KING V. MULLINS, 171 U. S. 404 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

King v. Mullins, 171 U.S. 404 (1898)

King v. Mullins

No. 157

Argued March 22-23, 1898

Decided May 31, 1898

171 U.S. 404


The system established by the State of West Virginia under which lands liable to taxation are forfeited to the state by reason of the owner's not having them placed or caused to be placed, during five consecutive years, on the proper land books for taxation, and caused himself to be charged with the taxes thereon, and under which, on petition required to be filed by the representative of the state in the proper circuit court, such lands are sold for the benefit of the school fund, with liberty to the owner, upon due notice of the proceeding, to intervene by petition and secure a redemption of his lands from the forfeiture declared by paying the taxes and charges due upon them, is not inconsistent with the due process of law required by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the state.

As neither the plaintiff nor those under whom he claims title availed themselves of the remedy provided by the statutes of West Virginia for removing the forfeiture arising from the fact that, during the years 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887 and 1888, the lands in question were not charged on the proper land books with the state taxes thereon for that period or any part thereof, the forfeiture of such lands to the state was not displaced or discharged, and the circuit court properly directed the jury to find a verdict for the defendants. The plaintiff was entitled to recover only on the strength of his own title. Whether the defendants had a good title or not, the plaintiff had no such interest in or claim to the lands as enabled him to maintain this action of ejectment.

Reusens v.Lawson, 91 Va. 226, approved and followed to the point that

"In an action of ejectment, the plaintiff must recover on the strength of his own title, and if it appear that the legal title is in another, whether that other be the defendant, the Commonwealth, or some third person,

Page 171 U. S. 405

it is sufficient to defeat the plaintiff. If it appears that the title has been"

forfeited to the commonwealth for the nonpayment of taxes or other cause, and there is no evidence that it has been redeemed by the owner, or resold, or regranted by the commonwealth, the presumption is that the title is still outstanding in the commonwealth.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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