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UNITED STATES v. DOUGHERTY

December 15, 1961

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Charles M. DOUGHERTY, Secretary of Revenue, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FOLLMER

This suit is in the nature of a mandamus proceeding brought by the United States of America against Charles M. Dougherty, Secretary of Revenue, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to compel the recording of a deed from Albert DiMeolo, United States Marshal for the Western District of Pennsylvania, to the United States of America, in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, said County of Mercer being in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

On July 17, 1959, the United States of America secured a judgment against Sherwood E. Owens and Doris E. Owens, his wife, on a complaint alleging a breach of certain covenants contained in a mortgage and bond from the Owens to the United States of America, secured by certain lands of the debtors situate in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The said mortgage and bond were executed and delivered under and in pursuance of the provisions of the Farmers' Home Administration, an agency of the United States of America.

 1. The Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 2. The Complaint failed to join an indispensable party, to wit: Stephen Lukacs, Recorder of Deeds of Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

 The plaintiff contends, and it is not denied by the defendant, that this action was originally filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, to No. 60-307 Civil, and was brought against Stephen Lukacs, Recorder of Deeds of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and Charles W. Dougherty, Secretary of Revenue, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; that since the defendant, Dougherty, maintains his main office in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, and is within the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the parties stipulated that the action would be dismissed without prejudice to either party; that subsequent to that dismissal the instant action was filed. Plaintiff contends that Stephen Lukacs, Recorder of Deeds of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, is merely the statutory agent of the Secretary of Revenue for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the collection of the State Realty Transfer Tax and that an order directing the Secretary to cause the deed in question to be accepted for recording is sufficient; that Stephen Lukacs, the Recorder aforesaid, is not an indispensable party to this proceeding.

 This identical situation was before this Court in United States of America v. Knapp, 168 F.Supp. 386. That case involved the same Government agency, namely, Farmers' Home Administration, and the refusal of the Recorder of Deeds of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, to record deed of the United States of America prior to the payment of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax. The original action was brought in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Forest L. Knapp, Recorder of Deeds of Crawford County, Pennsylvania. The Secretary of Revenue was added as a party defendant after motions to dismiss had been filed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Recorder of Deeds of Crawford County for the reason, inter alia, that the said Recorder was the statutory agent of the Secretary for the collection of the State Realty Transfer Tax and therefore an indispensable party to the proceeding. Subsequently, on motion of the Secretary of Revenue, the case was transferred from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

 It would seem that the procedure followed by the Government in the Knapp case is preferable to the one in the instant case. In Knapp both the Recorder and the Secretary were retained as defendants while in the instant case only the Secretary is a defendant. In addition to that, the prayer of the Complaint is for an order directing defendant, the Secretary of Revenue, to record the deed without plaintiff being required to affix thereto any realty transfer stamps. Obviously, this is impossible. It is true that the Recorder of Deeds is the statutory agent of the Secretary of Revenue for the collection of the State Realty Transfer Tax but certainly not for the recording of deeds. The prayer should have been to direct the Secretary to cause the deed in question to be accepted for recordation without payment of the tax. It will be so considered here.

 The applicable Pennsylvania statute at the time the attempted recordation was made in the Knapp case was as follows (Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax Act of December 27, 1951, P.L. 1742, as re-enacted and amended, 72 P.S. § 3285):

 'Every person who makes, executes, delivers, accepts, presents for recording any document or in whose behalf any document is made, executed, delivered, accepted or presented for recording, shall be subject to pay for and in respect to the transaction or any part thereof, or for or in respect of the vellum parchment or paper upon which such document is written or printed, a State tax at the rate of one (1) percentum of the value of the property represented by such document, which State tax shall be payable at the time of making, execution, delivery, acceptance or presenting for recording of such document.'

 The opinion in Knapp, supra (168 F.Supp. 392), stated as follows:

 'The circumstances forming the basis of the above Opinion having occurred prior to the enactment of certain amendments of June 1, 1955, to the Pennsylvania Realty Transfer Tax Law, the above decision applies only to documents made by the United States Marshal prior to June 1, 1955.'

 The pertinent amendment of June 1, 1955, thus referred to is as follows (P.L. 322, Sec. 2, 72 P.S. § 3285.1):

 'The tax herein imposed shall be fully paid, and have priority out of the proceeds of any judicial sale of real estate before any other obligation, claim, lien, judgment, estate or costs of the sale and of the writ upon which the sale is made, and the sheriff, or other officer, conducting said sale, shall pay the ...


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