Windsor v. McVeigh

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFIELD
PartiesWINDSOR v. MCVEIGH
Decision Date01 October 1876

93 U.S. 274
23 L.Ed. 914
WINDSOR
v.
MCVEIGH.
October Term, 1876

ERROR to the Corporation Court of the city of Alexandria, Va.

Ejectment for a tract of land situate in the city of Alexandria, Va. Finding and judgment for the plaintiff. The defendant sued out this writ of error. The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

Argued by Mr. S. F. Beach, for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. Philip Phillips and Mr. John Howard, contra.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

This was an action of ejectment to recover certain real

Page 275

property in the city of Alexandria, in the State of Virginia. It was brought in the corporation court of that city, and a writ of error from the court of appeals of the State to review the judgment obtained having been refused, the case was brought here directly by a writ of error from this court. Authority for this mode of procedure will be found stated in the case of Gregory v. McVeigh, reported in the 23d of Wallace.

The plaintiff in the corporation court proved title in himself to the premises in controversy, and consequent right to their immediate possession, unless his life-estate in them had been divested by a sale under a decree of condemnation rendered in March, 1864, by the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia, upon proceedings for their confiscation. The defendant relied upon the deed to his grantor executed by the marshal of the district upon such sale.

The proceedings mentioned were instituted under the act of Congress of July 17, 1862, 'to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes.'

In July, 1863, the premises in controversy were seized by the marshal of the district, by order of the district-attorney, acting under instructions from the Attorney-General. In August following, a libel of information against the property was filed in the name of the United States, setting forth that the plaintiff in this case was the owner of the property in question; that he had, since the passage of the above act, held an office of honor and trust under the government of the so-called Confederate States, and in various ways had given aid and comfort to the rebellion; that the property had been seized in pursuance of the act in compliance with instructions from the Attorney-General, and, by reason of the premises, was forfeited to the United States, and should be condemned. It closed with a prayer that process of monition might issue against the owner or owners of the property and all persons interested or claiming an interest therein, warning them at some early day 'to appear and answer' the libel; and, as the owner of the property was a non-resident and absent, that an order of publication in the usual form be also made. Upon this libel the district judge ordered process of monition to issue as prayed, and designated

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a day and place for the trial of the cause, and that notice of the same, with the substance of the libel, should be given by publication in a newspaper of the city, and by posting at the door of the court-house. The process of monition and notice were accordingly issued and published. Both described the land and mentioned its seizure, and named the day and place fixed for the trial. The monition stated that at the trial all persons interested in the land, or claiming an interest, might 'appear and make their allegations in that behalf.' The notice warned all persons to appear at the trial, 'to show cause why condemnation should not be decreed, and to intervene for their interest.'

The owner of the property, in response to the monition and notice, appeared by counsel, and filed a claim to the property and an answer to the libel. Subsequently, on the 10th of March, 1864, the district-attorney moved that the claim and answer and the appearance of the respondent by counsel be stricken from the files, on the ground that it appeared from his answer that he was at the time of filing the same 'a resident within the city of Richmond, within the Confederate lines, and a rebel.' On the same day the motion was granted, and the claim and answer ordered to be stricken from the files. The appearance of the respondent was by his answer. The court immediately entered its sentence and decree, condemning the property as forfeited to the United States, reciting that, the usual proclamation having been made, the default of all persons had been duly entered. The decree ordered the issue of a venditioni exponas for the sale of the property, returnable on the sixteenth day of the following April. At the sale under this writ the grantor of the defendant became the purchaser.

The question for determination is, whether the decree of condemnation thus rendered, without allowing the owner of the property to appear in response to the monition, interpose his claim for the property, and answer the libel, was of any validity. In other words, the question is, whether the property of the plaintiff could be forfeited by the sentence of the court in a judicial proceeding to which he was not allowed to appear and make answer to the charges against him, upon the allegation of which the forfeiture was demanded.

