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Picket Fence Property Co. v. Davis

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 31, 2018

Picket Fence Property Company, and Andrew Patrick, [1] Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Chris Davis, [2] Appellee-Defendant, and Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer, Appellees-Intervenors.

          Appeal from the Madison Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 48C03-1608-MI-660 The Honorable Carl Van Dorn, Senior Judge

          Appellant Pro Se A.J. (Andrew) Patrick Anderson, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees-Intervenors Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer Jeffrey K. Graham John E. Woods Graham, Regnier, Farrer & Wilson P.C. Elwood, Indiana

          Kirsch, Judge.

         [¶1] Picket Fence Property Company ("Picket Fence") successfully bid upon a certain property at a Madison County Commissioners' Certificate Sale and, thereafter, petitioned the Madison Circuit Court ("the trial court") for issuance of a tax deed for the property. The trial court issued an order that, in addition to granting the request for a tax deed, also stated that certain specified property taxes were waived - that is, not owed by the purchaser, Picket Fence. The Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer intervened and sought a corrected order with regard to the property taxes owed by Picket Fence, and the trial court granted the request and issued two orders. Andrew Patrick ("Patrick"), as a successor to Picket Fence, filed a motion to compel, asserting that the Madison County Auditor needed to remove additional property taxes from his obligation, and the trial court denied Patrick's motion. Patrick appeals and raises four issues that we consolidate and restate as: whether the trial court erred when it determined that the Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer were in compliance with the trial court's orders, which determined that Patrick owed taxes that accrued in 2015, the year of the Treasurer's Tax Sale, including those that accrued between the October 2015 Treasurer's Tax Sale and the April 2016 Commissioners' Certificate Sale.

         [¶2] Asserting that Patrick's appeal is frivolous and in bad faith, the Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer ask us to award appellate attorney's fees.

         [¶3] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] In 2015, the Madison County Treasurer compiled a list of properties that were delinquent in the payment of real estate taxes, including a parcel commonly known as 104 Morton Street, Anderson, Indiana ("the Property"), and, on October 26, 2015, Madison County conducted a Treasurer's Tax Sale ("the October 2015 Tax Sale") for various parcels, including the Property. Appellant's App. Vol. II at 11. The Property did not receive the statutory minimum bid and went unsold at the October 2015 Tax Sale. As a result, the Madison County Board of Commissioners ("Board of Commissioners") acquired a lien on the Property, pursuant to Indiana Code section 6-1.1-24-6, in the amount of the statutory minimum sale price.[3] Thereafter, the Board of Commissioners held a Commissioners' Certificate Sale on April 8, 2016 ("the April 2016 Certificate Sale"), pursuant to Indiana Code section 6-1.1-24-6.1, and offered to sell, among other parcels, the county's interest in the Property.

         [¶5] Picket Fence, as the successful bidder for the Property at the April 2016 Certificate Sale, purchased a certificate for the Property. After providing the required statutory notices to the property owner of record for the Property, Picket Fence filed a petition on August 22, 2016 with the trial court requesting issuance of a tax deed on the Property.[4] Appellees' App. at 2-3. The trial court granted Picket Fence's petition and issued an order on September 26, 2016 ("the September 2016 Order"), directing the Madison County Auditor to execute and deliver a tax deed to Picket Fence. The September 2016 Order also included the following language concerning property taxes, which ultimately resulted in the present appeal:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the 2015 Spring and 2015 Fall property taxes, payable Spring and Fall 2016, and the Spring 2016 property taxes, payable Spring 2017, are hereby waived.[5]

         Appellant's App. at 7.

         [¶6] On October 26, 2016, the Madison County Auditor and Madison County Treasurer (together "Madison County") filed a motion to intervene and to correct errors, asserting that the September 2016 Order was in error in its determination of taxes because it (1) "extinguishes . . . taxes and special assessments that accrued subsequent to the October 2015 Tax Sale" and (2) "also impermissibly orders Madison County to waive taxes which are not yet payable, contrary to Indiana's statutes."[6] Appellant's App. Vol. II at 8-9. On February 21, 2017, after becoming aware of numerous other properties similarly situated to 104 Morton Street that were purchased by Picket Fence at the April 2016 Certificate Sale, Madison County filed a motion to consolidate, intervene, and for relief from orders, seeking to consolidate several cause numbers with the trial court's 104 Morton Street case and also re-asserting that relief from the September 2016 Order was appropriate because the order, which relieved Picket Fence of paying some taxes, "infringe(s) on Madison County's statutory duties" to determine and collect property taxes and "will unnecessarily burden Madison County and the taxpayers of Madison County." Id. at 4-5. Madison County asked the trial court to correct its September 2016 order and clarify that, pursuant to statute, Picket Fence was responsible for taxes accruing on and after January 2015, the year of the Treasurer's Tax Sale. Id. at 16 (arguing that "when the 2015 pay 2016 real estate property taxes became due, those amounts are due and owing by the Certificate Purchaser").

         [¶7] Following a February 27, 2017 hearing, the trial court issued an order on March 31, 2017 ("the March 31 Order"), stating that the matter was governed by Indiana Code section 6-1.1-25-4(j) and that Madison County had complied with that statute's requirements while determining the taxes owed. More specifically, the March 31 Order stated, in relevant part:

3. The law describes what is to be removed from the tax duplicate[7] before a deed is issued to a purchaser of a certificate of sale[.] . . . [Indiana Code section] 6-1.1-25-4 directs that the taxes, special assessments, interest[, ] penalties and costs remaining due be removed from the tax duplicate and further directs that it be calculated as a mathematical number as the difference between:
a. The last minimum bid determined for the last tax sale plus any penalty associated with a delinquency not due at the tax sale but due before the certificate sale. Those two added together and
b. The amount paid for the certificate of sale subtracted therefrom.
4. The result of that mathematical problem is the amount the new owner does not have to pay. Any later taxes would be payable by the new owner.
5. The statute setting the parts of the minimum bid (6-1.1-24-5(e)) include:
(1) The delinquent taxes and special assessments on each tract or item of real property;
(2) The taxes and special assessments on each tract or item of real property that are due and payable in the year of the sale, regardless of whether the taxes and special assessments are delinquent.
(3) All penalties which are due on the delinquencies;
(4) Three other items of cost and expenses of sale[.]
6. An order for a new deed in this case should indicate the taxes removed by the last minimum bid for the tax sale are not payable by the new owner.
7. That any tax due and payable in a year after the tax sale herein should be payable by the new owner[.]

Appellees' App. Vol. II at 11-12 (emphasis added).

         [¶8] In April 2017, Madison County filed a Motion to Clarify Court's Order, advising the trial court that the parties were "unable to reach an agreement on the [e]ffect of the Court's March 31, 2017 Order" and asking the trial court to clarify "as the parties disagree on what effect the Court's Order has on any delinquent taxes on the parcels at issue in this action." Id. at 13-14. On April 17, 2017, the trial court conducted a hearing and thereafter issued a May 23, 2017 Clarification Order ("the May 23 Order"), which confirmed its ruling in the March 31 Order and stated in relevant part:

1. The question herein is determined by Indiana Code 6-1.1-25-4(j).
2. It states when a deed is issued to a purchaser of a certificate of sale, the auditor shall remove from the tax duplicate the taxes, special assessments, interest, penalties, and costs remaining due.
3. That section continues by removing from the tax duplicate the tax amount contained in the last minimum bid for the last tax sale as well as certain penalties.
4. Indiana Code 6-1.1-24-5(e) defines the tax parts of a minimum bid as
a) The delinquent taxes and special assessments on each tract or item ...

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