FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH NOS. 2016-07269,
2016-10813, DIVISION "L-6" Honorable Kern A. Reese,
W. Horstmyer COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT
Stephen D. Marx CHEHARDY, SHERMAN, WILLIAMS, MURRAY, RECILE,
STAKELUM & HAYES, LLP COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Paula A.
Brown, Judge Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore
Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore.
Wilbert Lynn Pritchett, appeals two judgments of the trial
court in these consolidated matters relating to the
succession of his father, Olee Pritchett. For reasons that
follow, we affirm both judgments.
Pritchett died intestate in New Orleans on September 12,
2001. At the time of his death, Mr. Pritchett owned immovable
property located at 1011 Treme Street in New Orleans (the
property), which was the only asset of the succession. Mr.
Pritchett's sister, who lived out of state, paid the
property taxes on the property until her death a few years
later. No maintenance was done on the property since Mr.
Pritchett's death, and the property fell into disrepair.
in 2013, Carl Fanaro, the sole member and manager of Oyster
Ventures, LLC (Oyster), a Louisiana limited liability company
involved in property preservation and rehabilitation, became
interested in the home. By this time the property was
blighted and uninhabitable. It had no door, no electricity,
and no water or gas connections. It was severely damaged by
termites, and extensive vegetation covered the
roof. Mr. Fanaro began researching the ownership
of the property. He learned that the property was owned by
Olee Pritchett, who was deceased. He also learned from
relatives that Mr. Pritchett had a surviving son who was
still living somewhere in Louisiana. That son was reportedly
indigent and spent some time in prison, and relatives had
lost contact with him.
record shows that an "Affidavit of Intent to
Possess" was filed by adjoining property owners pursuant
to La. R.S. 9:5633 in November of 2015 seeking to acquire the
property by acquisitive prescription. However, it does not appear
the neighbors were successful in their attempt at acquisition
of the property. Subsequently, the property was transferred
to Jean Marcel St. Jacques, LLC in a tax sale on May 5, 2016.
The property had several blight liens and was the subject of
a foreclosure for code enforcement liens by the City of New
Orleans in the amount of $17, 235. A notice of seizure in
that foreclosure action was issued as a prelude to a
sheriff's sale as evidenced by a "Request for
Issuance of Writ of Fieri Facias" filed by the city.
of 2016, Oyster redeemed the property by paying the tax
redemption cost of $10, 408.90 to the City of New Orleans.
Oyster was also able to prevent the sheriff's sale in the
foreclosure proceeding by paying the blight liens.
of 2016, Oyster filed a "Petition for
Administration" seeking to be appointed administrator of
the succession of Olee Pritchett as a creditor of the
succession pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 3098A(3). The sworn
descriptive list attached to the petition values the property
at $40, 000, subject to $30, 000 in encumbrances. Oyster
furnished the required security and was appointed
administrator of the succession.
following day, Oyster filed a "Petition for Private
Sale" of the property. The petition alleged that no
effort has been made to satisfy the succession debts or
maintain the property and that the property is in
"substantial disrepair". The petition sought to
sell the interest in the property to Deep South Home Buyers,
LLC (Deep South) for $40, 000. An appraisal for that amount
is attached to the petition and signed by Keith Toso, a
licensed appraiser. Also attached is a document from the
Orleans Parish Assessor's Office verifying the assessed
value of the property. The sale was advertised, and on August
9, 2016, the court authorized the sale as prayed for in the
petition. Since the purchase, Deep South has obtained a
permit from the City to begin restoration of the property.
deceased's son, Wilbert Lynn Pritchett,  learned of the
tax sale from a neighbor. He consulted an attorney, and on
September 26, 2016, filed a petition to be substituted for
Oyster as administrator of the succession. The petition also
requests the return of the proceeds of the sale of the
property to the succession. Oyster opposed the petition and
filed an exception of no cause of action, as well as a motion
to disqualify Mr. Pritchett based, on multiple felony
November 2, 2016, Wilbert Pritchett filed a separate action
against several defendants including Oyster and Deep
South, seeking to nullify the judgment
homologating the tableau of distribution and to cancel the
sale of the property to Deep South.
