Thomas Fauntleroy v. Lum

Decision Date18 May 1908
Docket NumberNo. 215,215
Citation210 U.S. 230,28 S.Ct. 641,52 L.Ed. 1039
PartiesTHOMAS T. FAUNTLEROY, Plff. in Err., v. J. J. LUM
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Shepard Barclay, Robert L. McLaurin, Amos A. Armistead, E. L. Brien, Garner Wynn Green, and Marcellus Green for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 231 intentionally omitted] Messrs. T. C. Catchings and O. W. Catchings for defendant in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 232 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is an action upon a Missouri judgment, brought in a court of Mississippi. The declaration set forth the record of the judgment. The defendant pleaded that the original cause of action arose in Mississippi out of a gambling transaction in cotton futures; that he declined to pay the loss; that the controversy was submitted to arbitration, the question as to the illegality of the transaction, however, not being included in the submission; that an award was rendered against the defendant; that thereafter, finding the defendant temporarily in Missouri, the plaintiff brought suit there upon the award; that the trial court refused to allow the defendant to show the nature of the transaction, and that, by the laws of Mississippi, the same was illegal and void, but directed a verdict if the jury should find that the submission and award were made, and remained unpaid; and that a verdict was rendered and the judgment in suit entered upon the same. (The plaintiff in error is an assignee of the judgment, but nothing turns upon that.) The plea was demurred to on constitutional grounds, and the demurrer was overruled, subject to exception. Thereupon replications were filed, again setting up the Constitution of the United States (art. 4, § 1), and were demurred to. The supreme court of Mississippi held the plea good and the replications bad, and judgment was entered for the defendant. Thereupon the case was brought here.

The main argument urged by the defendant to sustain the judgment below is addressed to the jurisdiction of the Mississippi courts.

The laws of Mississippi make dealing in futures a misdemeanor, and provide that contracts of that sort, made without intent to deliver the commodity or to pay the price, 'shall not be enforced by any court.' Anotated Code of 1892, §§ 1120, 1121, 2117. The defendant contends that this language deprives the Mississippi courts of jurisdiction, and that the case is like Anglo-American Provision Co. v. Davis Provision Co. 191 U. S. 373, 48 L. ed. 225, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 92. There the New York statutes refused to provide a court into which a foreign corporation could come, except upon causes of action arising within the state, etc.; and it was held that the state of New York was under no constitutional obligation to give jurisdiction to its supreme court against its will. One question is whether that decision is in point.

No doubt it sometimes may be difficult to decide whether certain words in a statute are directed to jurisdiction or to merits, but the distinction between the two is plain. One goes to the power, the other only to the duty, of the court. Under the common law it is the duty of a court of general jurisdiction not to enter a judgment upon a parol promise made without consideration; but it has power to do it, and, if it does, the judgment is unimpeachable, unless reversed. Yet a statute could be framed that would make the power, that is, the jurisdiction, of the court, dependent upon whether there was a consideration or not. Whether a given statute is intended simply to establish a rule of substantive law, and thus to define the duty of the court, or is meant to limit its power, is a question of construction and common sense. When it affects a court of general jurisdiction, and deals with a matter upon which that court must pass, we naturally are slow to read ambiguous words as meaning to leave the judgment open to dispute, or as intended to do more than to fix the rule by which the court should decide.

The case quoted concerned a statute plainly dealing with the authority and jurisdiction of the New York court. The statute now before us seems to us only to lay down a rule of decision. The Mississippi court in which this action was brought is a court of general jurisdiction and would have to decide upon the validity of the bar, if the suit upon the award or upon the original cause of action had been brought there. The words 'shall not be enforced by any court' are simply another, possibly less emphatic, way of saying that an action shall not be brought to enforce such contracts. As suggested by the counsel for the plaintiff in error, no one would say that the words of the Mississippi statute of frauds, 'An action shall not be brought whereby to charge a defendant,' Code 1892, § 4225, go to the jurisdiction of the court. Of course it could be argued that logically they had that scope, but common sense would revolt. See 191 U. S. 375, 48 L. ed. 227, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 92. A stronger case than the present is General Oil Co. v. Crain, 209 U. S. 211, 216, ante, 475, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 475. We regard this question as open under the decisions below, and we have expressed our opinion upon it independent of the effect of the judgment, although it might be that, even if jurisdiction of the original cause of action was withdrawn, it remained with regard to a suit upon a judgment based upon an award, whether the judgment or award was conclusive or not. But it might be held that the law as to jurisdiction in one case followed the law in the other, and therefore we proceed at once to the further question, whether the illegality of the original cause of action in Mississippi can be relied upon there as a ground for denying a recovery upon a judgment of another state.

