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03/11/87 George M. Britt Et Al., v. Federal Land Bank

March 11, 1987





505 N.E.2d 387, 153 Ill. App. 3d 605 1987.IL.285

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kendall County; the Hon. James Wilson, Judge, presiding.


Presiding Justice Lindberg delivered the opinion of the court. Unverzagt and Inglis, JJ., concur.


On November 8, 1985, plaintiffs, George M. Britt and Anita C. Britt, filed suit against defendants, the Federal Land Bank Association of St. Louis (bank or defendant), Yorkville National Bank, John Doe, Jane Doe, and all unknown parties, seeking to quiet title to property they formerly owned. Plaintiffs alleged in their verified complaint that the documents labeled "Land Patents" signed and recorded by them, conveyed or vested in them title superior to any other claims, including that which was acquired by defendant bank in the foreclosure proceeding concluded in the circuit court of Kendall County. Plaintiffs' complaint further alleged that the bank was wrongfully placed in possession of the foreclosed-upon property by order of the circuit court of Kendall County entered May 6, 1985, nunc pro tunc April 24, 1985.

It appears that on April 25, 1985, plaintiffs filed documents bearing the caption of a "Land Patent" in the office of the Kendall County recorder of deeds. The "Land Patents" begin, "I, George M. Britt & Anita C. Britt, bring up this land patent in my name." Attached as an exhibit to each of the documents entitled "land patents" is a copy of a land patent issued on July 1, 1841, by the General Land Office wherein the grantees were "Francis Evans" and "James Evans."

On December 13, 1985, defendant bank filed its motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice pursuant to sections 2-619(a)(4) and 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, pars. 2-619(a)(4), 2-619(a)(9)), alleging plaintiffs' action was barred under the theories of res judicata and collateral estoppel. On January 21, 1986, plaintiffs filed their motion for a change of venue from the Honorable John Peterson. On January 27, 1986, plaintiffs' change of venue motion was granted, and the cause was transferred and assigned to the Honorable James Wilson for hearing. On February 28, 1986, the trial court heard arguments, and the plaintiffs' complaint was dismissed with prejudice.

Plaintiffs contend on appeal of the dismissal of their complaint that: (1) "American farmers under the acts of Congress of 1818, 1821 and 1823, have set up a solid basis made for [ sic ] the validity of Land Patent over all other titles and where these titles clash with local title, the Land Patent is superior"; (2) "it is well-settled that a Land Patent which has been recorded prior to a foreclosure sale gives a fee simple title to plaintiffs, and the title arising out of a foreclosure is not a real title at all, but only a color of title, inferior in every way to the plaintiffs' Land Patent"; and (3) plaintiffs' Land Patent can only be attacked in Alexandria, Virginia, and not in the circuit court of Kendall County.

Defendant bank maintains that: (1) the judgment of foreclosure was entered March 22, 1985, the property was sold at a sheriff's sale May 8, 1985, and the order confirming the sale was entered May 24, 1985, and that plaintiffs are collaterally estopped from claiming superior title and that the foreclosure procedure was res judicata as regards plaintiffs' rights in the property; (2) the theories of res judicata and collateral estoppel underlying defendants' sections 2-619(a)(4) and 2-619(a)(9) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, pars. 2-619(a)(4), 2-619(a)(9)) motion preclude relitigation of claims to the property; (3) in addition to the theories relied upon by the trial court, plaintiffs' claim of superior title is unsupported by any Illinois case law and has been rejected when raised in the Federal courts; and (4) attempts to gain superior title by the filing of land patents have been met by criminal sanctions.

Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7) (103 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7)) provides, among other things, that an appellant's brief must contain citations to the relevant authority supporting the argument advanced on appeal. (See Village of Cary v. Jakubek (1984), 121 Ill. App. 3d 341, 345, 459 N.E.2d 651; Michalek v. Village of Midlothian (1983), 116 Ill. App. 3d 1021, 1039, 452 N.E.2d 655.) A court of review is entitled to have the issues clearly defined and to be cited pertinent authority. (Fuller v. Justice (1983), 117 Ill. App. 3d 933, 943, 453 N.E.2d 1133; Pecora v. Szabo (1982), 109 Ill. App. 3d 824, 825-26, 441 N.E.2d 360.) A contention that is supported by some argument but by no authority whatsoever does not satisfy the requirements of Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7). (Fuller v. Justice (1983), 117 Ill. App. 3d 933, 942-43, 453 N.E.2d 1133; Wilson v. Continental Body Corp. (1981), 93 Ill. App. 3d 966, 969, 418 N.E.2d 56.) The well-established rule is that bare contentions without argument or citation of authority do not merit consideration on appeal. Deckard v. Joiner (1970), 44 Ill. 2d 412, 419, 255 N.E.2d 900, cert. denied (1970), 400 U.S. 941, 27 L. Ed. 2d 244, 91 S. Ct. 232; Fuller v. Justice (1983), 117 Ill. App. 3d 933, 942-43, 453 N.E.2d 1133.

