State ex rel. Com'rs of Land Office of Said State v. Warden

Citation242 P.2d 129,206 Okla. 223
Decision Date27 November 1951
Docket NumberNo. 34170,34170
CourtOklahoma Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Interest is recoverable on judgment against state from and after its date at legal rate. 15 O.S.1941 § 274.

2. The provisions of Art. XI, secs. 2 and 3 of Oklahoma Constitution do not apply to trust funds, held by Commissioners of the Land Office in suit in accounting, which have not become property of the state.

3. Where, in an accounting suit involving bonus money received for oil and gas leases, defendants are adjudged to be the owners of, and are awarded judgment for approximately $20,000.00, held by plaintiff, the State of Oklahoma ex rel. Commissioners of the Land Office, and, upon appeal by both parties, this court fixes the amount for which defendants should have judgment at approximately $27,000.00, and reverses the judgment and remands the cause for proceedings complying with such conclusion, the original judgment for $20,000.00 bears interest from the date thereof until paid by reason of 15 O.S.1941 § 274.

T. J. Lee, R. H. Dunn and Sam Hill, all of Oklahoma City, for plaintiff in error.

Cook & Bingaman and H. H. Montgomery, all of Purcell, for defendants in error.

DAVISON, Justice.

This action originated in 1937 by the plaintiff. The State of Oklahoma on relation of The Commissioners of the Land Office, filing suit to foreclose a mortgage covering some 107 acres of land in McClain County, Oklahoma. Irving C. Warden and his wife, Bessie S. Warden, the mortgagors, and numerous other parties were made defendants. The case has, on two previous occasions, been before this court. The parties will be referred to as they appeared in the trial court which is the same order in which they appear here.

Pursuant to foreclosure judgment rendered on March 5, 1941, the property was sold to plaintiff at sheriff's sale which was confirmed on March 5, 1942. Subsequently and on August 12, 1944, upon motion of one of the defendants who was in the armed forces, the foreclosure judgment was vacated and the sale proceedings founded thereon were set aside. On appeal to this court, that action of the trial court was affirmed. State ex rel. Com'rs of the Land Office v. Warden et al., 197 Okl. 97, 168 P.2d 1010.

Lying immediately north and east of the lands embraced in the mortgage but separated therefrom by the Canadian River, which formed the common boundary line, was another tract of land owned in fee by plaintiff, to which title had been obtained by grant. During the years, there had been a gradual change in the course of the river and a resultant change in the boundary line between the two parcels of land. A short time prior to the order vacating the foreclosure judgment, the plaintiff, being in possession of both tracts, had, with the approval of the trial court dated December 8, 1943, executed several oil and gas leases. each covering a portion of the land owned in fee and a portion of the land covered by the mortgage. This approval of the court was on condition that the proceeds thereof be held subject to order of the court pending final determination of the action and to abide the judgment therein. The plaintiff received, in bonuses, something over $40,000.00 for the execution of these leases. The entire mortgage debt was between three and four thousand dollars.

When the cause was remanded and the defendants permitted to discharge the mortgage debt and retain title, it became necessary for the trial court, because of the change in the common boundary line between the fee lands and the mortgaged lands occasioned by the change in course of the river, to determine the location of that common boundary line and the acreage in each tract, so that the bonus money, received from the sale of the oil and gas leases thereon and held by plaintiff, might be equitably distributed between the parties entitled thereto. On November 22, 1946, after the mandate from this court was filed, the trial court rendered judgment fixing the boundaries of the properties and, in the accounting, awarded defendants a net judgment, after deduction of the mortgage indebtedness, of $33,844.48 with interest thereon at 6% per annum from said date until paid. Among others, the judgment contained a finding that the bonus money had 'been paid to the plaintiff therein under order of this court and the plaintiff holds the same in custody of this court.' Thereafter, plaintiff paid defendants approximately $13,000.00 on the judgment, continuing to hold the balance of some $20,000.00. Both plaintiff and defendants appealed to this court from that judgment, each urging that the trial court erred in the location of the boundary line. This court, on appeal, held that the defendants were the owners of a substantially greater acreage in the bed of the river than had been adjudged theirs by the trial court. State ex rel. Com'rs of the Land Office v. Warden et al., 200 Okl. 613, 198 P.2d 402. In order to effectuate the conclusion reached, this court reversed and remanded the cause for further proceedings not inconsistent with the views expressed in the opinion.

Upon further hearing after remand, the trial court rendered judgment for defendants on October 28, 1948 in the principal amount of slightly more than $27,000.00, reserving for future consideration the question of interest on the amount unpaid on the original judgment of November 22, 1946, which was included in this latter judgment. Plaintiff paid defendants the principal amount of the judgment of October 28, 1948. Thereafter, on December 16, 1948, the trial court rendered judgment against plaintiff for the additional sum of $2,378.82 being interest at the rate of 6% per annum on the unpaid $20,685.39 portion of the judgment of November 22, 1946 from the date of its rendition until its payment in October 1948. This appeal has been perfected by plaintiff from the judgment of December 16, 1948, for $2,378.82, the item of interest.

For reversal, plaintiff first urges that 'Interest is not a proper charge against the State in the absence of contract or statute specifically authorizing the State to pay interest;' and that 'Interest is in the nature of damages and damages cannot be awarded against the sovereign without its consent.'

In argument, plaintiff stresses the rule applied in the case of Schlesinger v. State, 195 Wis. 366, 218 N.W. 440, 441, 57 A.L.R. 352, to the effect that, 'Interest, when not stipulated for by contract, or authorized by statute, * * * is not to be awarded against a sovereign government, unless its consent to pay interest has been manifested by an act of its Legislature, or by a lawful contract of its executive officers. * * *' and contends that the same was approved by this court in the case of State ex rel. Com'rs of the Land Office et al. v. Brunson, 175 Okl. 101, 51 P.2d 500, wherein the Schlesinger case was cited. But, in the case at bar, we are not confronted with the question of the soundness of that rule. Rather is it a question of the extent of applicability of the provisions of that part of 15 O.S.1941 § 274, as follows: 'All judgments of courts of record and justices of the peace shall bear interest from the date on which they are rendered at the rate of six per cent. per annum: * * *.'

The plaintiff in this case stands in the position...

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6 cases
  • Crowe v. Wright
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • February 9, 2021
    ...the issue of interest on a judgment against the State as "a question of first impression in this court." State ex rel. Comm'rs of Land Office v. Warden,1951 OK 334, 242 P.2d 129. Warden did not involve an ad valorem tax refund. However, in support of its rationale our Court cited the Tenth ......
  • Throneberry v. Wright
    • United States
    • Oklahoma Supreme Court
    • February 9, 2021
    ...against the State as "a question of first impression in this court." State ex rel. Comm'rs of Land Office v. Warden , 1951 OK 334, 206 Okla. 223, 242 P.2d 129. Warden did not involve an ad valorem tax refund. However, in support of its rationale our Court cited the Tenth Circuit Court's opi......
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