Judge: Plaintiff suing City of Lawrence over Queens Road taxing districts has 2 weeks to find attorney

photo by: Mike Yoder

Queens Road is pictured on Nov. 29, 2018.

A Lawrence man suing the city over Queens Road taxing districts has two weeks to secure an attorney, a judge ruled Tuesday, or the entire case could be dismissed.

In January, Kurt Schaake, a Queens Road homeowner, filed a lawsuit against the City of Lawrence in Douglas County District Court claiming that the taxing districts are arbitrary and capricious and therefore out of line with state law, the Journal-World has reported.

Schaake’s attorney, Richard Hird, previously argued that the city didn’t determine what special benefit accrued to properties within the districts; that the city improperly excluded properties; and that the properties within the districts were not benefited in equal relation to the financial burden imposed.

However, Hird filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Aug. 27. The motion says that disclosing reasons for withdrawal would violate attorney-client privileged communication.

The issue then became whether Schaake was legally able to represent a trust as a nonlawyer. The lawsuit technically names James Kurt Schaake, trustee of the Donald Dean Schaake Revocable Trust, as the plaintiff.

Douglas County District Court Judge Amy Hanley ruled Tuesday that no, Schaake cannot represent the trust. She said there did not seem to be a prior case in Kansas that addressed the situation of a trustee representing a trust specifically, but she listed several other states in which other courts have ruled similarly.

Other entities, such as corporations, must have a lawyer representing them, courts have ruled. She said Schaake would be acting on behalf of other beneficiaries of the trust. If Schaake were the sole beneficiary of the trust and were therefore representing just himself, the outcome might be different, but that was not the case here.

Hanley told Randall Larkin, deputy city attorney for the City of Lawrence, that if an attorney has not filed an entry of appearance for the plaintiff by noon Tuesday, Nov. 26, he should file a motion to dismiss the case for lack of prosecution.

“I have the utmost respect for the judge,” Schaake told the Journal-World after the hearing. He said that based on the information the judge had, her ruling was a good one. “But the case isn’t over yet.”

The Queens Road street project is estimated to cost about $4.83 million, of which the city will contribute about $640,000. There are about 400 properties in the Queens Road taxing district that will contribute toward the remaining $4.2 million in proportion to the square footage of their parcels, according to an order the judge issued in June.

The Queens Road intersection project is estimated to cost about $450,000, all of which will be assessed to properties in the taxing district. There are about 515 properties in the intersection district, which includes the 400 from the street project district. The property owners will contribute toward the cost of the project in proportion to the square footage of their parcels, according to the June order.

Recent coverage

July 3, 2019 — Judge denies request to order immediate halt to Queens Road project; lawsuit remains pending

June 26, 2019 — Multimillion-dollar Queens Road reconstruction project on hold as city awaits initial decision in lawsuit

Feb. 25, 2019 — City explains odd shape of Queens Road taxing districts; judge to decide in coming weeks whether to halt project for lawsuit

Feb. 14, 2019 — Queens Road taxing districts don’t restrict property use, judge rules; hearing for request to halt project upcoming

Jan. 30, 2019 — In response to lawsuit, city denies claims that Queens Road taxing districts are unlawful

Jan. 22, 2019 — Lawsuit filed against city of Lawrence over Queens Road taxing districts

Dec. 4, 2018 — Lawrence City Commission denies Queens Road protest petitions, finalizes special taxing districts

Dec. 2, 2018 — Neighbors file protest petitions against Queens Road tax districts; city staff says that isn’t enough to stop the process

Oct. 21, 2018 — Debate over multimillion-dollar Queens Road benefit districts raises questions for all homebuyers

Oct. 3, 2018 — City leaders move ahead on $5.3 million Queens Road project; nearby property owners to pay most of costs

Oct. 1, 2018 — Lawrence City Commission to decide who will see tax bill increase for Queens Road

Sept. 3, 2018 — Lawrence City Commission to consider benefit district boundaries for Queens Road

Aug. 17, 2018 — Town Talk: Hundreds of unsuspecting homeowners may see tax bills rise to pay for northwest Lawrence road project


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