July 22, 1996
Subject: Whether nonresident of county can serve as appraiser for judicial sales
Requested by: Bill Flynn, Master Commissioner, McCracken Circuit Court
Written by: Ross T. Carter
Syllabus: The phrase intelligent housekeeper of the county requires a subjective evaluation of an appraiser's qualifications rather than a strict application of rules of domicile
Statutes construed: KRS 426.520
OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The question is whether a nonresident of a county may serve as an appraiser for judicial sales in the county.
The governing statute is KRS 426.520. The applicable sentence says:
Before any real property is to be sold under an order or judgment of a court, other than an execution, the commissioner or other officer selling the property shall have it appraised, under oath, by two (2) disinterested, intelligent housekeepers of the county.
The facts disclosed to us indicate that two specific individuals desire appointment as judicial appraisers in McCracken County. One person lives primarily in Marshall County; maintains a realty business there with some living accommodations; stays overnight at the business from time to time; and receives both personal and business mail at the business address. The other person lives primarily in Graves County; owns much rental property in McCracken County; has an apartment in McCracken County in one of the rental buildings; and stays overnight in the apartment from time to time.
There are no guiding cases on point. The only case construing the sentence in question is Moore v Brookins, 291 Ky 533, 165 SW 2d 30, 32 (1942), which says, A woman may be a housekeeper as well as her husband and is qualified to act as appraiser. Beyond that self-evident statement there is no judicial history to guide us.
It is routinely said that the fundamental rule of statutory construction is to give effect to the legislative intent. Newberg v Thomas Industries, Ky App, 852 SW 2d 339, 340 (1993). That intent is determined according to the language used in the statute. Department of Revenue v McIlvain, 302 Ky 558, 195 SW 2d 63, 64 (1946). The language used in the phrase intelligent housekeepers of the county is not specific; on the contrary it is subject to widely varying interpretations. Intelligent cannot under any circumstances yield a precise, objective meaning; whether one is deemed intelligent depends on the attitude of the observer. It would be a frivolity to attempt an objective application of the statute by dividing citizens into two classes, the intelligent and the unintelligent, with only the former being eligible to appraise property for judicial sales.
Our examination of the language used in the statute compels us to conclude that the legislature did not intend the phrase intelligent housekeepers of the county to carry a precise, objective meaning. One may easily speculate that the master commissioner could readily find persons of notable intelligence who keep house within the county and yet who are utterly ignorant of the real estate market. We believe that the statutory language is intended to provide subjective guidance to the master commissioner in selecting persons to serve as appraisers. If the master commissioner believes that a person's general aptitude and knowledge of the county, whether derived through business activities, real estate management, or actual residency, qualifies the person to appraise real property then the person is an intelligent housekeeper of the county within the meaning of the statute.
Applying this construction to the facts presented, we can say that the individuals described to us need not be disqualified because of the location of their sleeping quarters. Whether they possess sufficient aptitude and familiarity with the county to appraise real property must be determined by the master commissioner.
A. B. Chandler III
Ross T. Carter
Assistant Attorney General