NELSON V. CITY OF NEW YORK, 352 U. S. 103 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nelson v. City of New York, 352 U.S. 103 (1956)

Nelson v. City of New York

No. 30

Argued November 7, 1956

Decided December 10, 1956

352 U.S. 103


Under Title D, Chapter 17, of the New York City Administrative Code, the City proceeded to foreclose liens for unpaid water charges on two parcels of land held in trust by appellants. In accordance with the statute, notice was given by posting, publication and mailing notices to the trust estate. Because of the derelictions of a bookkeeper, the notices were not brought to the attention of appellants, and they claimed to have had no knowledge of the foreclosure proceedings until after judgments of foreclosure had been entered by default and the City had acquired title to the property. The City sold one parcel for an amount many times that of the unpaid water charges, and retained all the proceeds. The value of the other parcel was many times the amount of the unpaid water charges, and the City retained title to it. Appellants moved to have the defaults opened, the deed to one parcel set aside, and to recover the surplus proceeds from the sale of the other parcel. Such relief was denied.


1. The City having taken steps to notify appellants of the arrearages and the foreclosure proceedings, and appellants' agent having received such notices, application of the statute did not deprive appellants of procedural due process. Pp. 352 U. S. 107-109.

(a) The City cannot be charged with responsibility for the misconduct of the appellants' bookkeeper, nor for the carelessness of the managing trustee in overlooking notices of arrearages given on tax bills. P. 352 U. S. 108.

(b) In view of the fact that there are 834,000 tax parcels, the City cannot be held to a duty to determine why appellants neglected water charges while paying much larger real estate taxes. Covey v. Town of Somers, 351 U. S. 141, distinguished. P. 352 U. S. 108.

2. Since the statute requires that, when the strict foreclosure provisions of Title D, Chapter 17, are invoked, they must be used against all parcels in a section of the City on which charges have been outstanding for four years, appellants were not denied equal protection of the laws by failure of the City officials to resort to other remedies which would not necessarily have resulted in forfeiture of the entire value of their property. P. 352 U. S. 109.

Page 352 U. S. 104

3. Appellants not having taken timely action to secure the relief available under the statute although adequate steps were taken to notify them of the charges due and the foreclosure proceedings, they were not deprived of property without due process of law nor was their property taken without just compensation by reason of the City's retention of property, in one instance, and retention of the proceeds of sale, in the other instance, far exceeding in value the amounts due. Pp. 352 U. S. 109-111.

(a) United States v. Lawton, 110 U. S. 146, distinguished. Pp. 352 U. S. 109-110.

(b) Relief from the hardship imposed by a state statute is the responsibility of the state legislature, and not of the court, unless some constitutional guarantee is infringed. Pp. 352 U. S. 110-111.

309 N.Y. 94, 801, 127 N.E. 2d 827, 130 N.E.2d 602, affirmed.

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