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Google Use Doesn’t Please Pennsylvania Court

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The case involved back taxes and a piece of property.  It went through both a county judge and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.  Now we’ve learned that Google’s a good resource, but, in some people’s eyes, there’s nothing quite like a paper phonebook.

CNET’s Google+search+not+enough+to+locate+taxpayer%2C+court+says/2100-1030_3-6189097.html?tag=nefd.top” title=”Google Not Enough For Pennsylvania Court”>Declan McCullagh brings us the story of a man who didn’t pay taxes on a vacant lot.  “A supervisor in Northampton’s tax claim department did not check a telephone book to try to reach Charles Fernandez,” reports McCullagh.  “Instead, she did a Google search for his name and found a phone number for a ‘Chuck Fernandez’ with what seemed to be the correct address – but the number proved to be disconnected.”

Charles Fernandez failed to notice a sign on his lot in July and August of 2004, and somehow missed it when the property was sold in January of 2005.  He resurfaced in March, then, “[t]wo months later, he filed a lawsuit arguing that he wasn’t properly notified and accusing Northampton County of not making sufficient efforts to try to find him.”

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

The first judge that saw the case said about the same thing.  But on appeal, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania sided with Fernandez.  In an official document provided by Paul L. Caron’s TaxProf Blog, the same court puts the word “Google” in quotes as if it’s some unknown term, and goes on describe the process as a “computer-based search.”

It does seem strange that the tax claim department never bothered to use a phonebook, but this case still appears to have gone in a very odd direction.  All complaints – and/or ridicule – over the final decision can be directed to Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer.

Google Use Doesn’t Please Pennsylvania Court
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