Schroeder v. 171.74 ACRES OF LAND, ETC.

Decision Date27 June 1963
Docket NumberNo. 17216.,17216.
Citation318 F.2d 311
PartiesJohn SCHROEDER, Roy M. Harrop and Homestead Corporation, Appellants v. 171.74 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, United States of America, Ned Tyson and Irma Tyson, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Frank L. Burbridge, Omaha, Neb., and Roy M. Harrop, Omaha Neb., for appellants.

James F. Green, Omaha, Neb., Reed O'Hanlon, Sr., Blair, Neb., on the brief, for appellees.

Before JOHNSEN, Chief Judge, MATTHES, Circuit Judge, and GIBSON, District Judge.

MATTHES, Circuit Judge.

The broad issue in this case is whether title to certain real estate condemned by the United States under power of eminent domain was vested in John Schroeder, Roy M. Harrop and Homestead Corporation (now American Co-operative Company), hereinafter referred to as appellants, or in Ned Tyson and Irma Tyson, his wife, hereinafter referred to as appellees.1 The right of the Government to condemn the land is conceded by all parties and is not an issue on this appeal. Judgment on the declaration of taking was duly entered, and the amount estimated by the acquiring authority as just compensation for the land, $11,470, was deposited in the registry of the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.

The United States District Court found that appellees were the owners of the land, and thus they would be entitled to the money on deposit. Sub nom. United States v. 171.74 Acres of Land, etc., D.Neb., 206 F.Supp. 322 (1962). Basing its decision upon the doctrine of res judicata, the United States District Court followed the judgment of the District Court of Washington County, Nebraska, affirmed on appeal, Schroeder v. Homestead Corp., 171 Neb. 792, 107 N.W.2d 750 (1961), cert. denied, Schroeder v. Williams, 368 U.S. 32, 82 S.Ct. 146, 7 L. Ed.2d 90 (1961) — a judgment that held that the Tysons were the owners in fee simple of the tract of land involved herein and that appellants had no right, title or interest therein.

A brief resume of the pertinent facts will aid in understanding the position of the parties and the basis for the lower court's decision.

Of the 171.74 acres that were condemned, 100.79 acres, more or less, the subject of this litigation, were designated as "Tract No. A-100E (Nebraska)" in the condemnation complaint. It was further alleged that this land was situated in Washington County, Nebraska, and that the "persons having or claiming an interest in the property whose names are ascertainable by a reasonably diligent search of the records * * * are Ned Tyson * * *."

Appellants intervened in the condemnation proceeding and asserted ownership of the tract of land in dispute based upon certain tax deeds issued to them in Iowa, and upon a judgment of the District Court for Harrison County, Iowa, finding them to be the fee simple owners of the land.2 The attempt by appellants Schroeder and Harrop to register and enforce the Iowa judgment in the Washington County, Nebraska court under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, §§ 25-1587 to 25-15,104, R.R.S.1943, gave rise to the Washington County, Nebraska judgment — a judgment that appellants attempted to collaterally attack as a nullity in this condemnation proceeding, alleging that the land is not in Washington County, Nebraska, and therefore that the Nebraska court lacked jurisdiction.3

The Tysons denied the claim of appellants, alleged that they were the owners in fee simple of Tract A-100E (Nebraska); that said tract was wholly and entirely located within Washington County, Nebraska; that their ownership of the land and its location in Washington County, Nebraska, had been determined by the District Court of Washington County, Nebraska, after a thorough trial in which both the Tysons and appellants herein were parties; and that the judgment of that court was res judicata as to the location and ownership of the land. In holding that fee simple title to the land in controversy was held by the Tysons, the Nebraska state court had found in pertinent part that:

(1) The judgment of the Harrison County, Iowa District Court was void since it lacked jurisdiction over the land, all of which was in Nebraska and not in Iowa.

(2) Since the Iowa judgment was void, it was not entitled to registration as a foreign judgment or to full faith and credit.

