Beaver County Common Pleas Judge Gus Kwidis is under file this week after he ordered the home of a widow, Eileen Battisti sold for failure to pay $6.30 in unpaid interest to the county. Kwidis ruled that Battisti had ample notice and only has herself to blame for losing her home. Others see the blame lying elsewhere in a decision that elevated a de minimus violation above simple justice.
Battisti’s husband took care of these bills but passed away. She says that she never noticed the remaining $6.30 due on interest. However, Kwidis held that the county tax claim bureau complied with notification requirements in state law before the auction and “[t]here is no doubt that (she) had actual receipt of the notification of the tax upset sale on July 7, 2011, and Aug. 16, 2011. Moreover, on Aug. 12, 2011, a notice of sale was sent by first class mail and was not returned.”
However, there remains that little question of justice — and the notion of discretion. If there is no role for a court to play in such matters, we could handle these cases by computer.
The couple had previously owed other taxes, but at the time of the sale owed just $235, including other interest and fees. They sold the house from under her for $116,000. Such sales usually generate low prices as distress sales.
Joe Askar, Beaver County’s chief solicitor, insisted that the country and the judge were right in forcing the sale, but then added “It’s bad – she had some hard times, I guess her husband kind of took care of a lot of that stuff. It seemed that she was having a hard time coping with the loss of her husband – that just made it set in a little more.” It is remarkable that Askar would acknowledge such mitigating circumstances over less than seven bucks and yet believe that this was an appropriate and justifiable act. It cost more for the prosecutors and court to meet to issue the order. It cost more to actually put the property up for sale. Yet, even with the mitigating factor of her husband’s death, this was not viewed as sufficient reason for a modicum of mercy.
Source: Washington Post