John Gleason v. Harry Thaw

Decision Date23 February 1915
Docket NumberNo. 143,143
Citation236 U.S. 558,35 S.Ct. 287,59 L.Ed. 717
PartiesJOHN B. GLEASON, Petitioner, v. HARRY K. THAW
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Mr. John B. Gleason, in propria persona, for petitioner.

Mr. William A. Stone for respondent.

Mr. Justice McReynolds delivered the opinion of the court:

The question for determination is whether the professional services of an attorney and counselor at law are property within the meaning of ¶2, § 17, of the bankrupt act (30 Stat. at L. 544, 550, chap. 541), as amended in 1903 (32 Stat. at L. 797, 798, chap. 487, Comp. Stat. 1913, §§ 9586, 9601), which excepts from the general release of a discharge 'liabilities for obtaining property by false pretenses or false representations.' The essential facts, in the words of the circuit court of appeals, are these:

'On June 28, 1906, the defendant, Harry K. Thaw, was indicted for murder committed in the city of New York. Briefly stated, the complaint alleges that, in order to secure the services of the plaintiff as chief counsel, the defendant represented that he was the owner of an interest of at least $500,000 in the estate of his father, and had an annual income of $30,000 in his own right. That relying upon these and other representations, the plaintiff consented to act as counsel for the defendant, and performed services for him in that capacity which were worth the sum of $60,000 over and above all payments. The complaint charges that all of these representations were false and made with fraudulent intent. The defendant, among other defenses, pleaded in a supplementary answer, his discharge in bankruptcy by the district court of Pennsylvania, dated December 29, 1910. To this the plaintiff demurs, insisting that the discharge is insufficient in law, the plaintiff's cause of action being liabilities for obtaining property by false representations.'

The trial court, following Gleason v. Thaw, 34 L.R.A.(N.S.) 894, 107 C. C. A. 463, 185 Fed. 345, overruled the demurrer and dismissed the complaint; the appellate court, upon the same authority, affirmed the judgment (116 C. C. A. 179, 196 Fed. 359).

Gleason v. Thaw, supra, came before the circuit court of appeals for the third circuit upon a petition to review the final order of the district court staying an action brought by Gleason on the same indebtedness here involved, and presented the identical question of law now before us. The court answered it in the negative, and among other things, in an opinion by Judge Gray, said:

'The very ingenious and forceful argument presented to this court by the petitioner for review is founded mainly upon the proposition that 'the right to command services of the value of $80,000 is property; the services also are property; the test is value—not degree of intangibility.' . . . That the word 'property' is nomen generalissimum, as asserted by the petitioner, in not to be denied, but no more is it to be denied that its meaning may be restricted, not only by the application of the maxim, noscitur a sociis, but by the purpose for which it is used, or by its evident use as a word of art, or by its use in a technical sense. The very generality of the word requires restriction. . . . There are, however, well-considered decisions of the highest authority, in which, from the view point of the particular case, personal rights and liberties are to be included within the meaning of the word 'property.' . . . Such cases, however, are far from saying that services actually rendered under a supposed contract are...

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    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Colorado
    • November 11, 1989
    ...767 (1979), quoting, Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244, 54 S.Ct. 695, 699, 78 L.Ed. 1230 (1934); Gleason v. Thaw, 236 U.S. 558, 562, 35 S.Ct. 287, 289, 59 L.Ed. 717, 719 (1915) ("nondischargeability be confined to those plainly expressed,"); In the Matter of Kokoszka, 479 F.2d 990, ......
  • In re Mayo
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    ...767 (1969), quoting, Local Loan Co. v. Hunt, 292 U.S. 234, 244, 54 S.Ct. 695, 699, 78 L.Ed. 1230 (1934); Gleason v. Thaw, 236 U.S. 558, 562, 35 S.Ct. 287, 289, 59 L.Ed. 717, 719 (1915) ("nondischargeability be confined to those plainly expressed,"); In the Matter of Kokoszka, 479 F.2d 990, ......
  • In re Bowden
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • March 18, 2005
    ...courts construe exceptions to discharge narrowly against the objecting creditor and in favor of the debtor. Gleason v. Thaw, 236 U.S. 558, 561-62, 35 S.Ct. 287, 59 L.Ed. 717 (1915); Foley & Lardner v. Biondo (In re Biondo), 180 F.3d 126, 130 (4th Cir.1999) (citing Century 21 Balfour Real Es......
  • In re Hathaway
    • United States
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • March 6, 2007
    ...courts construe exceptions to discharge narrowly against the objecting creditor and in favor of the debtor. Gleason v. Thaw, 236 U.S. 558, 561-62, 35 S.Ct. 287, 59 L.Ed. 717 (1915); Foley & Lardner v. Biondo (In re Biondo), 180 F.3d 126, 130 (4th Cir.1999) (citing Century 21 Balfour Real Es......
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    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • November 29, 2012
    ...reading of the exceptions to discharge. As the court explained in Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57, 62 (1998) (quoting Gleason v. Thaw, 236 U.S. 558, 562 (1915)), exceptions to discharge "should be confined to those plainly Second, the statutory structure implies the higher degree of culpab......
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