Jackson v. Irving Trust Co

Decision Date06 January 1941
Docket NumberNo. 75,75
Citation311 U.S. 494,85 L.Ed. 297,61 S.Ct. 326
PartiesJACKSON, Attorney General, v. IRVING TRUST CO. et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Robert H. Jackson, Atty. Gen., and Francis M. Shea, Asst. Atty. Gen., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from page 495 intentionally omitted] Mr. Nathan L. Miller, of New York City, for respondents.

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

In a suit brought in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York under Section 9(a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act,1 a decree was entered on December 30, 1929, directing payment to the plaintiffs of a stated amount out of the property of a German corporation which had been seized by the Alien Property Custodian. There was no appeal and the amount awarded was paid.

In 1938 the United States moved upon affidavits to set aside the decree contending that the court had been without jurisdiction. The District Court granted the motion upon that ground. Sorenson v. Sutherland, 27 F.Supp. 44. The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the original decree. 2 Cir., 109 F.2d 714. Certiorari was granted. Jackson v. Irving Trust Co., 310 U.S. 621, 60 S.Ct. 1103, 84 L.Ed. 1394.

It appears that the suit had been brought in 1927 by John S. Sorenson and Thorlief S. B. Nielsen, as surviving partners of the firm of Crossman & Sielcken. The bill of complaint alleged that plaintiffs and Hermann Sielcken, the deceased partner, were citizens and residents of the United States; that the partnership had its principal place of business in New York City and had not at any time been a 'resident' in enemy territory and had not been an enemy or ally of enemy within the meaning of the Trading with the Enemy Act; that Zentral-Einkaufs-Gesellschaft, m.b.H., a German corporation described as Z.E.G., was indebted to Crossman & Sielcken for cargoes purchased by the latter for Z.E.G. during 1915 and consigned to neutral ports where they had been seized and condemned by the British Government; and that the Alien Property Custodian had assets of Z.E.G. which had been seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The bill prayed for a decree establishing the debt claimed by the plaintiffs and ordering its payment to them out of the property so held. The bill declared that it was filed pursuant to Section 9(a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act and that the court had jurisdiction to entertain it by virtue of the express terms of that provision.

The defendants, the Alien Property Custodian defenses of Z.E.G. averred that the partnership States appeared generally. They moved to dismiss the bill on the grounds (1) that it appeared affirmatively therefrom that no debt was owing to the plaintiffs from any enemy whose property had been seized and was then held, (2) that it appeared affirmatively that no debt was owing to the plaintiffs by Z.E.G., and (3) that the plaintiffs had not stated facts sufficient to entitle them to equitable relief under the provisions of the Act. The defendants also answered denying knowledge as to the averments of the bill which set forth the citizenship and residence of the plaintiffs and Sielcken and the locus of the partnership, and those concerning the transactions said to have given rise to the debt. As an affirmative defense, it was alleged that there were prior claims to the seized property of Z.E.G. The latter being joined as defendant also answered putting in issue allegations relating to the claim and setting up various affirmative defenses. One of these asserted that plaintiffs did not have title to the cause of action, since the Alien Property Custodian was alleged to have seized the assets of Crossman & Sielcken as an enemy firm because Sielcken resided in Germany and became an enemy. Other of Z.E.G. averred that the partnership of Crossman & Sielcken had been dissolved through the outbreak of the war, and that the claim thereupon had passed to Sielcken and upon his death to his German executors who had entered into an arbitration agreement with Z.E.G., and that the arbitrators had found no liability on its part.

On the trial, at the close of the evidence on both sides, defendants moved to dismiss upon the ground that plaintiffs had failed to prove their case. The District Court denied the motions and held that the partnership had not been dissolved by the outbreak of the war and that Z.E.G. was indebted as claimed; that the executors of Sielcken in Germany had no authority to dispose of a partnership asset which had come into existence long prior to our entering the war; and that plaintiffs were entitled to a decree for the relief prayed for. Decree was entered accordingly.

