Stockton v. Ford
52 U.S. 232 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stockton v. Ford, 52 U.S. 11 How. 232 232 (1850)

Stockton v. Ford

52 U.S. (11 How.) 232

Syllabus

Where there was a judgment which had been recorded under the laws of Louisiana, and thus made equivalent to a mortgage upon the property of the debtor, and the plaintiff assigned this judgment, and was then himself sued and had an execution issued against him, his rights under the recorded judgment could not be sold under this execution, because he had previously transferred all those rights.

It was not necessary for an assignee of this recorded judgment, who was defending himself in chancery by claiming under the assignment, to notice in his pleading an allegation in the bill that a release of the judgment was improperly entered upon the record. His assignment was not charged as fraudulent.

The attorney who had recovered the judgment which was thus recovered and assigned was not at liberty to purchase it when his client became sued and execution was issued against him.

Page 52 U. S. 233

This suit was originally brought by Stockton in the district court (state court) of Louisiana by petition to enforce a judicial mortgage against a plantation and slaves in the Parish of Carroll which once belonged to Nicholas W. Ford, but at that time was in the possession of James C. Ford, the defendant below and appellee here. Ford appeared in the state court, and, being a citizen of Louisville, Kentucky, caused the suit to be removed to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, where the cause was treated as a suit in chancery for the foreclosure of a mortgage.

The whole of the transactions connected with the suit were very complicated, but it will not be necessary, under the opinion of the Court, to state them fully. The following summary will render them intelligible.

On March 11, 1835, the respondent, James C. Ford, sold and conveyed to said Nicholas W. Ford several parcels of land and a number of slaves situate in said Parish of Carroll for the consideration of $80,000 payable in five annual installments of $16,000 each, the said Nicholas W. Ford thereby giving to the said James C. Ford a mortgage upon the said land and slaves, to have the force and effect of a judgment confessed, for said $80,000.

On May 1, 1837, Roger B. Atkinson, of Vicksburg, drew his bill of exchange in favor of William B. Pryor upon N. & E. Ford & Co., of New Orleans, for $7,442.74, payable seven months after date. This bill was accepted by the drawees, but was not paid, and after it was protested, Pryor became the holder and owner of it. The firm of N. & E. Ford & Co. was composed of Nicholas W. Ford, Edward Ford, and William F. Markham.

On June 10, 1837, three only out of the five annual installments having been paid to James C. Ford by Nicholas and James having come under other liabilities for Nicholas, Nicholas executed a mortgage of the land and slaves to secure the whole, and added other slaves.

On April 25, 1838, Nicholas mortgaged an additional number of slaves, with the stock, personal property, and crop.

On May 18, 1839, Nicholas mortgaged the then growing crop of corn and cotton.

In 1839, Pryor brought a suit in the Commercial Court of New Orleans against N. & E. Ford & Co., upon the bill of exchange.

On November 25, 1839, William Ford, Jr., a brother of Nicholas W. and James C. Ford, then aged nineteen years

Page 52 U. S. 234

and theretofore residing with his father, William Ford, in the County of Bourbon in the State of Kentucky, appeared at the chambers of the judge of the Ninth District Court, Parish of Carroll, Louisiana, and obtained a decree for emancipation, dispensing him from the time prescribed by law for attaining the age of majority pursuant to the Act approved January 23, 1829.

On November 26, 1839, Nicholas sold to William Ford Jr. all the property in the Parish of Carroll for certain promissory notes.

In December, 1839, judgment was rendered in favor of Pryor in the suit upon the bill for $7,442.74, with interest at five percent from December 4, 1837.

Mr. Stockton, the appellant, was afterwards employed by Mr. Pryor to attend to his claim against N. & E. Ford & Co., and, entertaining a doubt whether the judgment so recovered was sufficiently specific as to the persons against whom it was rendered, in December, 1839, commenced a suit in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in favor of Pryor, against Nicholas W. Ford, who was the only member of said firm residing in said district, to recover the amount of said bill of exchange.

To this suit Mr. Nicholas W. Ford appeared and pleaded a former recovery by Pryor in the Commercial Court of New Orleans upon said bill against all the members of said firm of N. & E. Ford & Co., and on the trial of said cause in support of said plea produced the record of said judgment so rendered by said commercial court, which the court held to be a judgment between the same parties for the same cause of action, and dismissed the suit, with costs.

On March 12, 1840, Pryor assigned his judgment to Jones, as follows:

"I hereby transfer to Dr. Joseph Jones all my right, title, and interest in a certain judgment in my favor against N. & E. Ford & Co. of New Orleans, obtained in the Circuit Court of Louisiana at New Orleans for about eight thousand dollars, more or less. The said Jones first paying the attorney's fees and all other costs out of the proceeds of said judgment, and then applying the balance to the payment of such debts of mine as said Jones may be responsible for, and the remainder, if any, to be paid over to me."

"WM. B. PRYOR"

"Vicksburg, 12 March, 1840"

Jones afterwards assigned this judgment to James C. Ford, the appellee.

Page 52 U. S. 235

On January 2, 1841, the judgment in favor of Pryor was recorded in the mortgage book, making it equivalent to a mortgage.

"I, Felix Bosworth Parish Judge in and for the Parish of Carroll in the State of Louisiana, do certify the within copy of judgment to be recorded in my office in mortgage book B, folio 162."

"Given under my hand and seal of office, this 2d day of January, A.D. 1841."

"[L.S.] FELIX BOSWORTH, Parish Judge"

On May 12, 1841, William Ford, Jr., sold back to Nicholas all the property conveyed on 26 November, 1839.

On the same day Nicholas sold and conveyed all the property back to James C. Ford.

On 7 February, 1842, Charles M. Way and E. T. Bainbridge recovered a judgment in a suit commenced by them in the Commercial Court of New Orleans against Pryor and Howard, by which, after a discontinuance as to Howard, they recovered from the defendant, William B. Pryor, $718.12, with five percent interest from 22 April, 1847, and costs of suit, with privilege on the property attached. Mr. Robert Mott was the attorney who prosecuted the suit for Way and Bainbridge, and Mr. Stockton, the appellant, defended the suit for Pryor.

On February 17, 1842, Felix Bosworth, Parish Judge of the Parish of Carroll and ex officio recorder of mortgages, entered on the mortgage book a release of the mortgage resulting from the recording of the judgment of Pryor against Ford & Co. by writing across the face of the record the following words: "This mortgage released by payment in full, February 17, 1842. FELIX BOSWORTH, Parish Judge."

On 26 February, 1842, execution was issued on said judgment against Pryor, to the sheriff of said commercial court, upon which said sheriff seized, and, after all legal formalities had been complied with, advertised for sale the right, title, and interest of William B. Pryor in the said judgment recovered in the commercial court against N. & E. Ford & Co. for $7,442.74, with interest at the rate of five percent per annum, from 4 December, 1837, and on 17 March, 1842, pursuant to such seizure and advertisement, said sheriff sold the said judgment of Pryor against N. & E. Ford & Co. to the appellant for the sum of $300, and on 19 April, 1842, conveyed the same to him by deed.

Mr. Stockton was, at the time of the purchase, the holder

Page 52 U. S. 236

of a note drawn by said William B. Pryor, payable to the appellant's order, five days after date, and dated January 2, 1841, for $800.

On 22 October, 1842, Stockton, the appellant, instituted in the District Court of Louisiana for the Parish of Carroll an hypothecary action against the respondent James C. Ford and said Nicholas W. Ford, setting forth his purchase of said judgment, the recording thereof on 2 January, 1841, and that on 12 May, 1841, Nicholas W. Ford, one of said defendants, owned and had possession of a large tract of land and negroes in said parish, and that he had sold them to the respondent, and praying judgment against James C. Ford as the owner and possessor of said property, and that he pay the amount of said judgment and interest, or deliver up said mortgaged property to be sold to satisfy it.

On 12 December, 1842, James C. Ford appeared, and obtained an order to remove the cause into the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Nicholas W. Ford resided out of the State of Louisiana, and did not appear.

On 12 February, 1844, the circuit court ordered the case to be put upon the chancery docket, and to be proceeded in as a chancery suit.

It is not necessary to trace the progress of the suit through an amended bill and second amended bill and answer and supplemental and then an amended answer, and changing the pleadings and motions for rehearings.

Numerous depositions were taken, and the cause came on for argument, when, on 24 January, 1848, the circuit court passed the following decree:

"R. C. STOCKTON v. J. C. FORD"

"This cause came on to be heard upon the bill, answers, replications, and exhibits; the evidence being adduced, and argument of counsel heard, and the court having maturely considered the same, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the complainant's bill be dismissed, and the same is hereby dismissed, with costs."

Some further proceedings took place, but at last the decree was made absolute.

The complainant appealed to this Court.

Page 52 U. S. 242

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