Nelson v. New York City

LOCATION: Congress

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1956-1957)

CITATION: 352 US 103 (1956)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1956
DECIDED: Dec 10, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Nelson v. New York City

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1956 in Nelson v. New York City

Earl Warren:

Number 30, Gerald D. Nelson et al., Appellants, versus the City of New York.

Mr. Jones.

William P. Jones:

May it please the Court.

At this time, Your Honor, because the appellee served his brief three weeks late, I'm going to have to ask leave of the Court to serve the reply brief.

The clerk's office informs me that copies have been furnished to the members of the Court.

Earl Warren:

Very well.

William P. Jones:

This appeal is from the final order of the New York Court of Appeals which denied the motion for reargument but granted the motion to amend the remittitur to show that constitutional questions had been presented and necessarily passed upon.

Appellants challenged the constitutionality of Title D, Chapter 17 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York and the action taken by the City thereunder in taking two of appellants' properties in foreclosure in rem for the collection of delinquent real estate taxes.

In this case, appellants' two properties worth in the aggregate $52,000 were confiscated to collect $887 of water charges.

The statute involved -- provides an in rem method of collecting delinquent real estate taxes.

It provides --

Any difference water taxes and real estate taxes?

William P. Jones:

Water charges are defined by statute as a tax lien and then the statute goes on to define that at all delinquent liens, tax liens shall be foreclosed.

However, at this point, I take occasion to point out a significant difference that water charges can be collected in persona as provided in code.

Furthermore, water charges can also be collected in a very simple way of turning off the water which is also pointed out in our brief.

Well, the statute provides for the usual posting of a list of delinquent parcels in the clerk's office and then notice by publication, that is the novice feature of the statute.

That's the way the action is commenced.

Then from that date, the defendant taxpayers have seven weeks to redeem their property.

If they don't redeem, then the statute forecloses them forever from redemption.

It then provides that they'll have another 20 days to answer it.

If they neglect to answer through inadvertence, mistake, oversight or any of those reasons, the statute directs that an absolute -- an irrevocable deed issued to the City for those -- for each of the parcels, that accomplishes a confiscation, a barefaced simple confiscation of all and the entire value of the property.

Now, in this case, the appellants have been paying their real estate taxes ever since they acquired these two pieces.One was a -- a piece of real estate in Brooklyn, the other in Queens.

One was acquired in 1934 and the other in 1938.

The record shows that during that entire period, the appellants paid all of their real property taxes, which were vastly in excess of the amount of the water charges.

Now, commencing in 1945, due to the unexplainable behavior of a trusted bookkeeper who managed the clerical details for the office, these -- these bills for water charges were not paid.

The appellant trustee didn't know about it.

He was being presented with the real estate taxes in vastly larger amount than the water charges and he paid all of them.

But this clerk, this bookkeeper didn't give him the -- the water charges for some reason.

In any event, the water charges commencing with the year 1945, were not paid, and it is for these water charges that the foreclosure action was commenced.

That keyed it off.