Lessee of Hickey v. Stewart - 44 U.S. 750 (1845)
U.S. Supreme Court
Lessee of Hickey v. Stewart, 44 U.S. 3 How. 750 750 (1845)
Lessee of Hickey v. Stewart
44 U.S. (3 How.) 750
A defendant in ejectment cannot protect himself by setting up the record in a prior chancery suit between the same parties by which the plaintiff in the ejectment had been ordered to convey all his title to the defendant in the ejectment, but in consequence of the party's being beyond the jurisdiction of the court, no such conveyance had been made.
And this is so although the court of chancery, in following up its decree, had legally issued a habere facias possessionem and put the defendant in ejectment in possession of the land.
By the treaty of 1795, between the United States and Spain, Spain admitted that she had no title to land north of the thirty-first degree of latitude, and her previous grants of land, so situated, were of course void. The country, thus belonging to Georgia, was ceded to the united states in 1802, with a reservation that all persons who were actual settlers on 27 October, 1795,
should have their grants confirmed. Congress provided a board of commissioners to examine these grants, and declared that their decision should be final.
The Court of Chancery of the State of Mississippi had no authority to establish one of these grants which had not been brought within the provisions of the act of Congress. The claim itself being utterly void, and no power having been conferred by Congress on that court to take or exercise jurisdiction over it for the purpose of imparting to it legality, the exercise of jurisdiction was a mere usurpation of judicial power, and the whole proceeding of the court void.
The doctrine of this Court in 26 U. S. 1 Pet. 390 reviewed and confirmed, viz.,
"That the jurisdiction of any court exercising authority over a subject may be inquired into in every other court where the proceedings of the former are relied on, and brought before the latter by the party claiming the benefit of such proceeding. "
This was an ejectment brought by Hickey's lessee against the defendants, as the heirs of Robert Starke, for two thousand acres of land in the State of Mississippi.
The facts in the case are fully set forth in the opinion of the Court.
The question was whether or not the court below erred in permitting to be read in evidence on the part of the defendants the record of a former chancery suit between the same parties in which the court had decreed that all the title of Hickey et al. should be conveyed to the heirs of Starke.