Turpin v. Lemon
This was an appeal from a decree of the circuit court for the district of West Virginia sustaining a demurrer to, and dismissing, a bill filed for the purpose of impeaching a tax sale and deed of certain lands, and of obtaining a judicial declaration that the defendants, who were purchasers under such tax deed, took no title to or interest in such lands.
The facts set forth in the bill were substantially as follows: On April 30, 1874, Turpin, a citizen of the state of Pennsylvania, purchased from the executors of one Smith C. Hill 225 acres of land in the county of Ritchie, West Virginia, and received a deed therefor. In the year 1879 100 acres of this land were sold for delinquent taxes for prior years, by which the quantity owned by Turpin was diminished to 125 acres, which were assessed to him for taxes for the years 1883 and 1884. Being absent from the state for several years, in poor health and unfit for business, he paid no attention to the land, which was returned delinquent for the nonpayment of these taxes, and was sold by the sheriff of Ritchie county for such taxes on January 12, 1886. Having failed to redeem the land within the year allowed by law from the time of the sale, on February 3, 1887, some weeks after the expiration of the year, a deed was made by the clerk of the county court of Ritchie county to the defendants.
Nothing was done, and no effort was made to pay these taxes, until about February 21, 1899, when Turpin met the defendant John B. Lemon, and tendered him the sum of $176.50, to cover the amount of the taxes paid by the defendants in the purchase of the land, and all taxes paid by them subsequently, as well as the cost of all surveys, etc., which amount he now offers to pay into court; but Lemon refused to receive the money, and has since cut large quantities of timber and removed the same from the land.
Whereupon he filed this bill, which really raises but a single question, and that is whether the laws of the state of West Virginia enacted with reference to the sale of delinquent lands for taxes are contrary to the Constitution of the United States, or constitute due process of law within the 14th Amendment. Other questions were raised in the bill, but in his petition for an appeal to this court the appellant rests his case upon the single question of the constitutionality of these laws.
Mr. C. D. Merrick for appellant.
Mr. J. G. McCluer for respondents.
Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court: