State Tax Snapshot: Will Unclaimed Property Be a 'First Priority' for the U.S. Supreme Court?

 Two petitions for certiorari regarding unclaimed property disputes are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Both cases arise from controversial amendments to New Jersey’s escheat statutes in 2010.

The 2010 legislation (A.B. 3002 or Chapter 25) shortened the presumed abandonment periods for stored value cards (SVCs) and traveler’s checks. It also required retailers of SVCs to collect the purchaser’s address. In cases in which the address was not collected, the law created a “place of purchase presumption” that the transaction occurred in New Jersey. Some aspects of the law applied retroactively.

 These cases pending cert. with the U.S. Supreme Court are:

  •  New Jersey Retail Merchants Assn. v. Sidamon-Eristoff,No. 12-108 (U.S. petition filedJuly 23, 2012); and
  •  American Express Travel Related Services Inc. v. Sidamon-Eristoff, No.  12-105 (U.S. petition filed July 25, 2012)

In the first case, New Jersey petitioned for cert. in response to New Jersey Retail Merchants Assn. v. Sidamon-Eristoff, 669 F.3d 374 (3d Cir. 2012). The Third Circuit upheld the U.S. District Court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction of: (1) the retroactive application of the law to SVCs and (2) the place of purchase presumption.  

One factor that might reduce the chances of the high court granting cert. is that New Jersey enacted legislation (S.B. 1928) in 2012 that, among other things, repeals the place of purchase presumption.

The second case is Amex’s petition for cert. of the Third Circuit’s decision in American Express Travel Related Services Inc. v. Sidamon-Eristoff, No. 10-4328 (3d Cir., Jan. 5, 2012). The court upheld the District Court's denial of Amex's motion for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that Chapter 25's provision reducing the abandonment period for travelers checks violates the Due Process Clause, the Contract Clause, the Takings Clause, and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

By Steven Roll

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