SHARP V HILLERY, ET AL.,
Michigan Court of Appeals Case No. 354432
In a second appellate court hearing, Attorney Tina M. Patterson of Patterson Justice Counsel, PLLC, once again secured victory against the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA/Land Bank) in a case stemming from the practices of its Side Lot Program.
The DLBA, an organization vested with public authority in critical municipal functioning such as land use and development, has been mired in controversy since its inception, including notorious federal investigation for its demolition program, and a scathing recent independent audit that found irregular transactions and improper accounting practices.
In an April 2021 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals once again ruled in favor of Attorney Patterson’s clients, Robert and Stacy Hillery, securing their title and interest in a property Mrs. Hillery purchased directly from the Land Bank at one of its public side lot fairs back in 2015.
The Michigan Court of Appeals previously ruled in Attorney Patterson’s favor in February 2020, when it confirmed that the Land Bank validly contracted with the Hillerys in the purchase of land through their Side Lot Program, despite the Land Bank’s insistence that the sale was a mistake.
During the first victory, many Detroiters who view the Land Bank as a problem attended the hearing before the Appeals Court and expressed support for the issues championed by Attorney Patterson on behalf of her clients.
In that ruling, the Court determined that all Land Bank rules and regulations were followed as required by Patterson’s clients, Robert and Stacy Hillery, rejecting the Land Bank’s argument that the sale of the land was done in error.
The initial suit was filed against the Hillerys and the Land Bank in 2017 by a neighbor who alleged entitlement of the land in question based on Detroit Land Bank Side Lot Program notification policies and a rule change that occurred after the sale of the property.
DLBA Abdication of Duties under Contract
The actions of the DLBA in the current suit were anything but acceptable. Rather than uphold its contractual obligations as a seller in its transaction to the Hillerys, the DLBA agreed with the premise of the Plaintiff’s suit and endorsed the argument that it erred in selling the property to the Hillerys. Instead of standing forthright in its dealings as a quasi-governmental authority and upholding its duty of public trust, the DLBA responded with a complete abdication of its contractual obligation to the Hillerys.
The actions of the DLBA inflicted injury and harm throughout the course of litigation. The DLBA misrepresented their own policies in communication with Mrs. Hillery when she inquired about the deed after the lawsuit was filed. Worst of all, the DLBA filed a crossclaim against the Hillerys, alleging that Mrs. Hillery falsely held herself out as an eligible purchaser, contradicting its own actions in approving her transaction. Attorney Patterson successfully obtained a dismissal of the Land Bank’s suit against the Hillerys after demonstrating improper service and lack of progress by the Land Bank.
Matter of Significant Public Interest
The actions of the Detroit Land Bank Authority facilitated this case, and the public has a right to know how organizations tasked with handling public functions operate, including whether such organizations are conducting their behavior in a lawful manner that is warranted of the public’s trust.
Attorney Patterson has championed this case as a matter of significant public interest because The Detroit Land Bank Authority displayed dishonest practices and false assertions of rule requirements in an egregious manner that actually cost the Hillerys the title to land that they rightfully purchased. Had the Land Bank submitted to following their own policies, this case would never have found its way to the second highest judicial body in the State of Michigan in search of justice.
The way the DLBA has operated in dealing with the Hillerys raises some fundamental questions about its existence as an entity that exists to encourage homeownership and property development for residents of the city. It is sad and shameful that it took a dispute between neighbors, exacerbated by litigation, to identify the misdirection of this entity embedded with governmental authority.
If you have a similar case involving the Detroit Land Bank or other government organization, Make an appointment with Patterson Justice Counsel and Attorney Tina M. Patterson for your consultation today. Don’t rush into decisions without the full and appropriate legal advice and backing.
Tina M. Patterson is the Principal Attorney of Patterson Justice Counsel, PLLC. She is an attorney licensed in the State of Michigan and Federal Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
 Audit of Detroit land bank flags weak controls, demolition records; Christine Ferretti; The Detroit News (August 2020); https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/08/18/audit-detroit-land-bank-flags-weak-controls-demolition-records/5599557002/