GAGE V. PUMPELLY, 115 U. S. 454 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gage v. Pumpelly, 115 U.S. 454 (1885)

Gage v. Pumpelly

Submitted November 2, 1885

Decided November 23, 1885

115 U.S. 454


In Illinois a judgment by default in a proceeding in a county court under the statutes of that state for the collection of taxes on real estate, by sale of the property, is not conclusive upon the taxpayer, and may be impeached collaterally.

Under the laws of that state as construed by its courts, if any portion of a tax assessed upon real estate and levied and collected by sale of the property is illegal, the sale and the tax deed are void, and may be set aside by bill in equity.

In a proceeding in equity in a court of the United States to set aside a tax sale in Illinois as illegal, the complainant should offer to reimburse to the purchaser all taxes paid by him, both those for which the property might have been legally sold and those paid after the sale.

Appellee's testator, plaintiff below, was in the possession, and claiming to be the owner of a certain lot of ground in Chicago for which the appellant, who was defendant below, held deeds executed by the County Clerk of Cook County, Illinois, on the 6th of September, 1877, and 4th of February, 1880, which deeds were based on sales made October 27, 1874, and October 3, 1877, for the nonpayment of taxes. These sales were in pursuance of judgments of the county court, rendered at the instance of the Treasurer of Cook County, who was, ex officio, the collector of its revenue.

To the proceedings in the county court the plaintiff did not appear, nor was he a party thereto otherwise than by publication in a newspaper, giving notice of the application for judgments, and, subsequently, of the order for the sale of the property for nonpayment of the taxes assessed against it.

The present suit was brought for the purpose of removing the cloud on the plaintiff's title arising from the before-mentioned sales and tax deeds and to obtain a decree requiring the defendant to convey to the plaintiff such rights and interests as he had thus acquired.

The plaintiff in the bill avows his readiness and willingness

Page 115 U. S. 455

to pay not only the defendant's disbursements for the legal taxes included in the judgments of the county court, but such additional sum as to the court seemed proper.

It was adjudged by the circuit court that the plaintiff should pay the redemption moneys allowed by statute, had the judgments and sales been only for legal taxes, with six percent interest in each case, from the expiration of two years after the tax sale; also, such other taxes as defendant subsequently paid upon the lot in question, with interest at the like rate on the amount of each payment. The aggregate of such payments was ascertained to be $1,118 as of May 1, 1882. The defendant having declined to accept that sum with interest, and the same having been paid into court for his use, it was finally adjudged that the title acquired by defendant in virtue of the sales and deeds be set aside and held for naught as against plaintiff, and that the deeds be delivered up and cancelled.

Page 115 U. S. 458

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