Motion for summary judgment filed by appellants in this action was denied and following a plenary trial, the court found that:

"Tract A-100E (Nebraska) is located within the boundaries of Tax Lot 1, Sec. 7, Township 19 North, Range 12, East of the 6th Principal Meridian in Washington County, Nebraska, and in recognition of the previous actions taken by the courts of Nebraska holds that title to said land is in defendants Tyson, and that defendants Schroeder, Harrop and Homestead Corp. have no right, title or interest therein." 206 F.Supp. at 326.

Thus, it becomes apparent that the narrow question on appeal is whether the federal court below erroneously determined that the adjudication in the Nebraska courts was conclusive and dispositive of the title issue which appellants sought to relitigate in this case.

Generally stated, under the doctrine of res judicata an existing final judgment rendered upon the merits, without fraud or collusion, by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of rights, questions and facts in issue as to the parties in all other actions in the same or any other judicial tribunal of concurrent jurisdiction. 30A Am.Jur., Judgments § 324; Treinies v. Sunshine Mining Co., 308 U.S. 66, 78, 60 S.Ct. 44, 84 L.Ed. 85 (1939); Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165, 171-173, 59 S.Ct. 134, 83 L.Ed. 104 (1938); American Surety Co. v. Baldwin, 287 U.S. 156, 53 S.Ct. 98, 77 L.Ed. 231 (1932); Baldwin v. Iowa State Traveling Men's Ass'n, 283 U.S. 522, 524-526, 51 S.Ct. 517, 75 L.Ed. 1244 (1931); Forsyth v. Hammond, 166 U.S. 506, 516-518, 17 S.Ct. 665, 41 L.Ed. 1095 (1897); Anderson v. Anderson, 155 Neb. 1, 50 N.W.2d 224 (1951); Baum v. McBride, 152 Neb. 152, 40 N.W.2d 649 (1950). See also Angel v. Bullington, 330 U.S. 183, 67 S.Ct. 657, 91 L.Ed. 832 (1947), and other authorities cited and discussed in Duke v. Durfee, 8 Cir., 308 F.2d 209 (1962).

The doctrine is but a manifestation of the recognition that endless litigation leads to chaos; that certainty in legal relations must be maintained; that after a party has had his day in court, justice, expediency, and the preservation of the public tranquillity requires that the matter be at an end. 30A Am. Jur., Judgments § 326. See also Commissioner v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 597, 68 S.Ct. 715, 92 L.Ed. 898 (1948); Baldwin v. Iowa State Traveling Men's Ass'n, supra, 283 U.S. at 525, 51 S.Ct. at 518.

"It is just as important that there should be a place to end as that there should be a place to begin litigation. After a party has his day in court, with opportunity to present his evidence and his view of the law, a collateral attack upon the decision as to jurisdiction there rendered merely retries the issue previously determined. There is no reason to expect that the second decision will be more satisfactory than the first." Stoll v. Gottlieb, supra, 305 U.S. at 172, 59 S.Ct. at 137.

The Stoll opinion, 305 U.S. at 173, 59 S.Ct. at 138, also reiterated the long-established rule that a former judgment in a state court is conclusive between the parties and their privies in a federal court when entered upon an actually contested issue as to the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of the litigation.

With these basic principles in mind we give further consideration to the question before us. The record makes it abundantly clear that the Missouri River originally served as the boundary line between Iowa and Nebraska, that the former or old channel of the Missouri River was west of the tract of land with which we are concerned, and that apparently the tract was at one time in Iowa. However, as a result of the eastward shift of the river, the tract became situated west of the new channel. Such changes in the river's course created troublesome boundary problems, which led to the enactment of the Iowa-Nebraska Boundary Compact in 1943, whereby a new boundary line between those states was described and established. See ratification by Iowa Legislature, approved April 15, 1943, Iowa Code Ann., Vol. 1, p. 85, also included in Reissue Revised Statutes of Nebraska 1943, Vol. 2A, pp. 663-665; ratification by Nebraska Legislature, approved May 7, 1943, Reissue Revised Statutes of Nebraska 1943, Vol. 2A, pp. 662-663; Act of July 12, 1943, Ch. 220, 57 U.S.Stat. at Large 494. The establishment of the new boundary line caused the land in question to be...

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