While purporting to cite authority, generally, for what is set forth in their briefs as issues on appeal, plaintiffs have failed to comply with Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(7) (103 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7)). We do not view the inclusion of citations to irrelevant authority scattered throughout their brief to constitute even an attempt to comply with the rule. In fact, plaintiffs' briefs are nothing more than a compilation of disjointed and nonsensical claims and legal Conclusions totally unsupported by citations to the record or relevant legal authority. We may treat the issues raised as having been waived for failure to cite authority. (103 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(7).) However, as the question of the legal significance of "land patents" on land titles may arise again, we undertake an analysis of the issue.

Defendant's motion to dismiss was based upon the bar of a prior adjudication, the foreclosure proceeding. Section 2-619(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that a defendant may, within the time for pleadings, file a motion for dismissal of the action on the ground that the claim or demand asserted against defendant is barred by other affirmative matter avoiding the legal effect of or defeating the claim or demand. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-619(a).) An affirmative matter under this section is something in the nature of a defense that negates an alleged cause of action completely or refutes crucial Conclusions of law or Conclusions of material fact unsupported by allegations of specific fact contained or inferred from the complaint. (Illinois Housing Development Authority v. Sjostrom & Sons, Inc. (1982), 105 Ill. App. 3d 247, 252, 433 N.E.2d 1350.) Generally, the doctrine of res judicata is that an existing final judgment rendered upon the merits, without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction, is conclusive of rights, questions, and facts in issue as to the parties and their privies and all other actions in the same or any other court of competent jurisdiction. (Housing Authority v. YMCA (1984), 101 Ill. 2d 246, 251-52, 461 N.E.2d 959.) The principle of res judicata extends not only to questions which were actually litigated but also to all questions which could have been raised or determined. Spiller v. Continental Tube Co. (1983), 95 Ill. 2d 423, 432, 447 N.E.2d 834; Kuehner v. Melliere (1969), 118 Ill. App. 2d 348, 351, 255 N.E.2d 36.

The parties have disclosed no Illinois authority on whether the filing of what is alleged to be a "land patent" by the former mortgagors of property has any legal effect, much less whether such a document filed after the entry of a judgment of foreclosure would have any significance. However, as defendant ably documents, the courts of other States and the Federal courts have spoken to the issue of the legal sufficiency of "land patents." These courts have rendered decisions upon a variety of issues based upon facts similar to the case at bar, where plaintiffs in a suit to quiet title filed a document described as a land patent and claimed superior title to that of the purchaser at the judicial sale of the property. Hilgeford v. Peoples Bank (7th Cir. 1985), 776 F.2d 176; Hilgeford v. Peoples Bank (N.D. Ind. 1985), 607 F. Supp. 536; Nixon v. Phillipoff (N.D. Ind. 1985), 615 F. Supp. 890; Federal Land Bank v. Gefroh (N.D. 1986), 390 N.W.2d 46; Timm v. State Bank (Minn. App. 1985), 374 N.W.2d 588; Wisconsin v. Glick (7th Cir. 1986), 782 F.2d 670.

Because of the lack of Illinois case law on what appears to be a procedure without legal foundation in Illinois, we find the analysis of Judge William C. Lee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hilgeford v. Peoples Bank (Hilgeford v. Peoples Bank (N.D. Ind. 1985), 607 F. Supp. 536) instructive. There, as here, the plaintiffs attempted to establish superior title to the property foreclosed upon by their mortgagee, the Peoples Bank. Judge Lee observed:

"The 'patent' involved here is not a grant by the United States; it is a grant by the plaintiffs. The 'patent' here is not a grant to some other holder so as to pass title on to another party; it is a self-serving document whereby the plaintiffs grant the patent to themselves. This 'patent' does not involve or concern 'public land;' it relates to plaintiffs' private property. The court cannot ...

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