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COA: Questions remain whether proper notice given after tax sale

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The Indiana Court of Appeals, citing several questions of fact in a case involving a tax sale, affirmed denial of summary judgment for a mortgagee that sought to set aside the issuance of a tax deed.

WM Specialty Mortgage LLC issued a mortgage to Raymond Gresham on real estate in English, Ind. At issue is a 4.5-acre tract of land in which WM foreclosed but never was put through a sheriff’s sale. Due to delinquent property taxes, the land went through a tax sale, at which Marcus Burgher purchased it.

He sent notice of the sale and the right of redemption, referred to as the 4.5 Notice, and notice of his filing for a tax deed, referred to as the 4.6 Notice, to the California address listed for WM in its foreclosure complaint and the address on record with the county. The 4.6 Notice came back as undeliverable. The trial court ordered the county auditor to issue the tax deed to Burgher, who later transferred title of the real estate to Darrell and Barbara Calhoun via a quitclaim deed. WM then filed a motion to intervene and sought to set aside the tax sale and tax deed.

WM at first argued the California address was not its correct address to mail the notice, but later conceded it was. WM then argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because Burgher couldn’t prove he mailed the 4.5 notice via certified mail and he should have taken additional steps once he learned WM didn’t receive the 4.6 notice. First American was later substituted as intervenor after WM assigned its rights to the company. The Calhouns were substituted in place of Burgher because he sold the real estate to them.  The trial court denied summary judgment for First American, and the case went before the Court of Appeals on interlocutory appeal.

First American had the burden to rebut the presumption of the validity of the tax deed, but instead moved for summary judgment, claiming that Burgher wouldn’t be able to prove he complied with statute. This is not enough to meet its burden on summary judgment, Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote in First American Title Insurance Company v. Darrell Calhoun and Barbara Calhoun, Successors to Marcus Burgher III, for Issuance of Tax Deed, 13A01-1304-MI-177.

First American argued that its failure to update its address in the county records has no effect on the results of this case, citing Jones. In Jones, the Supreme Court of the United States held “that when mailed notice of a tax sale is returned unclaimed, the State must take additional reasonable steps to attempt to provide notice to the property owner before selling his property, if it is practicable to do so.” But the Indiana Supreme Court has clarified that the additional steps the state must take specifically applies to pre-tax sale notice sent to property owners and not to a party with a substantial property interest, such as mortgagees, Pyle wrote.

The judges noted there are questions of fact regarding the constitutional adequacy of the 4.6 Notice and regarding the balancing of the parties’ interests as well as whether Burgher gave notice in a manner reasonably calculated to inform WM of the issuance of the tax deed. As such, the trial court properly denied WM Mortgage’s/First American’s motion for summary judgment.

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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