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Conley v. Fontaine

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 9, 2016

Patrick T. Conley
v.
Paul Fontaine, et al.

Providence County Superior Court PM 14-48 Associate Justice Brian Van Couyghen

For Plaintiff: Patrick T. Conley, Esq.

For Defendants: Samuel C. Bodurtha, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Associate Justice William P. Robinson III

At issue in this case is the legal propriety of a judgment allowing Bank of New York Mellon (the Bank) to redeem certain property that had been sold at a tax sale. The plaintiff, Patrick T. Conley, appearing pro se, appeals from a Providence County Superior Court judgment in which his "Motion for Entry of Default and Final Decree" with respect to the property at issue (located at 1090 Joslin Road in Burrillville) (the Property) was denied, and the Bank's Motion to File a Late Answer and its request to redeem the Property were granted. Mr. Conley contends that the trial justice erred in allowing the Bank to redeem even though it had been "negligent" with respect to filing its "Response to Petition to Foreclose Tax Lien, " its Motion to File a Late Answer, and its entry of appearance; he avers that the just-referenced documents were filed improperly, in that the Bank did so only after the return date specified in the "Petition to Foreclose Tax Lien, " and he further contends that the Bank has "failed to explain its tardiness." This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this appeal may be decided at this time.

For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

It is undisputed that, on September 27, 2013, plaintiff purchased the Property at a tax sale. Subsequently, on October 1, 2014, plaintiff filed a "Petition to Foreclose Tax Lien" (the Petition) in the Providence County Superior Court, in which plaintiff sought to foreclose the Bank's right of redemption with respect to the Property pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 44-9-25. It is also undisputed that, on October 7, 2014, the Petition provided notice to the Bank in the following terms:

"PETITION TO FORECLOSE TAX LIEN PM No. 14-4830

"TO ALL, WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, and to PAUL FONTAINE, SHERYL FONTAINE, BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON, JOHN A. DESANO, JR., ESQ., AND NASONVILLE FIRE DISTRICT
"Whereas, a petition has been presented to said Court by PATRICK T. CONLEY, ESQ.[, ] 1445 Wampanoag Trail, Suite 203 of East Providence, RI 02915 in the County of Providence and said State, to foreclose all rights of redemption from the tax lien proceedings described in said petition in and concerning a certain parcel of land situated in the County of Providence and in said State, bounded and described in said petition as follows:
"That certain lot or parcel of land with all the buildings and improvements thereon situated at 1090 Joslin Road in the Town of Burrillville, County of Providence, State of Rhode Island, laid ...

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