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CURTIS V. WHITNEY, 80 U. S. 68 (1871)

U.S. Supreme Court

Curtis v. Whitney, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 68 68 (1871)

Curtis v. Whitney

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 68


1. A statute does not necessarily impair the obligation of a contract because it may affect it retrospectively, or because it enhances the difficulty of performance to one party or diminishes the value of the performance to the other, provided that it leaves the obligation of performance in full force.

2. A statute which requires the holder of a tax certificate made before its passage to give notice to an occupant of the land, if there be one, before he takes his tax deed does not impair the obligation of the contract evidenced by the certificate.

Mary Curtis brought suit under a statute of Wisconsin to have her title to a certain piece of land, which she claimed under a deed made on a sale for taxes, established and quieted as against the defendants.

Page 80 U. S. 69

The sale for taxes took place on the 11th day of May, 1865, and she received a certificate stating the sale, and that she would "be entitled to a deed of conveyance of said land in three years from that date unless sooner redeemed according to law," by payment of the amount bid, with interest and penalties; and accordingly, on the 12th day of May, A.D. 1868, she received the deed which she now sought to establish as the title to the land.

But the Legislature of Wisconsin, on the 10th of April, 1867, [Footnote 1] enacted that in all such cases where land had been or should thereafter be sold for taxes, and any person should have been in the actual occupancy or possession of such land for thirty days or more within six months preceding the time when the deed should be applied for, the deed should not be issued unless a written notice should have been served on the owner or occupant by the holder of the tax certificate at least three months prior thereto. The act required that this notice should set forth a copy of the certificate and state who was the holder and the time when the deed would be applied for.

In the present case, there was such occupancy and no notice was served, and the court held that tax deed void for want of it, overruling the objection of plaintiff that the statute requiring notice was void as applied to her case because it impaired the obligation of her contract evidenced by the certificate of sale.

The case having thus gone against the plaintiff, she brought the case here, setting up the same point that she set up below.

Page 80 U. S. 70

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