Wood v. Brady
150 U.S. 18 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wood v. Brady, 150 U.S. 18 (1893)

Wood v. Brady

No. 815

Submitted October 10, 1893

Decided October 23, 1893

150 U.S. 18

Syllabus

The construction placed by a state court upon one statute implies no obligation on its part to put the same construction upon a different statute, though the language of the two may be similar.

The question whether an action to foreclose a lien for unpaid assessments for street improvements in San Francisco is in rem or in personam is one upon which the decision of the Supreme Court of California is binding, and its ruling that a plaintiff who was no party to defendants' suits to foreclose has a right to show by evidence aliunde the invalidity of the judgments obtained by them is not a subject for review here.

Motion to dismiss or affirm. This action was originally begun by Brady in the Superior Court of San Francisco against a number of defendants, including Wood and Diggins, the plaintiffs in error, to quiet his title to two lots of land in which it was averred that defendants claimed an interest adverse to the plaintiff. Both parties claimed title under certain assessments for street improvements, and sales under proceedings to foreclose liens for such assessments. The assessments under which plaintiff claimed were prior in point of time to those under which defendants claimed, but the deeds issued to defendants antedated those under which the plaintiff claimed.

The assessments upon which plaintiff relied were recorded November 14, 1870. Actions were begun against the owners of the two lots early in 1871 to foreclose the liens created by these assessments, and judgments and orders of sale were entered in both cases in January, 1882. Appeals were taken to the supreme court in both cases, and the judgments of the

Page 150 U. S. 19

court below affirmed December 15, 1884, and remittiturs filed January 19, 1885. Both lots were sold by the sheriff to the plaintiff March 31, 1885, and, no redemption having been made, sheriff's deeds were delivered October 3, 1885.

On July 10, 1875, other assessments were recorded upon these lots in favor of Diggins; actions were begun to foreclose them December 28, 1875; judgments rendered July 25, 1878, and sale made of lot 5, January 12, 1880, to Diggins, and of lot 6, November 15, 1878, to defendant Wood, and deeds were delivered on May 5, 1881, and November 12, 1879, respectively. By the contracts between Diggins and the superintendent of public streets, which were executed April 19, 1875, it was agreed that the work should be commenced within seven days and completed within fifty days days from April 27, 1875. It further appeared that said fifty days expired on the 16th day of June, 1875; that said Diggins commenced the work under his contract, and completed the same, after the 1st day of July, 1875; that on the 1st day of July, 1875, and not before, Diggins obtained from the board of supervisors an extension of time within which to complete the contracts, and no other extension of time was obtained by him, within which to complete the work under said contracts.

Other similar assessments were made and recorded, upon which foreclosure proceedings were also instituted, and carried to judgment and sale. These, however, it is not necessary to specify particularly.

In this connection, the Supreme Court of California, to which the case was carried by appeal, held:

1. That the judgments under which Brady held were conclusive as against the owners of the lots in controversy, who had been made defendants in the foreclosure proceedings, and that the sales had transferred the legal title of such owners to the plaintiff, and although the sheriff's deeds made to defendants Wood and Diggins antedated those of the plaintiff, and were based upon judgments prior to those under which plaintiff claimed, yet, as the liens under which plaintiff's judgment were rendered were older than those of the defendants, plaintiff had the superior legal title.

Page 150 U. S. 20

2. That the most the defendants could claim was that, as they had no notice of plaintiff's foreclosure suits, plaintiff took his title encumbered with all valid liens thereon held by them at the date of the judgment, and that, assuming that defendants did not have this notice, the court did not err in allowing plaintiff to show that the liens under which defendants claimed were not valid.

3. That, as to two of the deeds relied upon by defendants, it was found that the work for which the assessment underlying such deeds was made was not completed within the time fixed by the contract, and that the order of the board of supervisors, granting the extension, was not made until after the expiration of the time allowed by the contract for its completion, and, this being so, the contractor never acquired any valid lien upon the property.

4. That as to another deed to defendant Wood, the court found that the board of supervisors failed to publish for the length of time required by law the resolution of intention to do the street work which resulted in the subsequent assessment, foreclosure, and sale.

Its conclusion was that the liens upon which defendants' deeds depended for their validity were void, and defendants acquired no interest in the lot as against the plaintiff.

Defendants thereupon sued out this writ of error, which plaintiff moved to dismiss upon the ground that no federal question was involved.

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