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Holt v. County of Cuyahoga

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 2, 2017

CLIFFORD HOLT PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
COUNTY OF CUYAHOGA, ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES

         Civil Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2015 CVI 016624

          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

          MARY EILEEN KILBANE, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} 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.

         {¶2} 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."

         {¶3} 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.

         {¶4} 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.

         {¶5} 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.

         {¶6} It is from this order that Holt appeals, raising the following assignment of error for review.

         Assignment of Error

         The trial court erred in not addressing the issue of the moving party in the [summary] judgment.

         {¶7} As an initial matter, we address the issue of the municipal court's jurisdiction over Holt's declaratory judgment action, which was ...


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