TURNER V. NEW YORK, 168 U. S. 90 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Turner v. New York, 168 U.S. 90 (1897)

Turner v. New York

No. 41

Argued April 19-20, 1897

Decided October 18, 1897

168 U.S. 90


The statute of New York of 1885, c. 448, providing that deeds from the Comptroller of the lands in the forest preserve sold for nonpayment of taxes shall, after having been recorded for two years, and in any action brought more than six months after the act takes effect, be conclusive evidence that there was no irregularity in the assessment of the taxes, is a statute of limitations, and does not deprive the former owner of such lands of his property without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

This was an action of replevin, brought April 11, 1887, in behalf of the State of New York, by the forest commissioners of the state against Turner, in the Supreme Court of the County of Franklin, and State of New York, to recover a quantity of logs cut by him upon lands in that county, and within the forest preserve of the state, between September 1, 1886, and March 25, 1887. The answer denied the allegations of the complaint, and alleged that at the time mentioned therein the defendant was the owner and in possession of the lands.

The material facts of the case, as found by a referee, were as follows: on October 12, 1877, the lands, being then owned by one Norton, were sold by the Comptroller of the State of New York for unpaid taxes of the years from 1866 to 1870, inclusive, and were bid in by the comptroller in behalf of the state, and conveyed by him to the state by deed dated June 9, 1881, and recorded June 8, 1882. The defendant, more than nine years after that sale, acquired Norton's title in the land. The land was wild forest land, uncultivated, unimproved, unenclosed, and with no dwelling house or other building thereon. Neither the state nor any officer thereof ever took actual possession of the land, and no part of it was in occupancy of any person on October 12, 1879, when the

Page 168 U. S. 91

period of two years allowed by law for redemption from the comptroller's sale expired.

At the trial before the referee, the defendant, in order to prove the invalidity of the comptroller's deed by reason of illegality in the assessment of the taxes for the years 1867 and 1870, offered to show that the oath of the assessors to the assessment roll of 1867 was taken on August 10th, instead of on the third Tuesday of August, and that the assessors omitted to meet on the third Tuesday of August, 1870, to review their assessments for that year.

The plaintiff objected to the evidence as immaterial, because the comptroller's deed was made conclusive evidence of those matters by the statute of New York of 1885 (chapter 448), which is copied in the margin. * The defendant contended that this

Page 168 U. S. 92

statute was invalid, as contrary to the first section of the fourteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States. But the referee sustained the plaintiff's objection to the evidence, and directed judgment for the plaintiff, which was accordingly rendered by the court, and affirmed by the court of appeals. 145 N.Y. 451. The defendant sued out this writ of error.

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