Reed v. Allen, No. 600

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSUTHERLAND
Citation52 S.Ct. 532,286 U.S. 191,76 L.Ed. 1054,81 A. L. R. 703
PartiesREED et al. v. ALLEN
Docket NumberNo. 600
Decision Date16 May 1932

286 U.S. 191
52 S.Ct. 532
76 L.Ed. 1054
REED et al.

v.

ALLEN.

No. 600.
Argued and Submitted April 18, 1932.
Decided May 16, 1932.

Page 192

Messrs. J. Wilmer Latimer, Walter C. Clephane, and Gilbert L. Hall, all of Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 192-193 intentionally omitted]

Page 194

Mr. George C. Gertman, of Washington, D. C., for respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 194-196 intentionally omitted]

Page 196

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1922, Thomas Walker filed a bill of interpleader in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, naming as defendants these petitioners (or their predecessors) and this respondent, for the purpose of having determined, as between them, the ownership of money then in the hands of Walker, which he had collected as rentals from certain real property. The rights of the rival claimants to the funds depended upon the construction of the will of Silas Holmes. The court construed the will in favor of petitioners and against respondent, and thereupon entered a decree awarding the money to the former.

Thereafter, and pending an appeal from that decree to the District Court of Appeals taken without a supersedeas, petitioners brought an action in ejectment against respondent to recover the real estate from which the rents had been derived. The title which they asserted in that action rested upon the same provisions of the Holmes will as were involved in the interpleader suit; and petitioners pleaded and relied upon the decree in that suit as having conclusively established the construction of these provisions in their favor. See Lessee of Parrish v. Ferris, 2 Black, 606, 608, 17 L. Ed. 317. Judgment was rendered for petitioners, and possession of the real property delivered to them under a writ issued to carry the judgment into effect. From this judgment respondent did not appeal. Thereafter, the District Court of Appeals reversed the decree of the District Supreme Court in the interpleader suit and remanded the cause for further proceedings not inconsistent with its opinion. 57 App. D. C. 78, 17 F.(2d) 666. Following the mandate issued thereon, the trial court vacated its decree and directed payment of the rental money to the respondent.

Page 197

Some months later a second ejectment action was brought, this time by respondent against petitioners for the repossession of the same real property. By way of estoppel petitioners pleaded the final judgment in the first ejectment action, upon which the trial court gave judgment in their favor. Upon appeal to the District Court of Appeals the latter judgment was reversed. 54 F.(2d) 713.

The appellate court thought that the first ejectment action was merely in aid of the decree in the equity suit, and that when that decree was reversed the judgment in the first ejectment action fell with it. With that view we cannot agree. The interpleader suit and the decree made therein involved only the disposition of the funds collected and held by Walker. The decree adjudged, and could adjudge, nothing in respect of the real estate. It is perfectly plain, therefore, that petitioners could not have been put into possession of the real property by force of that decree; and it is equally plain that respondent could not have been put into such possession in virtue of the reversal. So far as that property is concerned, the rule in respect of restitution upon reversal of a judgment is irrelevant. The first action in ejectment was not brought to effectuate anything adjudicated by the decree, or, in any sense, in aid thereof. It was brought to obtain an adjudication of a claim in respect of a different subject matter. The facts and the law upon which the right to the money and the title to the realty depended may have been the same; but they were asserted in different causes of action. The decree in the interpleader suit no more vested title to, or compelled delivery of possession of, the realty than the judgment in the ejectment action required payment to one party or the other of the money surrendered by the stakeholder. Compare United States v. Moser, 266 U. S. 236, 241, 45 S. Ct. 66, 69 L. Ed. 262.

Page 198

The judgment in the ejectment action was final and not open to assault collaterally, but subject to impeachment only through some form of direct attack. The appellate court was limited to a review of the interpleader decree; and it is hardly necessary to say that jurisdiction to review one judgment gives an appellate court no power to reverse or modify another and independent judgment. If respondent, in addition to appealing from the decree, had appealed from the judgment, the appellate court, having both cases before it, might have afforded a remedy. Butler v. Eaton, 141 U. S. 240, 11 S. Ct. 985, 35 L. Ed. 713. But this course respondent neglected to follow. What the appellate court would or could have done if an appeal from the judgment had been taken and had been heard in advance of the appeal from the decree is idle speculation, since the probability that such a contingency would have arisen is so remote as to put it beyond the range of reasonable supposition. In the first place, the appeal from the decree had been taken and was pending when the judgment in the law action was rendered. It well may be assumed that the natural and usual course of hearing cases in the order of their filing would have been followed. But, in addition to that, both appeals necessarily would have been pending before the appeal from the judgment possibly could have been heard, and it rationally may not be doubted that, upon application and a showing of their relationship, the court would have heard them together, or at least not have disposed of the appeal from the judgment without considering its connection with the other appeal from the decree.

The predicament in which respondent finds himself is of his own making, the result of an utter failure to follow the course which the decision of this court in Butler v. Eaton, supra, had plainly pointed out. Having so failed, we cannot be expected, for his sole relief, to upset the general and well-established doctrine of res judicata, conceived in the light of the maxim that the interest of the

Page 199

state requires that there be an end to litigation-a maxim which comports with common sense as well as public policy. And the mischief which would follow the establishment of a precedent for so disregarding this salutary doctrine against prolonging strife would be greater than the benefit which would result from relieving some case of individual hardship. United States v. Throckmorton, 98 U. S. 61, 65, 68, 69, 25 L. Ed. 93.

