Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams

PETITIONER: Mennonite Board of Missions
RESPONDENT: Adams
LOCATION: PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC CO.

DOCKET NO.: 82-11
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 462 US 791 (1983)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1983

ADVOCATES:
Robert W. Miller - on behalf of the Appellee
William J. Cohen - on behalf of the Appellant

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1983 in Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear argument next in Mennonite Board of Missions versus Adams.

Mr. Cohen, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

William J. Cohen:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from the Indiana Court of Appeals.

This case presents the question of whether the Indiana tax sale statutes which were in effect at the time this case arose violate due process in equal protection.

It is the position of the Mennonite Board of Missions that the Indiana tax sale statutes violate due process because they only provide for constructive notice to a mortgagee of record.

The statutes only provided for notice by posting at the courthouse and publication in a newspaper.

This case arose as a quiet title action filed by the Appellee, Richard C. Adams.

Mr. Adams had purchased the property at 1829 Stevens Avenue in Elkhart at a tax sale on August 8, 1977.

Prior to the tax sale, Jean Moore owned the property in fee simple.

The Mennonite Board of Missions had a mortgage on that property.

The most significant fact in this case is that the Mennonite Board of Missions mortgage was recorded.

It was a matter of public record.

It was found in the Elkhart County recorder's office in Volume 388, page 693 of the Elkhart County records.

The name and address of the Mennonite Board of Missions was thus a matter of public record.

Under the terms of that mortgage Moore was required to pay the property taxes.

She failed to pay those taxes.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Does the record show why?

William J. Cohen:

No, it does not, Justice Blackmun, as to why she did not pay the taxes.

But she was, despite not paying the taxes, she was paying that mortgage each month to the Mennonite Board of Missions, which I think is also a very significant point.

Under Indiana law if the taxes aren't paid on property for more than 15 months, the county auditor will compile a list of delinquent property tax... properties.

And, in this case, they would then send notice under Indiana law to the legal title owner.

Indiana law does not provide any mailed notice to an owner of the property.

It is the position of the Mennonite Board of Missions that due process requires, at a minimum, mailed notice to a mortgagee of record.

Had there been notice mailed to the Mennonite Board of Missions, in this case, I submit to this Court that the Mennonite Board of Missions would have paid the taxes.

That's demonstrated by the fact that soon after they learned that the property had actually been sold for delinquent taxes, they immediately tendered to the trial court the statutory amount due to redeem their property.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Cohen, is there any provision of Indiana law that assures that by inspecting the record of the mortgage, the place at which it has been recorded, whichever, a person would be able to apprise themselves of the present address of the mortgagee as well as the name of the mortgagee?

William J. Cohen:

The mortgage was filed in the county records in Goshen.

The county auditor's office is in the same city.

Their name and address was on the mortgage.