The doctrine laid down by Chief Justice Marshall was 'that the judgment of a state court should have the same credit, validity, and effect in every other court in the United States which it had in the state where it was pronounced, and that whatever pleas would be good to a suit thereon in such state, and none others, could be pleaded in any other court in the United States.' Hampton v. M'Connel, 3 Wheat. 234, 4 L. ed. 378. There is no doubt that this quotation was supposed to be an accurate statement of the law as late as Christmas v. Russell, 5 Wall. 290, 18 L. ed. 475, where an attempt of Mississippi, by statute, to go behind judgments recovered in other states, was declared void, and it was held that such judgments could not be impeached even for fraud.

But the law is supposed to have been changed by the decision in Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co. 127 U. S. 265, 32 L. ed. 239, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1370. That was a suit brought in this court by the state of Wisconsin upon a Wisconsin judgment against a foreign corporation. The judgment was for a fine or penalty imposed by the Wisconsin statutes upon such corporations doing business in the state and failing to make certain returns, and the ground of decision was that the jurisdiction given to this court by art. 3, § 2, as rightly interpreted by the judiciary act, now Rev. Stat. § 687, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 565, was confined to 'controversies of a civil nature,' which the judgment in suit was not. The case was not within the words of art. 1, § 1, and, if it had been, still it would not have, and could not have, decided anything relevant to the question before us. It is true that language was used which has been treated as meaning that the original claim upon which a judgment is based may be looked into further than Chief Justice Marshall supposed. But evidently it meant only to justify the conclusion reached upon the specific point decided, for the proviso was inserted that a court 'cannot go behind the judgment for the purpose of examining into the validity of the claim .' 127 U. S. 293. However, the whole passage was only a dictum and it is not worth while to spend much time upon it.

We asume that the statement of Chief Justice Marshall is correct. It is confirmed by the act of May 26, 1790, chap. 11, 1 Stat. at L. 122 (Rev. Stat. § 905, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 677), providing that the said records and judicial proceedings 'shall have such faith and credit given to them in every court within the United States as they have by law or usage in the courts of the state from whence the said records are or shall be taken.' See further Tilt v. Kelsey, 207 U. S. 43, 57, ante, 1, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1. Whether the award would or would not have been conclusive, and whether the ruling of the Missouri court upon that matter was right or wrong, there can be no question that the judgment was conclusive in Missouri on the validity of the cause of action. Pitts v. Fugate, 41 Mo. 405; State ex rel. Hudson v. Trammel, 106 Mo. 510, 17 S. W. 502; Re Copenhaver, 118 Mo. 377, 40 Am. St. Rep. 382, 24 S. W. 161. A judgment is conclusive as to all the media concludendi (United States v. California & O. Land Co. 192 U. S. 355, 48 L. ed. 476, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 266); and it needs no authority to show that it cannot be impeached either in or out of the state by showing that it was based upon a mistake of law. Of course, a want of jurisdiction over either the person or the subject-matter might be shown. Andrews v. Andrews, 188 U. S. 14, 47 L. ed. 366, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 237; Clarke v. Clarke, 178 U. S. 186, 44 L. ed. 1028, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 873. But, as the jurisdiction of the Missouri court is not open to dispute, the judgment cannot be impeached in Mississippi even if it went upon a misapprehension of the Mississippi law. See Godard v. Gray, L. R. 6 Q. B. 139; MacDonald v. Grand Trunk R. Co. 71 N. H. 448, 59 L.R.A. 448, 93 Am. St. Rep. 550, 52 Atl. 982; Peet v. Hatcher, 112 Ala. 514, 57 Am. St. Rep. 45, 21 So. 711.

