Raymond's Lessee v. Longworth,
55 U.S. 76 (1852)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Raymond's Lessee v. Longworth, 55 U.S. 14 How. 76 76 (1852)

Raymond's Lessee v. Longworth

55 U.S. (14 How.) 76




In the State of Ohio, it is not a sufficient description of taxable lands to say, "Cooper, James, 5 acres, section 24, T. 4, F.R. I." A deed made in consequence of a sale for taxes under such a description is void. The courts of Ohio have so decided, and this Court adopts their decision.

This case was an ejectment brought by Raymond for the following property, viz.:

"All that certain tract of land in the western part of Cincinnati commencing thirty feet north of Nicholas Longworth's individual property, on the west side of Mill Creek Road, thence north on the line of said road five hundred feet, and extending back the same width at right angles with said road four hundred feet."

The facts are set forth in the opinion of the Court.

Page 55 U. S. 78

MR. JUSTICE CATRON delivered the opinion of the Court.

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

Page 55 U. S. 79

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



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.

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