While the present motion to vacate the decree was upon the sole ground that the court had no jurisdiction to enter it, there was some attempt in the affidavits on the motion to show that the decree was collusive. But, as the Circuit Court of Appeals observed, there was no bill of review presenting such a question and no justification for setting aside a decree upon that ground merely upon affidavits. The Government expressly disclaims any challenge to that ruling. As to the question of jurisdiction, the Circuit Court of Appeals held that the District Court upon the trial of the suit was obliged to resolve disputed questions of fact and that its decision that the jurisdictional facts were established could not be attacked collaterally. Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165, 59 S.Ct. 134, 83 L.Ed. 104; Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 60 S.Ct. 317, 84 L.Ed. 329.

Petitioner thus states the question upon which review is asked in this Court: 'Whether an unappealed judgment against the Alien Property Custodian under Section 9(a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act, on a claim to recover for a debt, may be set aside for want of jurisdiction on the ground that the beneficial owner of the claim sued on was an 'enemy' as defined by that Act'.

Petitioner argues that the judgment was void since it was not authorized by the Trading with the Enemy Act and thus the suit was a suit against the United States to which the United States had not consented and over which, therefore, the District Court had no jurisdiction.

We hold the argument untenable. There is no question here of the sort presented in United States v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, 309 U.S. 506, 60 S.Ct. 653, 84 L.Ed. 894, of want of consent to be sued or of an attempt on the part of officials to waive the sovereign immunity. The United States had expressly consented in Section 9(a) of the Trading with the Enemy Act that suits might be brought by a non-enemy claimant to have his claim against an enemy debtor satisfied out of the latter's property held by the Alien Property Custodian. The pertinent parts of the section are set forth in the margin.2

The statute provides that any person not an enemy or ally of enemy3 'claiming' any interest or right in the property seized or to whom any debt may be owing by the alien enemy may sue the Custodian and Treasurer. He may sue 'to establish the interest, right, title, or debt so claimed'. The court is to determine whether his claim is established. If the claim is 'so established', the court is to order the delivery of property or payment 'to which the court shall determine said claimant is entitled'. Nothing could be...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 cases
  • J. Aron and Co., Inc. v. Service Transp. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 11 Mayo 1981
    ...91 S.Ct. 1434, 28 L.Ed.2d 788 (1971); Heiser v. Woodruff, 327 U.S. 726, 66 S.Ct. 853, 90 L.Ed. 970 (1946); Jackson v. Irving Trust Co., 311 U.S. 494, 61 S.Ct. 326, 85 L.Ed. 297 (1941); Sunshine Anthracite Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S. 381, 60 S.Ct. 907, 84 L.Ed. 1263 (1940). Under this feder......
  • SLAZENGERS v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals (CCPA)
    • 8 Octubre 1957
    ...States v. Saunders, 5 Ct.Cust.App. 270, 272, T.D. 34446; United States v. Brown, Durrell & Co., supra; Jackson v. Irving Trust Co., 311 U.S. 494, 499, 503, 61 S. Ct. 326, 85 L.Ed. 297; Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 376-377, 60 S.Ct. 317, 84 L.Ed. 329; S......
  • Perkins v. Endicott Johnson Corporation
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • 6 Mayo 1942
    ...84 L.Ed. 85; Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank, 308 U.S. 371, 60 S.Ct. 317, 84 L.Ed. 329; Jackson v. Irving Trust Co., 311 U.S. 494, 61 S.Ct. 326, 85 L.Ed. 297; Sunshine Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S. 381, 60 S.Ct. 907, 84 L. Ed. 1263. The newer doctrine applies to judicial......
  • Durfee v. Duke
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 2 Diciembre 1963
    ...11 See also Sunshine Anthracite Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S. 381, 403, 60 S.Ct. 907, 917, 94 L.Ed. 1263; Jackson v. Irving Trust Co., 311 U.S. 494, 61 S.Ct. 326, 85 L.Ed. 297. 12 It is to be noted, however, that in neither of these cases had the jurisdictional issues actually been litigated......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT