749 P.2d 1111 (N.M. 1988), 16973, State ex rel. Klineline v. Blackhurst

Docket Nº:16973, 17062.
Citation:749 P.2d 1111, 106 N.M. 732, 1988 -NMSC- 015
Opinion Judge:[11] Apodaca
Party Name:STATE of New Mexico, ex rel. Paul KLINELINE, Petitioner, v. Hon. H.R. BLACKHURST, District Judge, Respondent. Henry DEATON and Jane Deaton, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Paul KLINELINE and Juanita Klineline, Defendants-Appellants.
Attorney:Robert Schwartz, J. Michael Norwood, Clinical Law Program, Albuquerque, for petitioner and defendants-appellants., Donald C. Turpen, Eileen Mallon, Albuquerque, for respondent and plaintiffs-appellees., Hal Stratton, Atty. Gen., Gerald B. Richardson, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Santa Fe, amicus curiae ...
Judge Panel:SCARBOROUGH, C.J., and SOSA, WALTERS and RANSOM, JJ., concur.
Case Date:February 16, 1988
Court:Supreme Court of New Mexico
 
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Page 1111

749 P.2d 1111 (N.M. 1988)

106 N.M. 732, 1988 -NMSC- 015

STATE of New Mexico, ex rel. Paul KLINELINE, Petitioner,

v.

Hon. H.R. BLACKHURST, District Judge, Respondent.

Henry DEATON and Jane Deaton, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Paul KLINELINE and Juanita Klineline, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 16973, 17062.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

February 16, 1988

Rehearing Denied March 2, 1988.

Page 1112

[106 N.M. 733] Robert Schwartz, J. Michael Norwood, Clinical Law Program, Albuquerque, for petitioner and defendants-appellants.

Donald C. Turpen, Eileen Mallon, Albuquerque, for respondent and plaintiffs-appellees.

Hal Stratton, Atty. Gen., Gerald B. Richardson, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Santa Fe, amicus curiae NM Property Division, Taxation & Revenue Dept.

OPINION

APODACA, Judge.

Defendants Paul and Juanita Klineline, husband and wife (the Klinelines), filed a motion for rehearing, which we granted. The unpublished decision filed on October 28, 1987 is withdrawn, and the following opinion is substituted in its place.

The Klinelines appeal the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs Henry and Jane Deaton, husband and wife (the Deatons). After having purchased certain residential property (residence) from the Property Tax Division of the Taxation and Revenue Department (the Division) at a tax sale, the Deatons filed suit against the Klinelines to eject them from the residence. The trial court, concluding that the sale requirements of the Property Tax Code, NMSA 1978, Sections 7-35-1 to 7-38-93 (Repl.Pamp.1986 and Supp.1987) (the Code), had been complied with, held that the tax sale was valid and that the Deatons were thus the lawful owners.

Page 1113

[106 N.M. 734] We disagree with the trial court's holding and reverse its judgment.

After filing this appeal, the Klinelines petitioned this Court for an alternative writ of prohibition or of superintending control. We granted the petition and ordered a stay of proceedings, reserving decision on the question of whether a permanent writ should issue until this appeal was decided. We consolidated the appeal, Cause No. 17,062, with the permanent writ hearing in Cause No. 16,973.

FACTS

The Klinelines have been married for forty-one years. For most of the marriage, Mrs. Klineline has been mentally ill, having been diagnosed as a chronic paranoid schizophrenic. She was institutionalized intermittently throughout the 1960s but since then has not been hospitalized, despite her continuing bizzare behavior. One of the manifestations of Mrs. Klineline's illness was her belief that her husband was dead and that Klineline was an imposter posing as her deceased husband.

In 1978, the Klinelines paid off a real estate mortgage against the residence. The property taxes on the residence were included in the monthly mortgage payments, and the mortgage company had been paying the taxes annually. Having paid off the mortgage, the Klinelines became directly responsible for making the tax payments, which they failed to do. The taxes became delinquent for the years 1978 through 1981 inclusive.

The Division, as required by the Code, mailed a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the Klinelines at the residence. The residence was located at the address shown on the most recent tax schedule. The letter notified them of the delinquency and of an imminent sale of the residence. Mrs. Klineline apparently did not answer the front door when the postal carrier attempted delivery of the letter. Presumably, she destroyed the notice or slip left in the mailbox, which informed the Klinelines of the attempted delivery, without telling Klineline, "the imposter." The Division later received the return receipt form and the certified letter marked "unclaimed." In addition to mailing the certified letter to the Klinelines, the Division posted a "red-tag" notice of delinquency at the residence, pursuant to its own administrative procedures. This "red-tag" did not give the property owner notice of the actual sale, but only of the delinquency. Finally, as required by statute, notice of the sale, together with the description of the property, was published in a daily newspaper. See Sec...

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