Sharp v. Sharp

Decision Date27 June 1916
Docket NumberCase Number: 7334
Citation166 P. 175,65 Okla. 76,1916 OK 736
PartiesSHARP v. SHARP.
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

¶0 Divorce--Foreign Judgment--Conclusiveness--Decree of Circuit Court of Oregon.

A decree of a circuit court of the state of Oregon, in a suit for divorce in which both parties appeared, which attempts to settle the defendant's equitable rights to lands in Oklahoma, in so far as such decree relates to the lands in Oklahoma is coram non judice and void and as such is not res adjudicata of the same claim in an action in Oklahoma between the same parties and involving the same land.

Error from Superior Court, Oklahoma County; Edward Dewes Oldfield, Judge.

Action in ejectment by Landis Sharp against Jennie Sharp. Judgment for plaintiff, and defendant appeals. Reversed.

Twyford & Smith, for plaintiff in error.

Harris, Nowlin & Singleton, for defendant in error.


¶1 This was an action in ejectment instituted in the superior court of Oklahoma county, to recover the possession of lot 26, block 5, Orchard Park addition to Oklahoma City.

¶2 The pleadings underwent various changes and amendments, but the essential facts relied upon are as follows: Plaintiff claimed title to the lot in question through a deed from one John Clardy, executed December 13, 1913, and duly recorded. He also claimed that the circuit court of Umatilla county, Or., in an action of divorce in which Landis Sharp was plaintiff and Jennie Sharp was defendant, in which action Jennie Sharp had appeared and filed her answer alleging that the property in question, as well as the other property, had been bought with their joint earnings, and that in equity the Oklahoma property belonged to her, had decreed that the property here involved was the sole property of the plaintiff, Landis Sharp. The defendant, upon the other hand, claimed that the decree of the Oregon court was not binding; that it was made without jurisdiction of the subject-matter, in so far as it related to the lots in question; that the property involved had been purchased by Landis Sharp with the money of the defendant, and that she was the owner of the equitable title thereto and entitled to have Landis Sharp declared a trustee of such property for her benefit. Upon the trial the plaintiff introduced his deed from John Clardy in evidence, and also introduced the record of the Oregon proceeding. It appears that in the case there the defendant, Jennie Sharp, appeared and set up somewhat similar facts in relation to the advancement of the money for the purchase of the Oklahoma property to those pleaded in the instant case. Landis Sharp, the plaintiff in that suit, replied, denying the facts set up in defendant's answer, and sought to have the court determine that he was--

"vested with the exclusive title, legal and equitable, of said property, and that the defendant has not and shall not have, in law or in equity, any right, title or interest, or estate therein, and that all right, title, interest, or estate by her claimed therein be by the decree of this court forever terminated and canceled."

¶3 The decree of the Oregon court is in part as follows:

"That plaintiff, Landis Sharp, is the owner of all of the real property in the pleadings in this suit filed particularly described, to wit [description of land in Oregon], and all of lot numbered 26, in block numbered 5 in Orchard Park addition to Oklahoma City in the state of Oklahoma, free from all right. title, interest, estate, and claim forever, of defendant, Jennie Sharp; that the defendant. Jennie Sharp, is not entitled to and shall not have any claim, right, title, interest or estate in or to any property, real or personal, owned by the plaintiff, and whatever property, real or personal, he owns is hereby declared and decreed to be his absolutely and free from any claim, interest or estate of the defendant."

¶4 After introducing these records the plaintiff rested, whereupon the defendant sought to prove that the land in question was bought with money belonging to her. This proof was by the trial court refused. She then sought to prove that the decree of the Oregon court was obtained by fraud, which proof was likewise refused.

¶5 The principal questions arise upon the contentions that the circuit court of Umatilla county, Or., was without jurisdiction, even upon personal appearance, to render any decree which would affect the title to lands in Oklahoma; that the decree rendered did so attempt to affect the title to land in this state, and that it was therefore void, and not within the protection of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution of the United States. No question is here made of the propriety of the Oregon court consider: ing the answer and cross-petition of the defendant, in an action for divorce, or of the reply of the plaintiff in which he sought to have the land in Oklahoma vested in him. The sole question is made upon the one hand that the Oregon court had no jurisdiction to render the decree which it did, and upon the other hand that the decree rendered operated purely in personam; that the Oregon court, having jurisdiction of both parties, was competent to make such a decree, and that it is therefore res adjudicata of the same question in the instant case.

