.: 70-47
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 404 US 412 (1972)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1971
DECIDED: Jan 10, 1972

Charles M. Whelan - for appellees
Howard J. Hollander - for appellant Nishan Paul
Leo Pfeffer - for appellant Florence diffenderfer

Facts of the case


Media for Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1971 in Diffenderfer v. Central Baptist Church of Miami, Florida, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next from number 47, Diffenderfer against Central Baptist Church.

Mr. Pfeffer.

Leo Pfeffer:

Mr. Chief Justice may it please the Court.

This case presents a question whether the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution forbid Government of Tax Exemption to extent to Church owned commercial property.

The specifics of the case involve a Florida Statute --

Excuse me, Mr. Pfeffer.

I wonder before you begin, the Attorney General of Florida has filed a suggestion which as I read it says that this exemption is no longer available under Florida Law and this is to which I wish, if you would, you particularly address this up.

It says that under Florida Law, this particular property even if there is a reversal cannot be subjected to tax.

Is that right?

Leo Pfeffer:

Yes, not quite -- I have addressed myself to the question of mootness in my reply brief which I filed in this Court. Specifically to that exclusive issue but I will briefly state that why I believe this case is not moot.

The first case, the new amendatory law is not yet in effect.

It takes effect next year, December 31st of this year which means the next fiscal year.

And so that the tax for this year at very least is before the Court, so it is not moot at least --

Let me see now, you mean even if the tax, it we were to reverse and the tax for the past years is not collectible, you say it is collectible?

Leo Pfeffer:

For this year because the statute itself, the very less says it shall not take effect until next year.

So you will find that in the suggestion.

You will find that on the very last page 15 of the suggestion of the Attorney General, the State of Florida which has a text of the amendatory statute, actually will take effect December 31st, 1971 which means the next year and not for the current year.

So that -- it is a very minimum, it is applicable.

There is also a Florida statute which says, if any tax which is not collected for any reason, is there after determined to be payable, the taxpayer is liable for the three years past taxes.

So that on the very technical --

That is the one that concerned me.

I thought the State was suggesting that there was no such provision.

Leo Pfeffer:


There is, right.

Yes, there is, it is contained in my reply brief.

Well, perhaps I should ask your adversary, then I would be taking more of your time.

Leo Pfeffer:

And the statute itself does so provide --

I take it, you would concede if there were no tax collectible in the event you prevailed then this case would be moot, would it not?

Leo Pfeffer:

Well, I do not think so for a different reason.

I think that under the decision of this Court in (Inaudible), a determination that the plaintiffs here, assume this taxpayer is planning to sue means that they have been individually harmed by the exemption and while the State of Florida can if it wishes to provide the future of the exemption.