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There were several libels of information filed against the property of the plaintiff at the same time with the one here mentioned. They were identical in their allegations, except as to the property seized, and the same motion to strike from the files the appearance, claim, and answer of the respondent was made in each case, and on the same day, and similar orders were entered and like decrees of condemnation. One of these was brought here, and is reported in the 11th of Wallace. In delivering the unanimous opinion of this court, upon reversing the decree in the case, and referring to the order striking out the claim and answer, Mr. Justice Swayne said: 'The order in effect denied the respondent a hearing. It is alleged he was in the position of an alien enemy, and could have no locus standi in that forum. If assailed there, he could defend there. The liability and right are inseparable. A different result would be a blot upon our jurisprudence and civilization. We cannot hesitate or doubt on the subject. It would be contrary to the first principles of the social compact and of the right administration of justice.' 11 Wall. 267.

The principle stated in this terse language lies at the foundation of all well-ordered systems of jurisprudence. Wherever one is assailed in his person or his property, there he may defend, for the liability and the right are inseparable. This is a principle of natural justice, recognized as such by the common intelligence and conscience of all nations. A sentence of a court pronounced against a party without hearing him, or giving him an opportunity to be heard, is not a judicial determination of his rights, and is not entitled to respect in any other tribunal.

That there must be notice to a party of some kind, actual or constructive, to a valid judgment affecting his rights, is admitted. Until notice is given, the court has no jurisdiction in any case to proceed to judgment, whatever its authority may be, by the law of its organization, over the subject-matter. But notice is only for the purpose of affording the party an opportunity of being heard upon the claim or the charges made; it is a summons to him to appear and...

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450 practice notes
  • Thompson v. Washington, No. 71-2049.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 10, 1973
    ...that the protected interests include those interests in personal liberty and property nurtured at common law. See Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U.S. 274, 23 L.Ed. 914 (1876). Protection of property interests has never been in doubt, but the extent of the protection has recently been extended. See ......
  • Arenas v. United States, No. 12356.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 19, 1951
    ...belongs, and does not transcend, in the extent or character of its judgment, the law which is applicable to it." Windsor v. McVeigh, 1876, 93 U.S. 274, 282-283, 23 L.Ed. 914. (Emphasis added) And see, Ex parte Lange, 1874, 18 Wall. 163, 176-178, 21 L. Ed. 872; United States, to Use of Wilso......
  • Troll v. City of St. Louis, No. 14834.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 4, 1914
    ...court in the case of State ex rel. v. Riley, 219 Mo. 667, 118 S. W. 647. And in the case of Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U. S. loc. cit. 282, 23 L. Ed. 914, Mr. Justice Field, in speaking for the Supreme Court of the United States, in the discussion of this same question, "The doctrine invoked by......
  • State ex Inf. Attorney-General v. Curtis, No. 28264.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 17, 1928
    ...and the owner of property is denied a hearing except on that question. It constitutes a denial to due process of law. Windsor v. McVay, 93 U.S. 274. A party has the right to appear and plead or prove any fact which would constitute or tend to constitute a defense of an assault on himself or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
457 cases
  • Thompson v. Washington, No. 71-2049.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • December 10, 1973
    ...that the protected interests include those interests in personal liberty and property nurtured at common law. See Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U.S. 274, 23 L.Ed. 914 (1876). Protection of property interests has never been in doubt, but the extent of the protection has recently been extended. See ......
  • Arenas v. United States, No. 12356.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 19, 1951
    ...belongs, and does not transcend, in the extent or character of its judgment, the law which is applicable to it." Windsor v. McVeigh, 1876, 93 U.S. 274, 282-283, 23 L.Ed. 914. (Emphasis added) And see, Ex parte Lange, 1874, 18 Wall. 163, 176-178, 21 L. Ed. 872; United States, to Use of Wilso......
  • Troll v. City of St. Louis, No. 14834.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • May 4, 1914
    ...court in the case of State ex rel. v. Riley, 219 Mo. 667, 118 S. W. 647. And in the case of Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U. S. loc. cit. 282, 23 L. Ed. 914, Mr. Justice Field, in speaking for the Supreme Court of the United States, in the discussion of this same question, "The doctrine invoked by......
  • State ex Inf. Attorney-General v. Curtis, No. 28264.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • March 17, 1928
    ...and the owner of property is denied a hearing except on that question. It constitutes a denial to due process of law. Windsor v. McVay, 93 U.S. 274. A party has the right to appear and plead or prove any fact which would constitute or tend to constitute a defense of an assault on himself or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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