When local and county authorities extend their clutches beyond legal limits, they act ultra vires—a Latin phrase that translates to “beyond the powers.” Government actions that the court finds to be ultra vires can be voided, and upon such a ruling a person may be entitled to compensation for the harm they suffered as a result.
Types of government overreach, as defined by the courts, include the government (1) collecting fees without the legal ability to do so, (2) charging you for a service it is unable to provide, (3) collecting taxes inconsistent with the state constitution and laws, and (4) inspecting your property without statutory justification. These examples are not all-inclusive, but it is worth considering them individually to gain a sense of what conduct is counted as “overreach.”
For example, the Town of Cary was forced to repay local-education fees that it collected from a developer as a condition of zoning approval, because those fees were not permitted by North Carolina statutes. The Court of Appeals even called the fees an “illegal custom and practice” (Amward Homes v. Town of Cary). In New Hanover County, the water authority was rebuked for collecting fees for services that they were unable to provide and that were not desired by the end user. Wake County was barred from collecting taxes to finance abortions that they claimed were essential medical services, but the NC Supreme Court found that an abortion is not one of the “basic necessities of life” and voided the local tax effort (Stam v. State).
For more information on government overreach and what to do when it affects you, contact Parton Law.
Declan M. Hurley
The law applies differently in each situation. Nothing on this page should be construed as or be relied upon as legal advice.