Lawrence Sexton v. Leopold Louis Dreyfus No 662 Same v. Lloyds Bank No 663

Decision Date23 January 1911
Docket NumberNos. 662 and 663,s. 662 and 663
Citation219 U.S. 339,55 L.Ed. 244,31 S.Ct. 256
PartiesLAWRENCE E. SEXTON, as Trustee in Bankruptcy of Kessler & Company, Appts., v. LEOPOLD LOUIS DREYFUS, Louis Louis Dreyfus, and Charles Louis Dreyfus, Composing the Firm of Louis Dreyfus & Company. NO 662. SAME v. LLOYDS BANK, Ltd. NO 663
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Wallace Macfarlane and George H. Gilman for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 339-341 intentionally omitted] Mr. Frederic R. Coudert for Dreyfus & Company.

Mr. Rufus W. Sprague, Jr., for Lloyds Bank, Ltd.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 341-343 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

In both of these cases, secured creditors, selling their security some time after the filing of the petition in bankruptcy, and finding the proceeds not enough to pay the whole amount of their claims, were allowed by the referee to apply the proceeds first to interest accrued since the filing of the petition, then to principal, and to prove for the balance. The referee certified the question whether the creditors had a right to the interest. The district judge answered the question in the affirmative, giving the matter a very thorough and persuasive discussion, and declining to follow the English rule. Re Kessler, 171 Fed. 751. On appeal, his decision was affirmed by a majority of the circuit court of appeals. 180 Fed. 979.

The argument certainly is strong. A secured creditor could apply his security to interest first when the parties were solvent (Story v. Livingston, 13 Pet. 359, 371, 10 L. ed. 200, 206), the liens are not affected by the statute. § 67d [30 Stat. at L. 564, chap. 541, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3449]. The law is not intended to take away any part of the security that a creditor may have, as it would seem at first sight to do if the course adopted below were not followed. Some further countenance to that course is thought to be found in § 57, which provides that the value of securities shall be determined by converting them into money 'according to the terms of the agreement,' for it is urged that, by construction, the right to apply them to interest is as much part of the agreement as if it had been written in. Nevertheless, it seems to us that, on the whole, the considerations on the other side are stronger and must prevail.

For more than a century and a half the theory of the English bankrupt system has been that everything stops at a certain date. Interest was not computed beyond the date of the commission. Ex parte Bennet, 2 Atk. 527. This rule was applied to mortgages as well as to unsecured debts (Ex parte Wardell, 1787; Ex parte Hercy, 1702, 1 Cooke, Bankrupt Laws, 4th ed. 181 [1st ed. Appx.]); and notwithstanding occasional doubts, it has been so applied with the prevailing assent of the English judges ever since (Ex parte Badger, 4 Ves. Jr. 165; Ex parte Ramsbottom, 2 Mont. & A. 79; Ex parte Penfold, 4 De G. & S. 282; Ex parte Lubbock, 9 Jur. N. S. 854; Re Savin, L. R. 7 Ch. 760, 764; Ex parte Bath, L. R. 22 Ch. Div. 450, 454; Quartermaine's Case [1892] 1 Ch. 639; Re Bonacino, 1 Manson, 59). As appears from Cooke, supra, the rule was laid down not because of the words of the statute, but as a fundamental principle. We take our bankruptcy system from England, and we naturally assume that the fundamental principles upon which it was administered were adopted by us when we copied the system, somewhat as the established construction of a law goes with the words where they are copied by another state. No one doubts that interest on unsecured debts stops. See § 63(1). Shawnee County v. Hurley, 94 C. C. A. 362, 169 Fed. 92, 94.

The rule is not unreasonable when closely considered. It simply fixes the moment when the affairs of the bankrupt are supposed to be wound up. If, as in a wellknown illustration of Chief Justice Shaw's (Parks v. Boston, 15 Pick. 198, 208), the whole matter could be settled in a day by a pie-powder court, the secured creditor would be called upon to sell or have his security valued on the spot, would receive a dividend upon that footing, would suffer no injustice, and could not complain. If, under § 57 of the present act, the value of the security should be determined by agreement or arbitration, the time for fixing it naturally would be the date of the petition. At that moment the creditors acquire a right in rem against the assets. Chemical Nat. Bnak v. Armstrong, 28 L.R.A. 231, 8 C. C. A. 155, 16 U. S. App. 465, 59 Fed. 372, 378, 379; Merrill v. National Bank, 173 U. S. 131,...

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    ...as conclusive. Gamble v. Wimberly, 4 Cir., 44 F.2d 329, was a case settling the affairs of a national bank and followed the ruling in Sexton v. Dreyfuss. Counsel for Chemical say in relying on this authority Miller's counsel seek to blow both hot and cold in that the "equity rule" was being......
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  • United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc
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    • United States Supreme Court
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    ...was, indeed, a pre-Code rule that the running of interest ceased when a bankruptcy petition was filed. See Sexton v. Dreyfus, 219 U.S. 339, 344, 31 S.Ct. 256, 257, 55 L.Ed. 244 (1911). Two exceptions to this rule had been recognized under pre-Code ractice. The first allowed postpetition int......
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    ...ahead of payment to the debtor." Colortex, 19 F.3d at 1376 (citing Saper, 336 U.S. at 332 n. 7, 69 S.Ct. at 556 n. 7; Sexton, 219 U.S. at 344, 31 S.Ct. at 257); see American Iron & Steel Mfg. Co. v. Seaboard Air Line Ry., 233 U.S. 261, 267, 34 S.Ct. 502, 504-05, 58 L.Ed. 949 (1914). The sol......
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    • United States
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