McBride v. Lessee of Hoey
36 U.S. 167 (1837)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McBride v. Lessee of Hoey, 36 U.S. 11 Pet. 167 167 (1837)

McBride v. Lessee of Hoey

36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 167

Syllabus

Jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has no power under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, to revise the decree of a state court when no question was raised or decided in the state court upon the validity or construction of an act of Congress nor upon the authority exercised under it, but on a state law only.

An action of ejectment was instituted by the lessee of William Hoey against James McBride, the tenant of William Clarke, in the Common Pleas of Mercer County to recover a tract of land in that county. The plaintiff obtained a verdict, and judgment on the same was rendered by the court, and the case was carried by writ of error to the Supreme Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the judgment was affirmed. To that court, as the highest court of law of the state, this writ of error was prosecuted under the provisions of the 25th section of the Judiciary Act of September, 1789, the plaintiff in error claiming the exercise of the jurisdiction of this Court on the allegation that an act of Congress has been misconstrued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff in the ejectment, in the Common Pleas of Mercer County, exhibited a regular title derived under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania subjecting unseated or unoccupied lands to sale for taxes left unpaid by the owner of the land. These laws give to the owners of such lands a right to redeem them within two years after the sale by payment or tender to the county treasurer of the taxes for which the lands were sold, with twenty-five percent in addition. In the courts of Pennsylvania, construing the laws of that state, it had been decided that no one but the owner of the land or his agent could be permitted to redeem lands so sold.

The defendant in the ejectment, as the tenant of William Clarke, alleged a redemption of the lands by a tender of the amount of the taxes with the addition of twenty-five percent, and claimed

Page 36 U. S. 168

that William Clarke, who had made the tender, was the owner of the land under the following circumstances:

The same tract of land had, he alleged, been sold for taxes due to the United States under the authority of the acts of Congress laying direct taxes, and had been purchased by Mr. Clarke at the sale made under the authority of these acts. The defendant offered in evidence a deed executed on 3 July, 1821, by Theophilus T. Ware, designated collector of United States direct taxes, said to be for the tract of land in controversy. This deed was admitted, as prima facie evidence of the matters stated in it. The plaintiff in the ejectment then proceeded to prove and did prove that the tract of land alleged to be conveyed by the deed had never been legally assessed for the United States direct taxes, and that the assessments were void. This evidence completely invalidated the deed from the United States collector to Mr. Clarke, and this effect of the evidence was not controverted by the defendant. He, however, contended that, being in possession and having the deed from the designated collector of the United States direct taxes, he had such sufficient prima facie evidence of a title to the land as to authorize him to redeem the same from the tax sale made under the laws of Pennsylvania.

The court of common pleas instructed the jury that

"The plaintiff, William Hoey, having shown that he has purchased this tract of land according to law at a treasurer's sale, and the plaintiff having shown that defendant's deed is illegal for want of authority in the United States collector to make such sale, we instruct the jury that the defendant has no right to interfere to defeat a regular and legal sale by the treasurer of the county to William Hoey. An invalid title cannot defeat a good, legal, and valid title. "

Page 36 U. S. 171

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