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First Lien Co. v. Markle





APPEAL from the County Court of Cook County; the Hon. THADDEUS V. ADESKO, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 23, 1964.

This case involves questions of the validity of a judgment and order of sale for delinquent taxes. Petitioner, First Lien Co., as holder of a certificate of purchase, sought an order for a tax deed pursuant to section 266 of the Revenue Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, chap. 120, par. 747.) The trial court denied the petition for tax deed, and ordered the purchase money returned to the petitioner by the county treasurer. From this order petitioner appeals directly to this court. Because the order of the trial court compelled the payment of tax money by the county treasurer to petitioner, the case involves revenue giving this court jurisdiction on direct appeal. Rule 28-1, 28 Ill.2d XXVIII.

On May 16, 1960 the county treasurer of Cook County filed an application in the county court for judgment and an order of sale against lots and lands delinquent in the payment of taxes for 1958. On May 27, 1960, judgment was entered against all lots listed in the Tax Judgment Sale Redemption and Forfeiture record, and the sale of such delinquent lots was ordered to be made by the county treasurer. Included in the list of delinquent lots were defendants' three lots.

Petitioner purchased defendants' lots at the tax sale on June 15, 1960, and a certificate of purchase in the amount of $790.49 was issued and registered. On April 12, 1962, petitioner extended the period of redemption to September 4, 1962, and filed its petition under section 266 of the Revenue Act for an order of the county court directing the county clerk to issue a tax deed in the event that no redemption was made by the time the period of redemption as extended expired.

After the expiration of the period of redemption, defendant David Krueger, the assessee and party last paying taxes, appeared in court as attorney for defendant V. Markle, Trustee, the owner of the legal title, and answered the petition asserting (1) that the county assessor had failed to file an "Objection I" on the defendants' behalf, before the judgment and order of sale of May 27, 1960; (2) that late in the year 1962 an "Objection I" was filed and upon November 19, 1962, a judgment in Error and Abatement was entered in which that part of the 1958 tax which was attributable to a second nonexistent bungalow was deleted from the assessed value, and (3) that the judgment of May 27, 1960, was void.

After a hearing the trial court held that the 1958 tax delinquency for which the property was sold was a result of an improper increase of assessment in a nonquadrennial year, and that the assessment and sale were therefore void. The court denied First Lien Co.'s petition for tax deed, and ordered the county collector to refund the amount of the sale and the amount paid on account of subsequent taxes. From this order petitioner appeals.

It does not appear to us that the relevant facts are in dispute. The premises involved consist of three adjacent lots, 25 feet wide and 122 feet deep, improved with a single-family six-room house with attached garage built in 1952. In 1955, the quadrennial assessment year for Cook County, the premises were assessed at $3,543. In 1956, the assessor increased the valuation to $6,797 without prior notice to defendants, on the erroneous belief that a second house had been built on the premises.

The assessee pointed out the error in the 1956 tax bills to the assessor and the property cards were changed and he was advised to pay only the first installment, which he did. Similar action was taken in connection with the 1957 and 1958 assessment.

On June 9, 1960, in response to letters from defendant Krueger, the assessor wrote him that the assessor's records indicated that a proper objection had been listed, and that in due course the 1958 tax would be satisfied by the partial payment. A similar letter was received by Krueger regarding 1959 taxes.

Ultimately a so-called "Objection I" was filed on October 24, 1962, with respect to these parcels and on November 19, 1962, a purported correction was entered by the county court reducing the assessment, and the defendants thereafter paid the balance which was purported to be due.

It is apparent that defendants relied on correspondence and conversations with the assessor's office in assuming that an "Objection I" would be filed to correct the assessment prior to judgment.

An "Objection I" is a device used in Cook County tax collection machinery. It is an objection filed by the assessor to the application of the county treasurer for judgment and sale against lots and lands which are delinquent in the payment of taxes, and number "1" is reserved by the clerk of the county court each year for such objection. It is divided into subnumbers which annually number about two thousand. A parcel number is assigned by the assessor for each lot or unit of land to which an "Objection I" is filed. Such objections are not filed all at one time but may be filed on several occasions and over a period of time when the assessor determines that he has made an error in his assessment — such as assessing a vacant lot for an improvement when in fact there is no improvement, assessing a lot as improved when in fact the improvement had been destroyed by fire, etc. When an "Objection I" is filed with the clerk of the county court, it is posted on the county treasurer's warrant books and upon the Tax Judgment Sale Redemption and Forfeiture records. The posting of an "Objection I" is made regardless of whether the tax has been paid or not. It is the only objection in Cook County which the clerks of the treasurer's office will post without payment of the tax in full, as a condition precedent to the posting. If an "Objection I" is posted in either the treasurer's warrant book or in the Tax Judgment Sale Redemption and Forfeiture record before the date of sale of the parcel against which it is posted, the parcel will not be offered for sale by the deputy treasurer conducting the sale. It is used as an accommodation to the property owners where real estate has been overassessed through errors in the assessor's office.

Despite the assurances of the assessor's office there appears no record of any Objection I being filed prior to October 24, 1962, long after the ...

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