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State v. Taxpayers

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 11, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE F/B/O CITY OF COLUMBIA
v.
2013 DELINQUENT TAXPAYERS

          Session March 27, 2018

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Maury County No. 15-173 David L. Allen, Judge

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         This case involves Appellant's attempt to redeem property that was purchased by Appellee at a tax sale. Appellant executed a power of attorney in favor of his son, which vested his son with authority to file the motion to redeem the subject property. Appellee objected to the motion on the ground that son, who is not a licensed attorney, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by filing the motion to redeem; thus, Appellee argued that the motion was void. In response to the motion, Appellant filed an amended motion to redeem with the assistance of an attorney. The amended motion, however, was filed after the one year redemption period had expired. The trial court denied the amended motion to redeem, finding that the original motion to redeem was void and that the amended motion to redeem did not relate back to the date son filed the original motion. Thus, the trial court held that the amended motion was untimely. We hold that Appellant's son was authorized, under the power of attorney, to file the original motion to redeem and that the filing of the form motion provided by the clerk's office was not an unauthorized practice of law. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's order and remand.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Reversed and Remanded

          Leland Bruce Peden, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, C.E. Nixon.

          S. Madison Roberts, IV, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellee, G. Co. Investments, LLC.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S. and Arnold B. Goldin, J., joined.

          OPINION

         I. Background

         Jane Peebles Buchanan ("Buchanan"), the original defendant in this action, owned property located at 902 Hillcrest Avenue in Columbia, Tennessee ("the Property"). It is undisputed that Buchanan failed to pay property taxes on the Property. As a result, the City of Columbia, the original plaintiff in this action, commenced tax sale proceedings on the Property.

         On March 17, 2016, G. Co. Investments, LLC ("Appellee" or "GC"), purchased the Property at the tax sale for $21, 000.00. On March 24, 2016, the Chancery Court ("trial court") entered a Tax Sale Notice Order confirming the sale. On June 30, 2016, before expiration of the one year redemption period, C.E. Nixon ("Appellant" or "Nixon") paid Buchanan $69, 198.79 for the Property, and Buchanan executed a Quitclaim Deed to Nixon. Tennessee Title & Escrow Affiliates, LLC ("TTEA") served as the settlement agent; as part of the Nixon closing, TTEA withheld $4, 198.79 for back real estate taxes owed to the Maury County Trustee. That same day, TTEA issued a check for $4, 198.79 to the Maury County Trustee. On August 9, 2016, the Maury County Clerk and Master, Larry Roe, returned the June 30, 2016 check to TTEA along with a pre-printed form titled "Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-2701 et seq." Although Mr. Roe allegedly informed TTEA of the proper procedures for redeeming property sold at a tax sale, he never heard back from TTEA.

         On March 15, 2017, after learning that the property had not been redeemed from the tax sale, John Nixon, C.E. Nixon's son, executed a form titled "Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-2701 et seq" ("Motion to Redeem"). The form was provided to John Nixon by an employee in the Clerk and Master's office. John Nixon, who holds his father's power of attorney, signed his name to the Motion to Redeem. On March 17, 2017, John Nixon delivered funds totaling $6, 519.55 to the Clerk and Master to redeem the property from the tax sale; this amount covered all taxes, interest, and costs required for redemption. On April 3, 2017, GC filed its Response Objecting to the Motion to Redeem. On April 13, 2017, Appellant's counsel filed an Amended Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-2701 et seq. (the "Amended Motion to Redeem"). The Amended Motion to Redeem was signed by C.E. Nixon. On June 5, 2017, the trial court heard the Amended Motion to Redeem. By order of June 30, 2017, the trial court denied the Amended Motion. Specifically, the trial court found: (1) John Nixon engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he filled out the Motion to Redeem on behalf of his father, which resulted in the motion being null and void; (2) C.E. Nixon's Amended Motion to Redeem was filed after the deadline to redeem had passed; and (3) C.E. Nixon's Amended Motion to Redeem could not relate back to the motion filed by John Nixon because an amended motion cannot relate back to a void motion. Appellant appeals.

         II. Issues

         Appellant raises four issues for review which we restate as follows:

1. Whether the trial court erred in finding that John Nixon engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he filled out the Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-5-2701.
2. Whether the trial court erred in finding that completing the Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-5-2701 required the professional judgment of an attorney.
3. Whether the trial court erred when it found that the Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-5-2701 was a nullity.
4. Whether the trial court erred in denying Appellant's Motion and Notice to Redeem Property Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 67-5-2701 as being untimely.

         III. ...


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