United States v. Morrison, No. 16474.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtHUTCHESON, , and JONES and BROWN, Circuit
Citation247 F.2d 285
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Appellant, v. O. E. MORRISON and R. E. Morrison, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 16474.
Decision Date29 June 1957

247 F.2d 285 (1957)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellant,
v.
O. E. MORRISON and R. E. Morrison, Appellees.

No. 16474.

United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit.

June 29, 1957.


247 F.2d 286

Robert Coe, Lee A. Jackson, Attys., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Charles K. Rice, Asst. Atty. Gen., John C. Ford, Asst. U. S. Atty., Dallas, Tex., A. F. Prescott, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Heard L. Floore, U. S. Atty., Fort Worth Tex., for appellant.

Vactor H. Stanford, Jonathan H. Allen, Stanford & Allen, Dallas, Tex., for appellees.

Before HUTCHESON, Chief Judge, and JONES and BROWN, Circuit Judges.

JOHN R. BROWN, Circuit Judge.

Out of strikingly simple facts two questions emerge: First, whether the equitable vendor's lien for the unpaid purchase price of Texas real estate is sufficiently specific and perfected to outprime a Federal tax lien. And second, whether the District Court as a jurisdictional prerequisite in a suit to quiet title, 28 U.S.C.A. § 2410, from a Federal tax lien must inexorably order a foreclosure.

Morrison, the Vendor, May 13, 1955, sold property to Burk, the Purchaser (Taxpayer), for a total consideration of $18,500. Of this, $12,800 was a prior mortgage to a third party which Taxpayer apparently assumed, $2,100 was paid in cash or the equivalent and, important here, the balance of $3,600 was made up of one check for $500 and a series of $500 (one apparently for $600) checks post-dated serially for successive months. The conveyance did not expressly reserve a vendor's lien, nor was there any conventional vendor's lien, mortgage or deed of trust executed by the Purchaser (Taxpayer) for the $3,600 balance. The $500 check for the down payment and the first post-dated $500 check were honored and paid. Consequently when the Vendor collided with the Federal Tax Collector,

247 F.2d 287
$2,600 was still owed the Vendor on the purchase price

In the meantime, Federal taxes due by Taxpayer were, on various dates,1 assessed for a total of $7,912.76 and Notice of Tax Lien filed in the Dallas County Clerk's office. Unaware of this activity, the Vendor on November 30, 1955, sued the Purchaser (Taxpayer) in the State Court to impress an equitable lien on the property for the unpaid purchase price of $2,600. Simultaneously a lis pendens was filed in the Dallas County Clerk's office. About December 20, 1955, the Purchaser (Taxpayer) reconveyed the property to Vendor for a consideration of $275 in cash and a cancellation of the unpaid balance under the original deed.

March 12, 1956, Vendor under 28 U.S. C.A. § 2410 (note 5, infra) brought suit in the State Court to quiet title and remove the cloud of the Federal tax liens asserted in respect of the Purchaser (Taxpayer). After removal of the Government's petition, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1444, the Trial Court without a jury held that the United States had no claim on the property and accordingly entered judgment removing the asserted tax liens.

Since the Vendor, asserting here his equitable vendor's lien, has neither the status of a "mortgagee, pledgee, purchaser, or judgment creditor," the right of the Government to the tax lien2 under Section 6321 is not affected by the race between the Notice of Tax Lien (note 1, supra) and the Vendor's lis pendens for recordation3 under Section 6323, and the question of priority must be determined by other considerations, United States v. Albert Holman Lumber Co., 5 Cir., 206 F.2d 685, modified on rehearing, 5 Cir., 208 F.2d 113; Macatee, Inc. v. United States, 5 Cir., 214 F.2d 717, the principal factor being that the lien which is first in time is first in right, United States v. Atlantic Municipal Corporation, 5 Cir., 212 F.2d 709, if, but only if, the one first in time is specific and perfected in the Federal sense.

The initial inquiry whether it is a lien and its date of rank for the limited purposes of this case may be quickly disposed of. As to the latter, coming into being at the time of the conveyance May 13, 1955, it predates the tax lien effective

247 F.2d 288
as of the date of the assessment (note 1, supra), 26 U.S.C.A. § 6322. As to the former, under Texas law it is clear that unless there is a waiver (a matter of intention subject to proof or disproof as a fact), an equitable vendor's lien arises as security for the payment of the balance of the purchase price which, with variables here unnecessary to delineate, is, as a general proposition, good against all save subsequent innocent bona fide purchasers for value and encumbrancers. Its origin is equitable depending upon an unpaid balance of the purchase price and not upon an express contractual reservation or the formal conveyance of a security interest by the purchaser back to the vendor or to a trustee. See 43A Texas Jurisprudence, Vendor and Purchaser, Sections 312, 326, 330, 331, 332, 338, 339, 349, 355, 358, 359, 386, 391, 467. As an equitable interest, it is not recordable and protection to innocent purchasers rests on equitable principles, and not on the recordation statutes, 43A Tex.Jur., supra, § 331; 36 Tex.Jur., Records and Registration Acts, Sections 83, 84, under which a conventional mortgage or deed of trust must be recorded to be valid against the United States as a creditor, Underwood v. United States, 5 Cir., 118 F.2d 760

But its standing in Texas is not enough. The state recognized lien must satisfy the Federal standards, vague as they may be, as choate, that is, perfected liens. When subjected to this test, this lien does not have sufficient completeness to meet the requirements of the cases which, to date, have at the source4 rejected every recent effort to maintain a non-6323 (former Section 3672) state lien against a Section 6321 (former Section 3670) Federal tax lien or a Section 3466 (31 U.S.C.A. § 191) insolvency priority payment claim.

