Raymond's Lessee v. Longworth/Opinion of the Court

Raymond's Lessee v. Longworth/Opinion of the Court
Opinion of the Court by John Catron

United States Supreme Court

55 U.S. 76

Raymond's Lessee  v.  Longworth

Raymond sued Longworth, in the Circuit Court of Ohio, for a piece of land, containing about five acres, lying in the western part of the city of Cincinnati. The plaintiff claimed title, under a sale for State taxes, for the years 1837 and 1838, made by the Auditor of Hamilton county, to Charles Phelps, for eighty dollars.

The land had been listed for taxation, as the property of James Cooper. The description on the tax-list, and in the subsequent return to the State Auditor, and in the advertisements of the property for sale, was as follows:-'Cooper, James, 5 acres, sec. 24, T. 4, F. R. 1.' The taxes not having been paid, and the land being advertised and offered for sale, by the Auditor of Hamilton county, and no bid being made for it, it was returned to the General Auditor, as forfeited to the State, and he again ordered the land to be advertised and sold. On the trial below, it was insisted that the description of the premises was vague on the tax-list, and in the duplicate returned to the State Auditor, and in the advertisements offering the land for sale; that no forfeiture could be founded on such description, nor a valid sale be made. And so the Circuit Court instructed the jury, pronouncing the County Auditor's deed to Charles Phelps void. And the question presented is, whether the description was sufficient.

The uncertainty consists in not setting forth in what part of section 24 the five acres are situated.

It is settled, by the Supreme Court of Ohio, that the tax-list, and the duplicate transmitted to the State Auditor, as well as the advertisement, must describe the land so that its identity may be ascertained from the description, either by the owner, who wishes to pay the taxes before it is offered for sale, or that he may redeem after a forfeiture is pronounced; or that the public may be assured what is offered for sale

We refer to the description in the leading cases, where the sales were pronounced void for want of sufficient certainty. In Mathews v. Thompson, 5 Ohio, the description was, '100 acres, sec. 4 township 7, range 4.' In 5 Ohio, 458, 'Haines, John, No. entry, 4401; original quantity, 170 acres; quantity taxed, 70 acres.' In 6 Ohio, 399, 'Sixty acres, part of the N. half of S. 13.' In 16 Ohio, 25, there had been listed 333 acres, as part of an original survey for 1,000 acres, without specifying in what part of the 1,000 acres the 333 acres lay. In each of the cases cited, it was held, that the description was vague and the sale void. Here, the five acres are listed, and advertised as part of section 24, and the description is equally vague as any of the foregoing. And, as the State courts have settled what certainty is required, it is our duty to follow their decisions on the State laws, regulating proceedings in cases of tax-sales. We accordingly order the judgment of the Circuit Court to be affirmed.

This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered and adjudged by this court, that the judgment of the said Circuit Court in this cause be, and the same is hereby, affirmed, with costs.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).