matters were consolidated in the district court, but were
heard separately and decided in two separate judgments. The
trial court denied Wilbert Pritchett's petition to be
substituted for Oyster as administrator of the succession in
a judgment dated December 27, 2016, and denied the exception
of no cause of action and the motion to disqualify (Judgment
One). The trial court denied the petition to nullify the
judgment homologating the tableau of distribution and to
cancel the sale of the property to Deep South in a judgment
dated February 22, 2017 (Judgment Two). Wilbert Pritchett
appealed both judgments. The matters were consolidated on
first judgment on review is the December 27, 2016 judgment
denying Wilbert Pritchett's petition to remove and
substitute the succession administrator, forfeit bond and all
other relief and claims asserted by Mr. Pritchett against the
administrator, Oyster Ventures, LLC, with prejudice.
brief to this Court, Wilbert Pritchett assigns five errors
relating to this judgment. Mr. Pritchett argues the decision
to confirm Oyster's appointment as succession
administrator based on creditor status violated his
constitutional right to redeem the property as sole heir of
the deceased. He further argues that the trial court erred in
failing to inquire about the nature or origin of the debt in
Oyster's claim to be a creditor of the succession.
Wilbert Pritchett argues that Oyster acted prematurely by
hiring an appraiser and negotiating the sale of the home
before the appointment of the administration of the
succession, and that Oyster filed the petition for
appointment before it was actually a creditor of the
Pritchett also argues that he accepted the succession years
earlier, was registered to vote at the address of the
property, and has lived in the home since 1958. At the
hearing Wilbert Pritchett testified that he lived in the
property without electricity, water or gas connections and
used a blanket for a front door. However, he acknowledged
that he did not pay the taxes or the blight liens, and did
not do any maintenance or repairs on the home because he was
depressed and financially unable to do so. Mr. Pritchett also
admitted to being a convicted felon.
support of his initial argument relating to the violation of
his constitutional rights to redeem the property, Wilbert
Pritchett argues that Louisiana Constitution Article VII
25(B)(2), which is specific to blighted properties
in the City of New Orleans and provides for an eighteen month
redemption period, should be applied rather than La. C.C.P.
Pritchett's argument is unconvincing. "It is a
fundamental rule of statutory construction that when two
statutes deal with the same subject matter, if there is a
conflict, the statute specifically directed to the matter at
issue must prevail as an exception to the statute more
general in character." However, the rules of statutory
construction apply only when there is a conflict between laws
which deal with the same subject. In the matter before us
there is no conflict between the cited constitutional article
that provides for a shortened period for redemption of
blighted property sold at a tax sale, and the code article
setting forth persons qualified to become a succession
representative. The subject of the two laws is different, and
therefore, the laws are not in conflict.
property was purchased in a tax sale in May of 2016. Oyster
redeemed the property in July of 2016. The relevant documents
to support the redemption by Oyster are contained in the
record and Mr. Pritchett does not dispute the validity of the
documents or the relevant facts. As we understand his
argument, Mr. Pritchett asserts he should have be given the
full eighteen months provided for in Louisiana Constitution
Article VII 25(B)(2) to redeem his father's property,
regardless of the redemption by Oyster. He argues that the
redemption by Oyster, which was less than four months after
the tax sale, infringed on his constitutional due process
rights to redeem his father's home within the eighteen
months allowed by the Louisiana Constitution. Simply put, the
period of eighteen months he should have had to redeem the
property was unconstitutionally shortened by Oyster's act
in redeeming the property sooner.
no legal support for Mr. Pritchett's argument. Oyster
points out that the succession benefited from the prompt
action because the redemption prevented the sheriff's
sale of the property that was formally requested by the city
in July of 2016. It is also evident from the record that Mr.
Pritchett did not pay any of the taxes or code enforcement
fines due on the property, although he claimed to live in the
property since 1958.
person may redeem tax sale title to property, but the
redemption shall be in the name of the tax
debtor." The law does not restrict redemption of
property to the owner or the heirs of the owner. Nor does the
law provide for a waiting period before the redemption can
occur. Louisiana Constitution Article VII, § 25(B)(2)
provides that abandoned property in the City of New Orleans
which is blighted "shall be redeemable for eighteen
months after the date of recordation of the tax sale by
payment…" Under the law Oyster had the
constitutional right to redeem the property in Olee