United States v. 171.74 ACRES OF LAND, ETC.

Decision Date30 June 1962
Docket NumberCond. No. 148.
Citation206 F. Supp. 322
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. 171.74 ACRES OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, situate IN WASHINGTON COUNTY, NEBRASKA; Ned Tyson, Harry Tyson, Viggo Anderson, Birdie Anderson, and unknown others, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Nebraska

Frederic J. Coufal, Asst. U. S. Atty., Omaha, Neb., for plaintiff.

Reed O'Hanlon, Sr., O'Hanlon & O'Hanlon, Blair, Neb., for defendants Tyson.

Frank L. Burbridge, Arthur C. Thomsen, and Roy M. Harrop, Omaha, Neb., for defendants Schroeder, Harrop and Homestead Corp.

VAN PELT, District Judge.

There is before the court for resolution a dispute concerning title to certain lands which have been condemned by the United States of America.

The land involved has been designated Tract No. A-100E (Nebraska), and is described in the schedule attached to the complaint as a tract of land "situated in Section 7, Township 19 North, Range 12, East of the 6th Principal Meridian, Washington County, Nebraska, said tract being a portion of the accretion land known as Tax Lot 1 * * *." Defendant Ned Tyson, Herman, Nebraska, is listed as "purported" owner. Defendants Schroeder, Harrop and Homestead Corp., now American Cooperative Company, filed a pleading in which they alleged a fee simple title in themselves to certain of the land contained in Tract No. A-100E. Defendants Ned and Irma Tyson answered the pleadings of Schroeder, Harrop and Homestead Corp. and alleged that they are the fee owners of tract A-100E (Nebraska) and that said tract was located within the boundaries of Tax Lot No. 1 in Section 7, Township 19 North, Range 12, East of the 6th P. M. in Washington County, Nebraska. Defendants Tyson further alleged that their ownership of the land in question and its location in Washington County, Nebraska had been determined by the District Court of Washington County, Nebraska and that the judgment of that court was res judicata upon these questions. The foregoing is by no means a full summarization of the pleadings on file, but is sufficient to present the issue presently before the court. It should also be noted that the Schroeder-Harrop-Homestead Corp. claim stems from certain tax deeds issued in Iowa.

As noted, defendants Tyson claim that the judgment of the Nebraska court is res judicata upon the question of ownership, and that this court should follow it. The opposing defendants claim that the Nebraska judgment is void for want of jurisdiction on the ground that there is no such land, nor has there ever been, in Washington County, Nebraska, and consequently the Nebraska judgment should not be followed by this court.

Where a plea of res judicata is interposed it is necessary to examine the prior litigation to determine what its binding effect is in the present litigation. The Washington County action was commenced when Schroeder and Harrop filed a petition under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, Secs. 25-1587 to 25-15,104, R.R.S.1943, which attempted to register a judgment of the district court for Harrison County, Iowa in Washington County, Nebraska. Defendants Tyson answered and alleged ownership of certain of the land involved. A trial was had, and the parties were represented by counsel. The following pertinent findings were made:

1) That the judgment of the District Court of Harrison County, Iowa was void for the reason that there was no jurisdiction in that court over the land in question since the land was in Nebraska and therefore the Iowa judgment was not entitled to full faith and credit or to registration as a foreign judgment.

2) That Schroeder, Harrop and Homestead Corp. had no right, title or interest in the land in question and that the defendants Tyson were owners in fee simple of the tracts claimed to be owned by them. The court made the following specific holding:

"It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court that the defendants Ned Tyson and Irma Tyson, husband and wife, are the owners as joint tenants in fee simple, free and clear of any right, title, claim or demand therein of the plaintiffs John Schroeder and Roy M. Harrop, and the defendant Homestead Corporation, now known as American Cooperative Company, of the following tract of land now surveyed, platted and recorded in the records of Washington County, Nebraska, and described as follows:
"`* * * Tax Lot Number One (1) in Section Seven (7), Township Nineteen (19) North, Range Twelve (12), East of the Sixth Principal Meridian; and all in Washington County, Nebraska.'"

The trial court's judgment was affirmed on appeal by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Schroeder v. Homestead Corp., 171 Neb. 792, 107 N.W.2d 750 (1961). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Schroeder v. Williams, 368 U.S. 32, 82 S.Ct. 146, 7 L.Ed.2d 90.

Schroeder et al. are now attempting to collaterally attack this judgment. They do so on the ground previously noted, i. e. that the judgment is a nullity for want of jurisdiction since the land is not in Washington County, Nebraska. They claim that the evidence introduced by them shows that they are the owners of the land and that the land is in Iowa. This evidence is clearly an attempt to relitigate the exact issues determined by the courts of Nebraska. Whether this may properly be done is the key issue for the court to decide.

Putting to one side momentarily the presence of the Iowa judgment and assuming that the only litigation involved was the action in the Nebraska courts there could be no question that the action of the Nebraska courts would prevent relitigation of the question of both the location and ownership of this land. Nebraska follows the normal rule of res judicata.

"When a question of fact is once determined on its merits, that question is settled so far as the litigants are concerned and it may not be relitigated between the same parties." Frey v. Hauke, 171 Neb. 852, 108 N.W.2d 228 (1961).

Adherence to this rule by the courts of Nebraska without doubt would mean that the questions of location of the land in Nebraska and its ownership between defendants Tyson and defendants Schroeder, et al. would not be open to inquiry in a subsequent suit in the courts of Nebraska. This conclusion is supported by Anderson v. Anderson, 155 Neb. 1, 50 N.W.2d 224 (1951). It was there held that a previous quiet title action was res judicata in a partition action. In both cases the question involved was ownership of the land in question. In the partition action the two fact questions involved in the earlier quiet title action were sought to be placed in issue. Both questions had been adjudicated in the earlier suit. The Nebraska Supreme Court refused to allow relitigation of the issues. The same principle would govern here. The two crucial facts — location of this land and its ownership — were both determined in the earlier action. Clearly, that question could not be reopened in the Nebraska courts.

While the full faith and credit clause, Art. IV, § 1, is binding only upon state courts Congress has imposed upon federal courts the duty to give full faith and credit to...

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2 cases
  • Carrithers v. Harrah
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • September 2, 2014
    ...res judicata and binding on the third court); Southard v. Southard, 305 F.2d 730, 732 (2d Cir.1962) (same); United States v. 171.74 Acres of Land, 206 F.Supp. 322, 325 (D.Neb.1962) (same). In short, under the “ordinary” and “usual rules of res judicata,” Restatement (Second) Conflict of Law......
  • Schroeder v. 171.74 ACRES OF LAND, ETC.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • June 27, 1963
    ...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 jud......

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