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In the Matter of the Application of the County Treasurer v. Ballinger

September 07, 1999

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE COUNTY TREASURER AND EX OFFICIO COUNTY COLLECTOR FOR JUDGMENT OF SALE AGAINST LANDS AND LOTS RETURNED DELINQUENT FOR NONPAYMENT OF GENERAL TAXES FOR THE YEAR 1994 AND PRIOR YEARS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
V.
DENNIS D. BALLINGER, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 97TX263 Honorable James A. Hendrian, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In March 1998, respondent, Dennis Ballinger, was served with a "take notice" informing him that certain of his real estate had been sold to the Macon County trustee (Trustee) for delinquent taxes. Ballinger timely filed a redemption under protest on the ground that the take notice was not properly served. In January 1999, upon the Trustee's motion, the trial court dismissed Ballinger's redemption under protest. Ballinger appeals, claiming that because the Property Tax Code (Tax Code) requires a "sheriff" (or coroner) to serve take notices (35 ILCS 200/22-15 (West 1998)), his notice, which had been served by a deputized civilian, was not in "strict compliance" with the Tax Code. 35 ILCS 200/22-40 (West 1998). We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The Tax Code allows a county to purchase delinquent taxes that have gone unsold for two or more years. 35 ILCS 200/21-90 (West 1998). In November 1995, Joseph Meyer, as the Trustee's agent, purchased delinquent real estate taxes on Ballinger's property. In December 1997, those taxes remained unpaid. That month, the Trustee filed a petition for an order directing issuance of tax deeds on approximately 720 Macon County properties, including Ballinger's.

On December 16, 1997, Macon County Sheriff Lee Holsapple, acting pursuant to section 3-6011 of the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/3-6011 (West 1998)), signed and dated a certificate appointing four individuals as special deputies to serve process on respondents in the Trustee's tax-deed proceeding. William J. Krieger was one of the four individuals appointed.

On December 22, 1997, the Trustee filed a motion requesting that the same four individuals be appointed private process servers pursuant to section 2-202 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Civil Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-202 (West 1998)).

On December 23, 1997, Judge John K. Greanias granted the motion as follows:

"Pursuant to the provisions of 735 ILCS 5/2-202, the aforesaid individuals are HEREBY APPOINTED as private process servers, and may make their returns by affidavits, as therein provided, and their respective Special Deputy appointments need not be endorsed upon the face of each notice to be served by them herein, but, instead, each appointment may be filed of record herein."

On February 5, 1998, Krieger served Ballinger with a take notice conforming with section 22-10 of the Tax Code. 35 ILCS 200/22-10 (West 1998). On March 30, 1998, Ballinger filed a redemption under protest, alleging (1) "[n]otices were not properly served pursuant to the Tax Code"; and (2) "the tax deed petitioner failed to comply with the provisions of the [Tax Code] relating to the issuance of tax deeds."

On May 27, 1998, Judge Greanias conducted a hearing on Ballinger's redemption under protest. After Holsapple testified and the court gleaned that the propriety of its prior appointments was at issue, Judge Greanias recused himself.

On May 28, 1998, the Trustee filed a motion to strike Ballinger's redemption under protest and dismiss the case. Following a September 1998 hearing, the trial court granted the Trustee's motion. In January 1999, the court filed a written order. This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

Because this case presents no questions of fact and our decision turns on the proper interpretation of statutes, we review the trial court's ruling de novo. People v. 1946 Buick, 127 ...


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