We feel no apprehensions that painful or humiliating consequences will follow upon our decision. No court would give judgment for a plaintiff...

To continue reading

Request your trial
339 cases
  • Plaza Amusement Co. v. Rothenberg
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 15, 1930
    ... ... 235; McElroy v. Wagner, 13 ... Pet. 324; Christmas v. Russell, 5 Wall, 301; ... Haddock v. Haddock, 201 U.S. 567; Fauntleroy v. Lum, ... 210 U.S. 230, 52 L.Ed. 1039 ... The use ... and occupancy constituted the consideration wherefor rent was ... to be paid, ... 550; 3 Kent's Commentaries, 420; 2 Blackstone's ... Commentaries 35; Davis v. Fortenberry, 114 Miss ... 294, 75 So. 119; Pleas v. Thomas, 75 Miss. 495; ... Greenl. Cruise tit. "Deed" chap. 4, secs. 35, 36; ... Thompson v. Gregory, 4 Johns 81; Richter v ... Irwin, 28 Ind. 27; ... ...
  • Marin v. Augedahl
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 20, 1918
    ...nothing more. The true view of the subject is indicated in the following excerpts from our opinion in Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U. S. 230, 234, 237, 28 Sup. Ct. 641, 642 (52 L. Ed. 1039): 'No doubt it sometimes may be difficult to decide whether certain words in a statute are directed to juris......
  • Williams v. State of North Carolina
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • December 21, 1942
    ...others, could be pleaded in any other court in the United States.' That view has survived substantially intact. Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230, 28 S.Ct. 641, 52 L.Ed. 1039. This Court only recently stated that Art. IV, § 1 and the Act of May 26, 1790 require that 'not some but full' faith ......
  • Johnson v. Statewide Collections, Inc., 88-285
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • July 21, 1989
    ...is absent, then the order by the district court reversing the judgment of the county court would be a nullity. Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230, 28 S.Ct. 641, 52 L.Ed. 1039 (1908); Earle v. McVeigh, 91 U.S. 503, 23 L.Ed. 398 (1875); See Matter of Contempt Order Issued Against Anderson, 765 P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
  • Cannabis-Related Contract Enforcement: A Solution Presents Itself?
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • February 25, 2016
    ...to the second question, the ruling set forth in 1908 by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the Supreme Court decision Fauntleroy v. Lum 210 U.S. 230, 52 L.Ed. 1039, states that after an arbitration award has been confirmed by a state court, illegality is not a ground upon which a sister s......
20 books & journal articles
  • CHAPTER 9
    • United States
    • Full Court Press Zalma on Property and Casualty Insurance
    • Invalid date
    ...of the court. Of course it could be argued that logically they had that scope, but common sense would revolt.” Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230, 235, 52 L. Ed. 1039, 28 S. Ct. 641 (1908) (internal citation omitted).[20] The Court seeks to minimize these concerns by suggesting that the Brown ......
  • Non-recognition of Same-sex Marriage Judgments Under Doma and the Constitution
    • United States
    • Creighton University Creighton Law Review No. 38, 2004
    • Invalid date
    ...enforced in a sister State even though the original claim is contrary to the strong public policy of the sister State. Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230 (1908). This is a situation where no departure from the command of full faith and credit is permitted by the principles stated in § 103."(fn......
  • Non-recognition of Same-sex Marriage Judgments Under Doma and the Constitution
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 38, 2022
    • Invalid date
    ...enforced in a sister State even though the original claim is contrary to the strong public policy of the sister State. Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230 (1908). This is a situation where no departure from the command of full faith and credit is permitted by the principles stated in § 103."(fn......
  • The meaning of "general laws": the extent of Congress's power under the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 145 No. 6, June - June 1997
    • June 1, 1997
    ...notes 47-48 (explaining several exceptions). (44) Mills, 11 U.S. at 486-87 Johnson, J., dissenting). (45) See, eg., Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.S. 230 (1908). In this case, the Court held that Mississippi was bound by a Missouri court decision that enforced a gambling contract performed in Mis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT