Carl A. Cordell and Wanda M. Cordell, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Bradley Klingsheim, Defendant-Appellee.
Plata County District Court No. 12CV47 Honorable Suzanne F.
Lewis Kelly, P.C., Jon Lewis Kelly, Dolores, Colorado, for
Baty Law Firm P.C., Michael W. Baty, Durango, Colorado, for
1 Carl A. and Wanda M. Cordell (the Cordells) appeal the
trial court's 2016 order reinstating a treasurer's
deed for a tract of land in La Plata County (the
reinstatement order). But this is not these parties'
first visit to this court. In 2014, a division of this court
affirmed a trial court order voiding a treasurer's deed
following a 2013 tax sale of the disputed tract (the voiding
order). See Cordell v. Klingsheim, 2014 COA 133
(Cordell I). In 2016, our supreme court reversed
Cordell I. See Klingsheim v. Cordell, 2016
CO 18 (Cordell II).
2 The trial court issued the reinstatement order on remand
following the decision in Cordell II. It did so
without substantive analysis of its own. On appeal, the
Cordells contend that the trial court was not required to
reinstate the treasurer's deed on remand because the
holding in Cordell II reached only one of the two
grounds on which the trial court rested the voiding order. In
other words, they contend that the alternative ground for
voiding the treasurer's deed remained viable following
Cordell II and that alternative basis was
meritorious. Although we agree with the Cordells that their
alternative argument for voiding the treasurer's deed was
not foreclosed by Cordell II, we affirm the trial
court's reinstatement order because we reject the
contention on its merits.
Facts and Procedural History
3 The Cordells were the record owners of a tract of land
located in La Plata County (Tract 1). After the Cordells failed to
pay the taxes owed on Tract 1 for several years, Brenda
Heller purchased a tax lien for the property. Heller assigned
that lien to Bradley Klingsheim, who later requested a deed
to the property from the La Plata County Treasurer.
4 Before issuing the requested deed, the Treasurer sent the
Cordells a copy of the notice of the application for a
treasurer's deed on Tract 1 by certified
mail. The Treasurer mailed the notice to the
Cordells in one envelope addressed to "Carl A.
Cordell" and "Wanda M. Cordell" to 705 N. Vine
in Farmington, New Mexico, the address listed for the
Cordells in the county tax records. The Treasurer later
received a return receipt indicating that the notice had been
received by Mr. Cordell's mother, Cleo Cordell. When the
Cordells failed to exercise their rights to redeem the
property, the Treasurer issued the treasurer's deed to
Tract 1 to Klingsheim.
5 The Cordells learned of the notice some time later, at
which time they filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment
that they were the owners of Tract 1, and that the
treasurer's deed was void.After a bench trial, the trial
court ruled that the Treasurer had not complied with section
39-11-128, C.R.S. 2017, because he had not made
"diligent inquiry" in attempting to notify the
Cordells that their land may be sold to satisfy a tax lien.
Because it concluded that the Treasurer had not made the
diligent inquiry required under the statute, the trial court
voided the deed. The trial court also ruled that the
treasurer's deed was void because no "separate
notice" was mailed to Ms. Cordell. This is the
alternative basis referred to at the outset of this opinion.
6 Klingsheim appealed. He argued that the Treasurer satisfied
his statutory duty of diligent inquiry and that the Treasurer
was not required to mail a separate notice to Ms. Cordell. In
Cordell I, a division of this court concluded that
the Treasurer failed to make the diligent inquiry required by
section 39-11-128, and on that basis affirmed the voiding
order. See Cordell I, ¶¶ 6-20. Having
concluded that the Treasurer failed to comply with section
39-11-128, the division stated that it "need not address
Klingsheim's additional contention concerning the
treasurer's failure to mail separate notices to each
record owner." Id. at ¶ 20.
7 Judge Jones dissented from the majority's opinion in
Cordell I. In his dissenting opinion, he considered
and rejected the argument that the Treasurer's notice to
Ms. Cordell "was defective as to her because it was not
sent to her in a separate envelope." Id. at
¶¶ 22, 65-68 (J. Jones, J., dissenting).
8 Klingsheim petitioned our supreme court for certiorari
review, which it granted to decide "[w]hether the court
of appeals' decision in [Cordell I] erroneously
construed county treasurers' 'diligent inquiry'
duties under section 39-11-128(1)(a) and (b)."
Cordell II, ¶ 13 n.2. It concluded that the
Treasurer fulfilled the duty of diligent inquiry required by
section 39-11-128. Id. at ¶¶ 15-41. The
supreme court also concluded that the Treasurer's
transmission of the notices by certified mail to the
Cordells' address listed in the tax rolls, where the
return receipt indicated that the notices were received by
the person (Cleo Cordell, Mr. Cordell's mother) whom the
Cordells anticipated would receive mail on their behalf,
satisfied due process. Id. at ¶¶ 42-46.
Having so concluded, it reversed the judgment in Cordell
I and remanded the case "for further proceedings
consistent with th[e] opinion." Id. at ¶
9 On remand to this court, the Cordells requested that the
division from Cordell I consider the issue of
whether due process required the Treasurer to mail a separate
notice to Ms. Cordell. The division declined to do so. Judge
Jones dissented, indicating that he would address
"appellee's additional contention concerning the
failure to mail separate notices to each record owner."
Cordell v. Klingsheim, (Colo.App. No. 13CA388, July
13, 2016) (unpublished order). A mandate was ultimately
issued reversing the voiding order and remanding ...