¶6 In examining the various contentions here made we may primarily rest our decision upon certain well-established principles:

First: The judgment of a court rendered without jurisdiction is void. That is elementary in all courts. The effect of such a judgment was but recently declared by this court in Jefferson v. Gallagher, 56 Okla. 405, 150 P. 1071.
Second. The jurisdiction which is the fundamental requisite to a valid judgment is of three sorts: (1) Jurisdiction of the parties; (2) jurisdiction of the general subject-matter; (3) jurisdiction of the particular matter which the judgment professes to decide. Jefferson v. Gallagher, supra.
Third. The jurisdiction of any court exercising authority over any subject may be inquired into in every other county when the proceedings of the former are relied on and brought before the latter by a party claiming the benefit of such proceedings. This right of examination into jurisdiction is not confined alone to domestic judgments. but extends as well to the judgments of the courts of sister states. This doctrine was recognized in the Supreme Court of the United States in Elliott v. Peirsol, 26 U.S. (1 Pet.) 328, 7 L. Ed. 164, and has been followed in many cases, among them Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457. 21 L. Ed. 897, Haddock v. Haddock, 201 U.S. 562, 26 S. Ct. 525, 50 L. Ed. 867, 5 Ann. Cas. 1, Hart v. Sansom, 110 U.S. 151, 3 S. Ct. 580. 28 L. Ed. 101, Carpenter v. Strange, 141 U.S. 87, 11 S. Ct. 960, 35 L. Ed. 640, and Fall v. Eastin, 215 U.S. 1, 30 S. Ct. 3, 54 L. Ed. 65, 25 L. R. A. (N. S.) 924, 17 Ann. Cas. 853. It was announced by this court in Southern Pine Lumber Co. v. Ward, 16 Okla. 131, 85 P. 459; Earl v. Earl, 48 Okla. 442, 149 P. 1179, and In re Moore's Guardianship, 51 Okla. 731, 152 P. 378.
Fourth. Jurisdiction to render a judgment in rem inheres only in the courts of the state which is the situs of the res. Watkins v. Holman's Lessee, 16 Pet. 25, 10 L. Ed. 873; Harrison v. Harrison, L. R. 8 Ch. 342; Davis v. Headley, 22 N.J. Eq. 115; Clopton v. Booker, 27 Ark. 482; Williams v. Nichol, 47 Ark. 254, 1 S.W. 243; Winn v. Strickland, 34 Fla. 610, 16 So. 606; Poindexter v. Burwell, 82 Va. 507; Cooper v. Ives, 62 Kan. 395, 63 P. 434; Smith v. Smith, 174 Ill. 52, 50 N.E. 1083, 43 L. R. A. 403.
Fifth. A court of chancery acting in personam may by its decree adjudicate the rights of the parties before it, even though such rights relate to lands in another state, but it may only make such decree effective by requiring, through process for contempt or otherwise, a conveyance by the party of the lands in question, thus indirectly affecting the title to the land in the foreign state, but it has no power by mere force of its decree to establish the title to such lands, or, in the absence of a conveyance by the party, to direct its master commissioner to execute a deed in his stead. See the voluminous notes to Proctor v. Proctor, 69 L.R.A. 673, Fall v. Eastin, supra, as reported in 25 L. R. A. (N. S.) 924, and Burton-Lingo Co. v. Patton, 27 L. R. A. (N. S.) 420, Hart v. Sansom, supra, and Carpenter v. Strange, supra. This doctrine is succinctly stated in Fall v. Eastin, 215 U.S. 1, 30 S. Ct. 3, 54 L. Ed. 65, 25 L. R. A. (N. S.) 924, 17 Ann. Cas. 853, supra, as follows:
"But this legislation does not affect the doctrine which we have expressed, which rests, as we have said, on the well-recognized principle that, when the subject-matter of a suit in a court of equity is within another state or country, but the parties within the jurisdiction of the court, the suit may be maintained and remedies granted which may directly affect and operate upon the person of the defendant, and not upon the subject-matter, although the subject-matter is referred to in the decree, and the defendant is ordered to do or refrain from certain acts toward it, and it is thus ultimately but indirectly affected by the relief granted. In such case the decree is not of itself legal title, nor does it transfer the legal title. It must be executed by the party, and obedience is compelled by proceedings in the nature of contempt, attachment, or sequestration. On the other hand, where the suit is strictly local, the subject-matter is specific property, and the relief, when granted, is such that it must act directly upon the subject-matter, and not upon the person of the defendant, the jurisdiction must be exercised in the state where the subject-matter is situated. 3 Pom. Eq. Jur. secs. 1317, 1318, and notes."

¶7 Examining the decree of the Oregon court in the light of these principles, we come to the contentions of the defendant in error: First, that the decree does not attempt to vest any title to...

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