On May 17, 2012, this blog reported on the oral arguments in PHH Mortgage v. Prater, a case from Clermont County, Ohio regarding the extent to which an internet website may (or may not) be constitutionally adequate notice of a sheriff’s sale.
Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in favor of the mortgage company, reversing the court of appeals and holding that “constructive notice by publication to a party with a property interest in a foreclosure proceeding via a sheriff’s office website is insufficient to constitute due process when that party’s address is known or easily ascertainable.”
The Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Evelyn Lundberg-Stratton (who will retire at the end of this year), discusses precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court (Mullane and Mennonite Bd. of Missions) and the Ohio Supreme Court (Central Trust Co.), as well as more recent authority from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (McCluskey v. Belford High School, E.D. Mich. No. 2:09-14345, 2010 WL 2696599 [June 24, 2009]) to conclude that the sheriff’s internet notice procedure impermissibly “shifts the burden of notification from the sheriff’s office to the persons to whom the notice is directed. *** While we understand the interest in using technology to conserve resources, we find that notice by Internet posting is more akin to publication in a newspaper, and due process demands more in this instance.” PHH Mortgage, 2012-Ohio-3931, ¶ 16.…
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On May 23, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an appeal by PHH Mortgage Corporation that concerns whether a sheriff’s website can provide constitutionally sufficient notice of the date, time, and location of a sheriff’s sale of foreclosed property. Real estate lenders of all sorts will be interested in the outcome which has important implications for foreclosure proceedings.
Nearly two decades ago, in Central Trust Co. v. Jensen, 67 Ohio St.3d 140 (1993), the Supreme Court held that notice by mail or other “equally reliable” means is a constitutional prerequisite to a proceeding that adversely affects a party’s property interests, when the interest holder’s address is known or easily ascertainable. The PHH Mortgage Corp. case tests that principle in the Internet age.
In PHH Mortgage, the mortgage company (“PHH”) filed a foreclosure action in April 2008, and the trial court’s final judgment in favor of the company was entered the following September. The property was then to be sold through the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office. On three occasions in 2009, the order of sale was withdrawn. On each of these occasions, PHH was notified by mail of the date and time for the sale. The trial court scheduled a fourth sale for April 2010. But PHH did not receive notice by mail of this sale, because at some point before then the sheriff’s office (due to budget constraints) had stopped sending notice by mail of upcoming sales, and began publishing the sale dates on its website. So, even though PHH intended to bid on …
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