Opposition to Summary Judgment Motion, with Exhibits 4
Claimant's Memorandum of Law 5
In this claim, claimant seeks to recover damages based on allegations that a
parcel of real property in Cayuga County, in which he had a legal interest, was
taken and sold by the State before a mortgage foreclosure action could be
brought by him.
A review of the claim, as well as the papers submitted in connection with this
motion, reveals that in November, 1999, the Cayuga County Treasurer commenced an
action under the Real Property Tax Law for the foreclosure of certain tax liens
covering delinquent property taxes owed on property commonly known as 4871
Devlon Road in the Town of Locke, Cayuga County. At the time of this action,
the record owner of the property in question was one Victor Thayer. The tax
foreclosure proceeding was eventually completed, and the property was sold by
the Cayuga County Treasurer to one David W. Tregaskis, by Quit Claim Deed dated
October 12, 2000.
Claimant contends that at the time of this tax foreclosure proceeding, he held
a secured mortgage interest in the property (see Exhibit B to Item 4) and that
the Cayuga County Treasurer failed to give him proper notice prior to the sale
of the property. Apparently, at the time of this tax foreclosure proceeding,
both claimant and Mr. Thayer were incarcerated, although it appears that
claimant had corresponded with the Cayuga County Treasurer in April, 1999, and
that the Cayuga County Treasurer had forwarded a response to claimant at his
then current address (see Exhibit to Items 1,2).
The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction, with its jurisdiction,
powers and duties governed by Article 6, § 9 of the State Constitution and
the Court of Claims Act (L 1939, ch 860, and as amended). Within this
authority, the Court has been granted jurisdiction to hear claims against the
State, its employees and officers for alleged tortious conduct (Court of Claims
Act, § 9).
This claim, however, is based not upon actions of a State employee, but rather
upon the alleged failure of the Cayuga County Treasurer to provide claimant with
notice that certain real property in which he had a legal interest was going to
be sold at public auction for delinquent taxes. The taxes which were the
subject of the tax foreclosure proceeding were taxes against real property, as
assessed and determined by Cayuga County, and the actions against the property
were performed by Cayuga County employees. There are no allegations anywhere in
this claim that the State, its employees, or agents participated to any extent
in this tax foreclosure proceeding.
Claimant contends, however, that this Court has jurisdiction over this claim
pursuant to Tax Law, § 3036, which confers jurisdiction upon the Court of
Claims to hear and determine claims asserted under the "Taxpayers' Bill of
Rights". Section 3036 was enacted in 1997 as part of a comprehensive revision
to the "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" contained in Article 41 of the Tax Law. The
section "essentially codifies existing common law rights" (New York State
Memorandum in Support, 1997 McKinney's Session Laws of New York, p. 2547)
to provide a cause of action for a person, not a taxpayer, to sue for damages
for wrongful levy on property in which that person has a lien or interest. It
is clear, however, that the provisions of the "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights"
legislation applies only to taxes which are administered by the Commissioner of
Taxation and Finance, and which are "imposed by or authorized to be imposed
pursuant to this chapter [Tax Law, L 1909, ch 62], Article two-E of the general
city law or section 27-0923 of the environmental conservation law." (Tax Law,
The authority of Cayuga County to assess and collect property taxes does not
derive from the Tax Law, but instead is authorized by Article 9 of the Real
Property Tax Law. Accordingly, § 3036 of the "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights"
does not confer jurisdiction upon this Court to hear and determine this claim.
Subject matter jurisdiction in this Court cannot be inferred, and if the State
Legislature had intended that this Court should hear and determine claims of
this nature, it must do so clearly and explicitly.
This Court therefore finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear
and determine this claim. Accordingly, the Court finds that it is not necessary
to address the remaining contentions raised by defendant in its motion (i.e.,
whether the claim was timely filed, and/or whether the Cayuga County Treasurer
provided claimant with the requisite notice in connection with its tax
Based on the above, therefore, it is
ORDERED, that Motion No. M-65390 is hereby GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED, that Claim No. 103597 is hereby DISMISSED.