133 U.S. 107 (1890), Cole v. Cunningham

Citation:133 U.S. 107, 10 S.Ct. 269, 33 L.Ed. 538
Party Name:COLE et al. v. CUNNINGHAM et al. [1]
Case Date:January 20, 1890
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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133 U.S. 107 (1890)

10 S.Ct. 269, 33 L.Ed. 538

COLE et al.

v.

CUNNINGHAM et al. 1

United States Supreme Court.

January 20, 1890

In error to the supreme judicial court of the state of Massachusetts.

Daniel C. Bird, a citizen and inhabitant of Massachusetts, unable to meet his bills at maturity, suspended payment March 2, 1885, being at the time indebted to Butler, Hayden & Co., a copartnership composed of Charles S. Butler and N. F. T. Hayden, citizens and residents of Massachusetts, doing business in that state. On the night of the 4th or 5th of March, 1885, Butler, Hayden & Co. were informed by Bird that he had stopped payment, and that the firm of Aaron Claflin & Co., of New York, were indebted to him, in a considerable sum, for goods consigned by him, to that firm, to be sold on his account, and upon which Claflin & Co. had made advances, but not to their full value. March 6th, Butler, Hayden & Co. executed an assignment of their claims against Bird to one Fayerweather, a resident of the state of New York, which assignment was made without consideration, and without previous communication with Fayerweather. March 11th and March 25th, two actions were commenced in New York, in the name of Fayerweather, on the claims of Butler, Hayden & Co., against Bird, as defendant, and the firm of Claflin & Co. were summoned as garnishees. March 13, 1885, a meeting of Bird's creditors was held, and a committee appointed to investigate his affairs and make a report. On the 20th of March a second meeting of Bird's creditors was held, at which a report was submitted by the committee. April 23, 1885, a proposal for composition under the statutes of Massachusetts in that behalf was filed by Bird, returnable May 4th. May 20th, the composition proposal having been withdrawn, regular proceedings in insolvency were continued therein, and June 1, 1885, Richard Cunningham and Henry Tolman, Jr., were duly appointed assignees in insolvency of the estate of said Bird by the court of insolvency for the county of Plymouth, Mass. Hayden, of Butler, Hayden, & Co., was present at one of these creditors' meetings. The suits in New York were brought in a court of competent jurisdiction, and the attachments and proceedings were regular, and in conformity with the laws of New York. They are still pending, and no judgment has yet been obtained therein. On the 19th of June the assignees in insolvency brought a bill in equity in the supreme judicial court for the county of Suffolk, in the state of Massachusetts, against Butler and Hayden, copartners as Butler, Hayden & Co., praying that Butler, Hayden & Co., their agents, servants, attorneys, and solicitors, might be enjoined and restrained from proceeding to further continue the suits against Bird, begun by them in the name of Fayerweather, and from attempting to collect, by suit or otherwise, in the name of Fayerweather or any other person, for their own benefit, from Claflin & Co., any money or other thing on account of the claim against Bird;

COUNSEL

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[10 S.Ct. 270] Henry D. Hyde and M. F. Dickinson, Jr., for plaintiffs in error.

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Eugene M. Johnson, for defendants in error.

OPINION

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court:

The question to be determined is whether a decree of the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, restraining citizens of that common wealth from the prosecution of attachment suits in New York, brought by them for the purpose of evading the laws of their domicile, should be reversed upon the ground that such judicial action in Massachusetts was in violation of article 4, §§ 1, 2, of the constitution of the United States, which reads as follows: 'Section 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof. Sec. 2. The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.' The act of May 26, 1790, (1 St. 122,) now embodied in section 905 of the Revised Statutes, after providing the mode of authenticating the acts, records, and judicial proceedings of the states, declares:

