72 U.S. 307 (1867), Green v. Van Buskirk

Citation:72 U.S. 307, 18 L.Ed. 599
Case Date:April 22, 1867
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 307

72 U.S. 307 (1867)

18 L.Ed. 599




United States Supreme Court.

April 22, 1867


MOTION to dismiss a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

The Constitution of the United States declares (Section 1, Article IV) thatfull faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records,and judicial proceedings of every other State; and that Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

Under the power here conferred, Congress, by act of 1790, 1 provides that records, authenticated in a way which it prescribes, shall 'have such faith and credit given to them in every other court of the United States, as they have by law or usage in the court from which they are taken.'

With this provision of the Constitution and this law in force, Bates being the owner of certain iron safes at Chicago, in the State of Illinois, on the 3d day of November, 1857, executed and delivered, in the State of New York, to Van Buskirk and others, a chattel mortgage of them. On the 5th day of the same month Green caused to be levied on the same safes a writ of attachment, sued by him out of the proper court in Illinois, against the property of Bates. The attachment suit proceeded to judgment, and the safes were sold in satisfaction of Green's debt. Van Buskirk, Green, and Bates, were all citizens of New York. Green's attachment was levied on the safes as the property of Bates, before the possession was delivered to Van Buskirk, and before the mortgage from Bates to him was recorded, and before notice of its existence.

Van Buskirk afterwards sued Green, in the New York courts, for the value of the safes thus sold under his attachment, and Green pleaded the proceeding in the court of Illinois in bar of the action. In this suit thus brought by him

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in the New York courts, Van Buskirk obtained judgment, and the judgment was affirmed in the highest court of the State of New York. From this affirmance Green took a writ of error to this court, assuming the case of fall within the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, which gives such writ in any case wherein is drawn in question a clause of the Constitution of the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, or privilege specially set up. His assumption was that the faith and credit which the judicial proceedings in the courts of the State of Illinois had by law and usage in that State, were denied to them by the decision of the courts of New York, and that in such denial, those courts decided against a right claimed by him under the above-mentioned Section 1, Article IV, of the Constitution, and the act of Congress of May 26th, 1790, on the subject of it.


Mr. Carlisle, for the defendant in error, now moved to dismiss the writ of error, because the record did not present any question within the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act relied on by the plaintiff in error.

The record of the case, it should be said, contained the pleadings in the case, the facts which the court had found, and their conclusions of law on them. Among the latter, the court decided 'that by the law of the State of New York the title to the property passed on the execution and delivery of the instrument under the facts found in the case, and overreached the subsequent attachment in the State of Illinois, and actual prior possession under it, at the suit of defendant, although he was a creditor, having a valid and fair debt against Bates, and had no notice of the previous assignment and sale. And that the law of the State of New York is to govern the transaction, and not the law of the State of Illinois, where the property was situated.'

Messrs. Carlisle and Gale, in support of the motion to dismiss:

The record neither shows that the construction of any clause of the Constitution was drawn in question by the plaintiff in error, in the State court, nor that any right was

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claimed under any such clause, nor that any decision was made against any such right.

In fact the case did not admit of any constitutional question.

The defence set up in the State court was only that the safes, at the time of the seizure and sale, belonged to Bates, and that by such seizure and sale the plaintiff in error acquired Bates's title. The only issue thus formed was as to the right of property and possession at the time of such seizure; and this was the only issue tried and determined.

Messrs. Turnbull and A. J. Parker, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.

The section of the Constitution discussed in this case, declares that 'full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State. And that Congress may, by general laws, prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.'

The act of 1790 was intended to be an exercise of the power conferred upon Congress by this section. In the leading case of Mills v. Duryee, 2 this court held that the act in question did declare the effect of such judicial records, and that it should be the same in other States as that in which the proceedings were had. In the case of Christmas v. Russell, 3 decided at the present term of the court, we have reaffirmed this doctrine, and have further declared that no State can impair the effect thus to be given to judicial proceedings in her sister State, by a statute of limitation intended to operate on demands which may have passed into judgment by such proceedings, as though no such judgment had been rendered.

The record before us contains the pleadings in the case, the facts found by the court, and the conclusions of law arising thereon. And notwithstanding the inverted manner in

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which the court has stated its legal conclusions, it seems clear that it did pass upon the effect of the judicial proceedings in Illinois upon the title of the property in contest. The case is not varied by declaring that the mortgage made and delivered in New York overreached the subsequent attachment in Illinois. According to the view taken by that court, Van Buskirk, the plaintiff, had title to the property under the laws of New York by virtue of his mortgage, and the question to be decided was whether the proceedings in Illinois were paramount in their effect upon the title to the New York mortgage.

It is said that Van Buskirk being no party to the proceedings in Illinois was not bound by them, but was at liberty to assert his claim to the property in any forum that might be open to him; and, strictly speaking, this is true. He was not bound by way of estoppel, as he would have been if he had appeared and submitted his claim, and contested the proceedings in attachment. He has a right to set up any title to the property which is superior to that conferred by the attachment proceedings, and he has the further right to show that the property was not liable to the attachment--a right from which he would have been barred if he had been a party to that suit. And this question of the liability of the property in controversy to that attachment is the question which was raised by the suit in New York, and which was there decided. That court said that this question must be decided by the laws of the State of New York, bacause that was the domicil of the owner at the time the conflicting claims to the property originated.

We are of opinion that the question is to be decided by the effect given by the laws of Illinois, where the property was situated, to the proceedings in the courts of that State, under which it was sold.

There is no little conflict of authority on the general question as to how far the transfer of personal property by assignment or sale, made in the country of the domicil of the owner, will be held to be valid in the courts of the country where the property is situated, when these are in different sovereignties.

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The learned author of the Commentaries on the Conflict of Laws, has discussed the subject with his usual exhaustive research. And it may be conceded that as a question of comity, the weight of his authority is in favor of the proposition that such transfers will generally be respected by the courts of the country where the property is...

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