The rule has been settled for this court that, where a judgment in one case has successfully been made the basis for a judgment in a second case, the second judgment will stand as res judicata, although the first judgment be subsequently reversed. Deposit Bank v. Frankfort, 191 U. S. 499, 24 S. Ct. 154, 48 L. Ed. 276. There a federal court had upheld a contract of exemption from taxation, basing its decision upon the judgment of a state court of first instance. Subsequently that judgment was reversed. On error to the state court of appeals, it was held that under the doctrine of res judicata the judgment of the federal court estopped each party from again litigating the question. Speaking for the court, Mr. Justice Day said (pages 510, 511 of 191 U. S., 24 S. Ct. 154, 158):

'It is urged that the state judgment upon which the Federal decree of 1898 is based was afterwards reversed by the highest court of Kentucky, and, therefore, the foundation of the decree has been removed, and the decree itself must fall. But is this argument sound? When a plea of res judicata is interposed, based upon a former judgment between the parties, the question is not what were the reasons upon which the judgment proceeded, but what was the judgment itself; was it within the jurisdiction of the court, between the same parties, and is it still in force and effect? The doctrine of estoppel by judgment is founded upon the proposition that all controversies and contentions involved are set at rest by a judgment or decree lawfully rendered which, in its terms, em-

Page 200

bodied a settlement of the right of the parties. It would undermine the foundation of the principle upon which it is based if the court might inquire into and revise the reasons which led the court to make the judgment. * * * We are unable to find reason or authority supporting the proposition that because a judgment may have been given for wrong reasons or has been susequently reversed, that it is any the less effective as an estoppel between the parties while in force.'

'It is to be remembered.' the court added (p. 512 of 191 U. S., 24 S. Ct. 154, 158), 'that we are not dealing with the right of the parties to get relief from the original judgment by bill of review or other process in the Federal court in which it was rendered. There the court may reconsider and set aside or modify its judgment upon seasonable application. In every other forum the reasons for passing the decree are wholly immaterial and the subsequent reversal of the judgment upon which it is predicated can have no other effect than to authorize the party aggrieved to move in some proper proceeding, in the court of its rendition, to modify it or set it aside. It cannot be attacked collaterally, and in every other court must be given full force and effect, irrespective of the reasons upon which it is based.'

Parkhurst v. Berdell, 110 N. Y. 386, 392, 18 N. E. 123, 126, 6 Am. St. Rep. 384, is cited with approval. In that case the Court of Appeals of New York rejected the contention that the reversal of a judgment which had been given effect as an estoppel in a second action would avoid the force of the second judgment:

'If the judgment roll was competent evidence when...

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179 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Truckee-Carson Irrigation Dist., State of Nev., TRUCKEE-CARSON
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 10, 1981
    ...93 (1878). We are not free to suspend the application of the Orr Ditch decree merely because we may think it erroneous. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 199-200, 52 S.Ct. 532, 533-34, 76 L.Ed. 1054 (1932); Hatchitt v. United States, 158 F.2d 754, 756 (9th Cir. We do not minimize the policies th......
  • Ex parte Hovermale, No. 04-82-00017-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • June 30, 1982
    ...character Page 835 of judgments, consequences which it was the very purpose of the doctrine of res judicata to avert. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 201, 52 S.Ct. 532, 534, 76 L.Ed. 1054 452 U.S., at 396-398, 101 S.Ct., at 2427-2428, 69 L.Ed.2d, at 108-109. Still further the court stated: Thi......
  • Bronson v. BD. OF EDUCATION, ETC., No. C-1-74-205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 11, 1982
    ...an end to litigation.'" Polansky, Collateral Estoppel—Effect of Prior Litigation, 39 Iowa L.Rev. 217, 219 (1954), quoting Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 198, 52 S.Ct. 532, 533, 76 L.Ed. 1054 (1932). See also, Bronson, supra, 525 F.2d at 349. As recently reiterated by the Supreme Court, the do......
  • Federated Department Stores, Inc v. Moitie, No. 79-1517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1981
    ...to appeal merely because his rights are "closely interwoven" with those of another party who successfully appeals. Cf. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 52 S.Ct. 532, 76 L.Ed. 1054. Nor is there any principle of law or equity which sanctions rejection of the salutary principle of res judicata on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
179 cases
  • U.S. v. Truckee-Carson Irrigation Dist., State of Nev., TRUCKEE-CARSON
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • July 10, 1981
    ...93 (1878). We are not free to suspend the application of the Orr Ditch decree merely because we may think it erroneous. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 199-200, 52 S.Ct. 532, 533-34, 76 L.Ed. 1054 (1932); Hatchitt v. United States, 158 F.2d 754, 756 (9th Cir. We do not minimize the policies th......
  • Ex parte Hovermale, No. 04-82-00017-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • June 30, 1982
    ...character Page 835 of judgments, consequences which it was the very purpose of the doctrine of res judicata to avert. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 201, 52 S.Ct. 532, 534, 76 L.Ed. 1054 452 U.S., at 396-398, 101 S.Ct., at 2427-2428, 69 L.Ed.2d, at 108-109. Still further the court stated: Thi......
  • Bronson v. BD. OF EDUCATION, ETC., No. C-1-74-205.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • February 11, 1982
    ...an end to litigation.'" Polansky, Collateral Estoppel—Effect of Prior Litigation, 39 Iowa L.Rev. 217, 219 (1954), quoting Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 198, 52 S.Ct. 532, 533, 76 L.Ed. 1054 (1932). See also, Bronson, supra, 525 F.2d at 349. As recently reiterated by the Supreme Court, the do......
  • Federated Department Stores, Inc v. Moitie, No. 79-1517
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 15, 1981
    ...to appeal merely because his rights are "closely interwoven" with those of another party who successfully appeals. Cf. Reed v. Allen, 286 U.S. 191, 52 S.Ct. 532, 76 L.Ed. 1054. Nor is there any principle of law or equity which sanctions rejection of the salutary principle of res judicata on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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