We need not elaborate on the Federal infirmities of this state lien. It is sufficient to point out that insofar as it bears on the competition for tax priorities, the lien, equitable in nature, arises only because equity in good conscience requires it to accomplish right and justice. Whether it exists depends on the equities which, in turn, depend upon facts including the intention of the vendor either to, or not to, waive it. As a secret lien it is, or may be, outranked by many liens of innocent purchasers or others. And, to enforce it, the only remedy available is an equitable action for

247 F.2d 289
foreclosure in which the debt and the lien must be established. Tex.Jur.43a, Vendor and Purchaser, supra, §§ 391, 401, 406, 415. So, while once established by judgment under the doctrine of relation back, it has a high order in the state hierarchy, until the act of judgment occurs, it is, in the Federal view, as contingent as any other lawsuit

Of course, in this contest the Vendor's rights are not greater after the property was reconveyed (December 20, 1955) to him, 43A Tex.Jur., supra, §§ 368, 369, than they were when he held only an equitable vendor's lien for approximately $2,600. The result is that the District Court's finding and conclusion was erroneous as a matter of law since Taxpayer at the critical date, under the Federal view, was subject only to the claim of an equitable lien junior in rank to the Government's lien (note 1, supra).

Under the District Court's decision, the second question arose because even though the Vendor's lien for $2,600 was determined to be superior, this would not be grounds for holding that the Government did not have a lien for $7,912.76. Priority is not equated with invalidity.

Consequently, the Government, on this appeal insisted that when a person claiming an interest in property files a Section 2410 bill quia timet, and it is determined that both a Federal tax and private lien exist, but that the private lien is superior, the only relief which the court can grant is to foreclose the property under a literal application of a part of the statute.5 From this it then urged that since the Vendor did not pray specifically for foreclosure, the District Court lacked jurisdiction. Receding tactically, the Government claims alternatively that as a minimum the court cannot remove the cloud of the inferior tax lien by decree unless, on sufficient evidence, the Chancellor finds that the property does not have sufficient value to discharge the prior, superior liens.

The question appears more remote now in view of our holding on the rank of liens, but since we have as little evidence as did the District Judge on which to ascertain values, it remains in the case and is proper for decision.

On it, we are of the clear...

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51 practice notes
  • Progressive Consumers Federal Credit Union v. U.S., No. 95-1712
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • November 7, 1995
    ...it never initiated a foreclosure action and did not seek to extinguish the federal lien. The Kasdon court cited United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289 (5th Cir.1957), for the proposition that "priorities among valid interests are the subject of foreclosure suits," whereas "the alleged......
  • Lonsdale v. U.S., No. 90-2113
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • November 20, 1990
    ...not extend to an omnibus challenge to the authority of the Internal Revenue Service to function. See generally United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 290 (5th Cir.1957) (the primary application of Section 2410(a)(1) is to allow joinder of the Government to settle "the traditional controve......
  • United States v. Rodgers, No. 81-1476
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1983
    ...(CA10 1974); United States v. Hershberger, 475 F.2d, at 679-680; United States v. Overman, 424 F.2d, at 1146; United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289-291 (CA5 1957). The Court of Appeals agreed Page 706 with this interpretation of the statute, although it does not appear to have relied......
  • UNITED STATES V. ROGERS
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1983
    ...(CA10 1974); United States v. Hershberger, 475 F.2d at 679-680; United States v. Overman, 424 F.2d at 1146; United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289-291 (CA5 1957). The Court of Appeals agreed Page 461 U. S. 706 with this interpretation of the statute, although it does not appear to hav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
51 cases
  • Progressive Consumers Federal Credit Union v. U.S., No. 95-1712
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • November 7, 1995
    ...it never initiated a foreclosure action and did not seek to extinguish the federal lien. The Kasdon court cited United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289 (5th Cir.1957), for the proposition that "priorities among valid interests are the subject of foreclosure suits," whereas "the alleged......
  • Lonsdale v. U.S., No. 90-2113
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • November 20, 1990
    ...not extend to an omnibus challenge to the authority of the Internal Revenue Service to function. See generally United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 290 (5th Cir.1957) (the primary application of Section 2410(a)(1) is to allow joinder of the Government to settle "the traditional controve......
  • United States v. Rodgers, No. 81-1476
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1983
    ...(CA10 1974); United States v. Hershberger, 475 F.2d, at 679-680; United States v. Overman, 424 F.2d, at 1146; United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289-291 (CA5 1957). The Court of Appeals agreed Page 706 with this interpretation of the statute, although it does not appear to have relied......
  • UNITED STATES V. ROGERS
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 31, 1983
    ...(CA10 1974); United States v. Hershberger, 475 F.2d at 679-680; United States v. Overman, 424 F.2d at 1146; United States v. Morrison, 247 F.2d 285, 289-291 (CA5 1957). The Court of Appeals agreed Page 461 U. S. 706 with this interpretation of the statute, although it does not appear to hav......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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