Dover couple’s appeal for attorney transferred to Superior Court

DOVER — A Dover couple’s appeal for an attorney in a bid for property tax reassessment was transferred from the Delaware Court of Chancery to Superior Court.

Dr. Mazin and Nina Shahin allege that their home in the 100 block of Shinnecock Road was improperly valued due to their ethnicity in a complaint on May 17, and asked the court to appoint an attorney to file a complaint on their behalf.

“According to the plaintiffs, they have made extensive efforts to find counsel over the past year but have been unable to convince a lawyer to take their case,” Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III wrote in an 11-page decision issued Wednesday.

The Shahins, whose countries of origin were not revealed in court papers, did not claim to be unable to pay an attorney and were willing to do so, the opinion said.

Vice Chancellor Slights said he couldn’t find a case where appointing counsel was warranted “particularly where the plaintiff acknowledges that he is able to afford legal counsel.”

The residents had informally appealed to the city in 2010, according to documents, and Superior Court and Supreme Court also upheld a City Board of Assessment Appeals decision. A United States District Court ruling dismissed a discrimination lawsuit against the city covered by the federal Fair Housing Act.

Following a 2014 reassessment, Dr. and Mrs. Shahin again unsuccessfully appealed to the city, Superior Court and Supreme Court. A complaint alleging discrimination was filed with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia, which referred the action to the Delaware Human Relations Commission, which determined insufficient evidence supported the case.

The court credited the Shahins, determining they “have ably presented their claims thus far and made court filings while appearing pro se; their claims do not appear to be so legally or factually complex as to necessitate the assistance of counsel.”

Attorney William W. Pepper Sr. of the Schmittinger and Rodriguez firm represented the city in the matter.

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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