Turner v. Sawyer
150 U.S. 578 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Turner v. Sawyer, 150 U.S. 578 (1893)

Turner v. Sawyer

No. 70

Submitted November 6, 1893

Decided December 11, 1893

150 U.S. 578

Syllabus

In a suit in equity to have T. declared a trustee, for the use of S., of an interest in a mine, and to compel a conveyance of the same to S., T. set up two sources of independent title in himself: (1) the purchase of a portion of the interest at an execution sale under a judgment in a suit in which process was not served upon S., no appearance entered for him, no judgment entered against him, and in which he was never in court; (2) proceedings under Rev.Stat. § 2324 by T. against S. as an alleged "co-owner" of the mine to compel him to contribute to the payment of the annual labor on the mine for the year 1884, by which proceeding it was claimed that the interest of S. in the mine became forfeited to T. At the time when the labor was done for which contribution was demanded, S. had not received the deed for his interest, and the sheriff's deed to T. of the interest which he claimed was not delivered until March, 1880.

Held:

(1) That T. acquired no interest in the share of S. in the mine by the sheriff's deed.

(2) That T. was not a co-owner in the mine with S. during the year 1884 within the meaning of the statute, which, as it provides for the forfeiture of the rights of a co-owner, should be construed strictly.

By the laws of Colorado, title to land sold under execution remains in the judgment debtor till the deed is executed.

Co-tenants stand in a relation of mutual trust and confidence towards each other, and a purchase by one of an outstanding title or encumbrance, for his own benefit inures to the benefit of all, and when acquired, is held by him in trust for the true owner.

The general rule laid down in Garland v. Wyan, 20 How. 6, following in principle Comegys v. Vasse, 1 Pet. 193, 26 U. S. 212, and maintained in Monroe Cattle Co. v. Becker,147 U. S. 47, 147 U. S. 57, that where several parties set up conflicting claims to property, with which a special tribunal may deal, as between one party and the government, regardless of the rights of others, the latter may come into the ordinary courts of justice, and litigate their conflicting claims, is announced to be the settled doctrine of this Court.

This was a bill in equity filed by the appellee, Sawyer, against Robert Turner, George E. McClelland, and J. S.

Page 150 U. S. 579

Allison, the purpose of which was to have the defendant Turner declared a trustee for the use of the plaintiff of an undivided five-eighths interest in what was known as the "Wallace Lode," which had been previously patented by the government to Turner, and to compel a conveyance of the same to the plaintiff.

The case was submitted upon an agreed statement of facts, which was substantially as follows: the Wallace lode, so called, was discovered and located by John Clark on September 20, 1878. On August 12, 1882, Clark conveyed an undivided three-fourths of this lode to Amos Sawyer and Marcus Finch. On May 1, 1882, Clark conveyed the other one-fourth interest to William Hunter, but the deed was never recorded, the parties supposing it to be lost, and on October 25, he made another deed to Hunter, which contained a recital that it was made to supply the place of the other. On October 26, 1882, Amos Sawyer and Marcus Finch reconveyed the undivided one-half of the lode to John Clark. On January 8, 1883, Marcus Finch conveyed an undivided one-eighth to Alice E. Finch. On March 16, 1883, Clark and Hunter conveyed three-fourths of the Wallace lode to Amos Sawyer and John S. Sanderson.

At this time, then, the lode was owned as follows: Amos Sawyer, one-half, or four-eighths; John S. Sanderson, three-eighths; Alice E. Finch, one-eighth.

It so remained from March 16, 1883, to January 12, 1885, when Amos Sawyer assumed to convey his undivided one-half interest to Alfred A. K. Sawyer, who also became possessed of the one-eighth interest of Alice E. Finch, November 3, 1886.

The controversy arose over a lien filed August 14, 1883, by one John F. Teal for annual labor done upon the lode at the request of John S. Sanderson and Amos Sawyer. Teal claimed a lien for the sum of $148.10, and filed notice thereof in the recorder's office of Clear Creek County. One Charles Christianson also filed a similar notice, claiming a lien for $227.95. On January 12, 1884, Teal instituted a suit in the County Court of Clear Creek County to enforce his lien, and

Page 150 U. S. 580

made John S. Sanderson, Marcus Finch, P. F. Smith, and _____ Sawyer defendants, as the owners thereof. There was no service upon Sawyer, and he was not in court. On June 2, 1884, Teal proceeded to sell the interest of John S. Sanderson, Marcus Finch, and P. F. Smith to pay the amount of his decree, at which sale A. K. White became the purchaser, took his certificate of purchase from the sheriff, and sold and assigned it to Turner, who obtained a sheriff's deed on March 3, 1885. This deed purported to convey the whole Wallace lode. Christianson instituted a suit against the same defendants as in the Teal suit, which was pending at the time, to enforce his lien against the same.

On April 24, 1885, Turner, who had done the annual labor on the claim for the year 1884, before he obtained a sheriff's deed, published a forfeiture notice against the appellee, Sawyer, under Rev.Stat. § 2324, but no forfeiture notice was published against Alice E. Finch, who still owned an undivided one-eighth of the lode, nor against Amos Sawyer, who owned one-half of the lode during the year 1884, and until January 12, 1885, as above stated. Appellant Turner declined an offer made January 18, 1885, to pay five-eighths of the $100 for the annual labor of 1884 on behalf of Alice E. Finch and Amos Sawyer, on the ground that the records showed only Sanderson and Sawyer as having any remaining interest. On October 27, 1885, Turner filed in the office of the clerk and recorder of Clear Creek County an affidavit that Alfred A. K. Sawyer, the appellee, had wholly failed to comply with the demands contained in the forfeiture notice. Subsequently, and about November 1, Turner instituted proceedings in the United States land office at Central City, Colorado, for the purpose of procuring a patent for the lode in his own name, and on April 13, 1886, a receiver's receipt was issued to him by the receiver of the land office, acknowledging payment in full for the entire lode, and on April 20 he conveyed an undivided one-fourth interest to George E. McClelland, by deed recorded December 6, 1886, and another undivided one-quarter to J. S. Allison, by deed recorded May 19, 1886.

On March 17, 1887, the appellee, Sawyer, filed this bill, charging

Page 150 U. S. 581

the patent to have been procured by the appellant Turner by false and fraudulent representations as to ownership, and praying that the title to an undivided five-eighths of the lode be deemed to belong to the appellee, and that Turner convey the same to him.

Upon the hearing in the court below, it was found that at the time Turner applied for the patent and received the receipt therefor, he was not the legal owner of an undivided five-eighths of such lode, and it was decreed that he convey the same to the appellee, Sawyer, and the other defendants were enjoined from interfering.

From this decree an appeal was taken to this Court by Turner and McClelland.

Page 150 U. S. 583

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