232 U.S. 236 (1914), 20, Miedreich v. Lauenstein

Docket Nº:No. 20
Citation:232 U.S. 236, 34 S.Ct. 309, 58 L.Ed. 584
Party Name:Miedreich v. Lauenstein
Case Date:February 02, 1914
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 236

232 U.S. 236 (1914)

34 S.Ct. 309, 58 L.Ed. 584

Miedreich

v.

Lauenstein

No. 20

United States Supreme Court

February 2, 1914

Argued October 31, 1913

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF INDIANA

Syllabus

Although the record is meager of attempts to raise it, if the state court holds that a federal question is made before it, according to its practice, and proceeds to determine it, this Court regards the question as duly made.

It is only in exceptional cases, where what purports to be a finding of fact is not strictly such, but is so involved with and dependent upon questions of law that this Court departs from the rule, that it accepts

Page 237

as binding the findings of fact made by the highest court of the state from which the case come.

This Court has always recognized the difficulty of satisfactorily defining the term "due process of law" in general terms applicable to all cases and the desirability of judicial determination in each case as the question arises. Davidson v. New Orleans, 96 U.S. 97.

Law, in its regular course of administration through courts of justice, is due process, and, when secured by the law of the state, the constitutional requirement is satisfied. Leeper v. Texas, 139 U.S. 462.

In the absence of fraud or collusion, where the original party did all that the law required in the issue and attempt to serve process, but the sheriff made a false return to the effect that service had been made, the state court, in the absence of direct attack upon the return, in acting thereon as though it were true and holding that the sole remedy was an action against the sheriff for a false return, did not deny the party due process of law within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

One damaged by reason of a false return of the sheriff as to service of process, and who is given a remedy against the sheriff, is not denied due process of law by the enforcement of the judgment based on such false return because the amount of the sheriff's bond is less than the amount of his loss.

172 Ind. 140 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the validity under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of a judgment based on a false return of service made by a sheriff, are stated in the opinion.

Page 241

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error, by complaint filed in the Superior Court of Vanderburgh County, State of Indiana, sought to vacate a judgment of foreclosure rendered by that court in a prior case, and to be permitted to redeem the property therein involved, and prays for other relief, and, judgment having been entered in favor of the defendant in error, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Indiana (172 Ind. 140), this writ of error was sued out.

The facts, so far as pertinent to our review, are: the complaint, in the fourth paragraph, alleged that the plaintiff in error was the owner of certain property, subject to a mortgage foreclosed in a former suit; that she was a minor when the foreclosure proceedings were had; that she was not a resident of Vanderburgh County, where the action was brought, but was and had been for many years

Page 242

a resident of Gibson County, and that she was not summoned in such action, had no knowledge of its pendency, and did not waive service or enter her appearance therein. It was further alleged that the plaintiff in error was not amenable to the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of Vanderburgh County, but that, although she was not served with process, he made a false return of a pretended summons, by which the court was wrongfully imposed upon, and, being so advised at the instance of attorneys for the predecessor of defendant in error, the court appointed a guardian ad litem for her, who answered in the suit, and that a decree was rendered, her property sold, and bid in by the predecessor of the defendant in error. The demurrer of the defendant in error to this paragraph, thus construed, was sustained by the lower court, and its decision affirmed by the supreme court. Other paragraphs of the complaint alleged fraud on the part of the predecessor of the defendant in error and her attorneys. The lower court found against this charge, and the supreme court, after stating that there was legal evidence to support the finding, refused to disturb it.

The record is meager of attempts to raise a federal question by reason of alleged violations of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States, aptly set forth and referred to in some proper way, and it is contended by the defendant in error that the writ should be dismissed for that reason. We find in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Indiana a statement that

both parties have treated this suit as one arising under the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution, and as presenting the questions of due process of law and rights guaranteed by article 1, § 21, of the state constitution,

and the court, after making this statement, takes up the various grounds of attack upon the original decree for alleged fraudulent service or want of service upon the minor defendant in the foreclosure proceedings,

Page 243

and disposes of them against the contention of the plaintiff in error. There is no repudiation of the position of both parties that questions were raised under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and we think the court may be fairly taken to have regarded such questions as duly before it for consideration. Where a state court holds that a federal question is made before it, according to its practice, and proceeds to determine it, this Court will regard the question as duly made. San Jose Land & Water Co. v. San Jose Ranch Co., 189 U.S. 177, 179-180; Haire v. Rice, 204 U.S. 291, 299; Chambers v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 207 U.S....

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