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'And the said records, and judicial proceedings authenticated as aforesaid, shall have such faith and credit given to them in every court within the United States as they have by law or usage in the courts of the state from whence the said records are or shall be taken.' This does not prevent as inquiry into the jurisdiction of the court in which a judment is rendered to pronounce the judgment, nor into the right of the state to exercise authority over the parties or the subject-matter, nor whether the judgment is founded in, and impeachable for, a manifest fraud. The constitution did not mean to confer any new power on the states, but simply to regulate the effect of their acknowledged jurisdiction over persons and things within their territory. It did not make the judgments of the states domestic judgments, to all intents and purposes, but only gave a general validity, faith, and credit to them as evidence. No execution can be issued upon such judgments without a new suit in the tribunals of other states; and they enjoy, not the right of priority or privilege or lien which they have in the state where they are pronounced, but that only which the lex fori gives to them, by its own laws, in their character of foreign judgments. McElmoyle v. Cohen, 13 Pet. 312, 328, 329; D'Arcy v. Ketchum, 11 How. 165; Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457; Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714; Wisconsin v. Insurance Co., 127 U.S. 265, 292, 8 Sup. Ct. 1370; Christmas v. Russell, 5 Wall. 290; Story, [10 S.Ct. 271] Const. § 1303 et seq.; and Story, confl. Laws, § 609. And other judicial proceedings can rest on no higher ground. These well-settled principles find pertinent illustration in the decisions of the highest tribunal of the state of New York, to one of which we refer, as the contention is that the decree under review was in some way an unconstitutional invasion of the jurisdiction of that state. In Dobson v. Pearce, 12 N.Y. 156, the plaintiff in a judgment, recovered in New York, brought an action upon it in the superior court of Connecticut, whereupon the defendant in the judgment filed a bill against the plaintiff on the equity side of the same court, alleging that the judgment

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was procured by fraud, and praying relief. The plaintiff in the judgment appeared in and litigated the equity suit, and the court adjudged that the allegations of fraud in obtaining the judgment were true, and enjoined him from prosecuting an action upon it. He assigned the judgment, and it was held in a suit in New York, brought thereon by the assignee, that a duly-authenticated copy of the record of the decree in the Connecticut court was conclusive evidence that the judgment was obtained by fraud. The court of appeals held that, while a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction could not be impeached collaterally for error or irregularity, yet it could be attacked upon the ground of want of jurisdiction, or of fraud or imposition; that the right of the plaintiff in the judgment was a personal right, and followed his person; that, when the courts of Connecticut obtained jurisdiction of his person by the due service of process within the state, these courts had full power to pronounce upon the rights of the parties in respect to the judgment, and to decree concerning it; that the jurisdiction of a court of equity any where, to restrain suit upon a judgment at law, upon sufficient grounds, was one of the firmly established parts of the authority of courts of equity; and that it could not be held that a court of equity in one state had no jurisdiction to restrain such a suit upon a judgment of a court of law of another state. If the objection to so doing was founded upon an assumed violation of the comity existing between the several states of the United States, that did not reach to the jurisdiction of the court, a rule of comity being a self-imposed restraint upon an authority actually possessed; and, as to the objection that the constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance of it, inhibited the action of the Connecticut courts, this could not prevail, since full faith and credit are given to the judgment of a state court when, in the courts of another state, it receives the same faith and credit to which it was entitled in the state where it was pronounced. Pearce v. Olney, 20 Conn. 544; Engel v. Scheuerman, 40 Ga. 206; Cage v. Cassidy, 23 How. 109.

The intention of section 2, art. 4, was to confer on the

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citizens of the several states a general citizenship, and to communicate all the privileges and immunities which the citizens of the same state would be entitled to under the like circumstances; and this includes the right to institute actions. The fact of the citizenship of Butler and Hayden did not affect their privilege to sue in New York, and have the full use and benefit of the courts of that state in the assertion of their legal rights; but, as that fact might affect the right of action as between them and the citizens of their own state, the courts of New York might have held that its existence put an end to the seizure of their debtor's property by Butler and Hayden in New York. If, however, those courts declined to take that view, it would not follow that the courts of Massachusetts violated any privilege orimmunity of Massachusetts' own citizensin exercising their undoubted jurisdiction over them. Discharges under state insolvent laws exemplify the principle. Where...

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