U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Díhead fire service fees suit
By Dwayne Bremer
May 27, 2014, 18:52
The United States Supreme Court announced Monday that it will not hear the appeal of a lawsuit against the Diamondhead Fire Protection.
In 2009, several Diamondhead residents challenged the department's fee system, claiming it was an unjust tax.
Circuit Judge Roger Clark ruled in favor of DFPD in February 2011.
In August 2013, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in favor of DFPD by a 4-3 vote.
After that decision, the plaintiffs filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court on Monday declined to hear the case.
In 1974, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors created the Diamondhead Fire Protection District (DFPD).
Over the years, DFPD has been funded by a standard millage rate.
In the '70s and '80s, the community grew and, in 1993, DFPD adopted a monthly fee system to adjust to the growth.
The fee currently stands at $20 per month.
With the additional funding, DFPD has created a full-time fire department, which responds to fire, emergency, and medical calls.
In its ruling last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court stated that the fees are permissible.
"We find that DFPD provides a valuable service by having fire and other emergency services to respond to an emergency," the court said.
In the dissenting opinion, Justice Leslie King said fees are an "impermissible tax."
"Municipalities have limited taxing power, which can be used to fund fire-protection districts," King said. "However, fire-protection districts may charge fees for only services rendered. A fire-protection district may not charge a fee in anticipation of a service."
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case, the plaintiffs have exhausted all of their appeals.