Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2015 CVI
APPELLANT Clifford Holt, pro se.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor BY: Hannah F.G. Singerman Adam D. Jutte
Assistant County Prosecutors.
BEFORE: Kilbane, P.J., McCormack, J., and Boyle, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
EILEEN KILBANE, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Plaintiff-appellant, Clifford Holt ("Holt"), pro
se, appeals the Cleveland Municipal Court's judgment
affirming the magistrate's decision and entering judgment
in favor of defendants-appellees, the County of Cuyahoga (the
"County") and Dennis G. Kennedy, Fiscal Officer of
Cuyahoga County (collectively referred to as
"defendants"). In that decision, the magistrate
found Holt liable for $150.55 in penalties assessed for the
late payment of his 2014 property tax bill. For the reasons
set forth below, we reverse and remand the matter instructing
the trial court to vacate the $150.55 judgment and dismiss
for lack of jurisdiction.
Holt is the owner of real property located at 3566 Bainbridge
Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The County sent Holt a real
estate tax bill for the first half of 2014 for his property.
The bill stated that the full year tax amount for his
property was $5, 841.86. The bill further stated that January
22, 2015, was the last day to pay his taxes without a penalty
and if payment was received later than January 22, 2015, Holt
would be subject to a 10 percent penalty. Holt mailed a check
in the amount of $5, 841.86 to the County. The check was
processed on February 4, 2015, by a third-party, Key Bank.
There was no postmark on the envelope to indicate that the
check was mailed on January 22, 2015. On the back of the
check, Holt wrote: "Endorsement accepts as payment prop
tax 2014 for parcel # 683-17-138 in full."
Holt was assessed $136.86 as a penalty for the late tax
payment. He wrote a letter, contesting the additional
assessment as error. In response, defendants sent a note
indicating that if he did not pay $136.86 penalty by July
2015, the penalty would increase in September 2015.
Then in November 2015, Holt filed a pro se complaint in
Cleveland Municipal Court against the defendants. Although
Holt captioned his claim as a breach of contract, Holt
brought forth a declaratory judgment action against
defendants. He asked the court to remove the penalty and
order the defendants to accept his $5, 841.66 payment as
payment in full and to not allow the defendants to proceed
with the collection of the additional penalty arrearage. At
the time of the complaint, Holt's penalty assessment
increased to $150.55.
The matter was initially assigned to housing court and then
reassigned to the small claims division in January 2016. The
matter proceeded to trial in February 2016. In April 2016,
the magistrate filed a decision finding for defendants and
against Holt. The magistrate found that Holt's check was
deemed received by defendants on February 4, 2015, which was
13 days after the January 22, 2015 payment due date. As a
result, the magistrate found that Holt was liable for the
$150.55 penalty assessed by defendants. Holt's objections
to the magistrate's decision were overruled by the court
in June 2016.
It is from this order that Holt appeals, raising the
following assignment of error for review.
trial court erred in not addressing the issue of the moving
party in the [summary] judgment.
As an initial matter, we address the issue of the municipal
court's jurisdiction over Holt's declaratory judgment
action, which was ...