Wiswall v. Sampson - 55 U.S. 52 (1852)


U.S. Supreme Court

Wiswall v. Sampson, 55 U.S. 14 How. 52 52 (1852)

Wiswall v. Sampson

55 U.S. (14 How.) 52

Syllabus

Where real estate is in the custody of a receiver appointed by a court of chancery, a sale of the property under an execution issued by virtue of a judgment at law is illegal and void.

The proper modes of proceeding pointed out to be pursued by any person who claims title to the property either by mortgage or judgment or otherwise.

Page 55 U. S. 53

This was an ejectment for the following lot in the City of Mobile, bounded south by St. Francis Street and lying between Water and Commerce and Planters Streets of the said city, having a front of thirty-five feet on St. Francis Street, and extending to Planters Street, with the same breadth; bounded east by lands formerly belonging to M. D. Eslava, and west by a lot of Beach, Ela & Co.

The declaration contained three count -- two upon a demise from Edward Hall, a citizen of the State of Maryland, and the third a demise from Edward S. Dargan.

Although the decision of the court turned upon a single point, it is necessary to connect it with the other circumstances of the case which are somewhat complicated.

The following table contains a reference to the principal facts bearing upon the respective titles of the plaintiff and defendant.

1840, April 28. Ticknor, being in possession, conveyed the property to Day

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Plaintiff's Title

1840

"Dec. 28. Fowler and others obtained a judgment against Ticknor for $4,991."

"Dec. 31. Crouch and Sneed obtained a judgment against Ticknor for $7,176.25."

1842

1843

1845

"Feb. 24. Alias fi. fa. on Crouch and Sneed's judgment."

"April 7. Alias fi. fa. on Fowler's judgment."

"July 7. Lot sold to Dargan under the executions."

"August 13. Marshal executed a deed to Dargan."

1847

1848

"April __. Dargan brought an ejectment against Wiswall."

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Defendant's Title

1840

1842

"June 14. Wiswall obtained judgment against Ticknor for $2,233.17."

"July 1. Fi. fa. issued on it, returned 'no property found.'"

1843

"Feb. 7. Bill filed by Wiswall to set aside the deed from Ticknor to Day as fraudulent."

1845

"April Term. Deed from Ticknor to Day set aside as fraudulent."

"June 27. Receiver appointed by the chancellor, took possession."

"Nov. 26. Dargan applied to the chancellor to have the property delivered over to him, or for leave to bring an ejectment. Both refused."

1847

"March 1. Lot sold by the master in chancery to Wiswall, and deed made."

1848

Page 55 U. S. 54

Upon the trial, the following bill of exceptions was taken:

"Be it remembered that on the trial of this cause on this 4th day of January, 1849, before the Honorable William Crawford, Judge, the plaintiffs, to show title in their lessors, offered in evidence a judgment rendered in this court on the 28th December, 1840, in favor of C. S. Fowler & Co., against John Ticknor, for $4,991, besides costs; also a judgment rendered in this court on the 31st December, 1840, in favor of Crouch and Sneed against John Ticknor, $7,176.25 and costs; upon each of which judgments fi. fas. were issued within a year and returned by the marshal 'No property found;' no other executions or process issued upon either of these judgments, except the following: upon the judgment of Crouch and Sneed an alias fi. fa. was issued on the 24th February, 1845, and levied on the property sued for, upon which the marshal returned 'levied' --and 'the sale of the property levied on postponed by Judge E. S. Dargan, until further order.' And on the 17th May, 1845, a pluries fi. fa. issued on this judgment and was levied on the same property. Upon the judgment of C. S. Fowler & Co., an alias fi. fa. was issued on the 7th of April, 1845, and levied on the same property, and returned, 'for want of time to sell.' And on the first day of May, 1845, a venditioni exponas issued, upon which and the execution on the Crouch and Sneed judgments, issued the 17th May, the property was sold by the marshal on the 7th July, 1845, to Edward S. Dargan, for $7,500 and a deed was made by the marshal to said Dargan bearing date the thirteenth of August, 1845. The plaintiff further offered in evidence a deed of release and quitclaim of the same premises from Edward S. Dargan to Edward Hall, one of the lessors, bearing date the 3d of April, 1848, a copy of which is hereto attached, marked X; to the reading of which the defendant, by his attorney, objected on the ground that it was neither acknowledged nor recorded, but the objection was overruled by the court and the deed admitted in evidence upon the proof of the handwriting of Dargan, and the defendant excepted. The plaintiff further offered evidence to show that John Ticknor was in possession of the property sued for from 1838 or 1839, claiming title and that he remained in possession until about 1845; but whether, after 1840, Ticknor claimed it as his own or held possession as the tenant of someone else witness did not know. It further appeared that Ticknor built the store; that in 1839 or 1840, he became embarrassed, and that he owed a large sum of money to one James L. Day and from some time in 1840 carried on business in the store as the agent of said Day. Day was often there and had the control, but Ticknor managed all the details. It was further proved that McCoy and Johnson,

Page 55 U. S. 55

the tenants served with the declaration, were in possession of the premises in April, 1848, and had been in possession since November, 1847."

The defendant then offered in evidence a judgment obtained in the Circuit Court of Mobile County on the 14th day of June, 1842, in favor of Joseph Wiswall against John Ticknor, for the sum of $2,233.17, besides costs; and a fi. fa. issued thereon the 1st July, 1842, returnable to the fall term of said court, which was returned by the sheriff "no property found;" also the transcripts from the records, duly certified, of a deed, made by John Ticknor to James L. Day bearing date the 28th of April, 1840, a copy of which is annexed, marked A; also the exemplification of a decree and proceedings in a suit in chancery, filed the 7th of February, 1843, by Joseph Wiswall as a judgment creditor of John Ticknor, against said Ticknor and James L. Day, a copy of which bill, answers, and decrees are hereto annexed, marked B; also a decree and proceedings in the same court of chancery upon a bill filed March 1, 1845, by the president, directors, and company of the Bank of Mobile, James Stewart, and Henry Lazarus, several judgment creditors of said Ticknor, and against said Ticknor and James S. Day which bill was similar in its form and object to the bill of Wiswall, and was served on the defendant, Ticknor, on the 1st March, 1845; a copy of the answer of Day and the decree is annexed, marked C. The defendant then proved that Waring, the receiver of the court of chancery in the above two suits, went into the possession of the property sued for on St. Francis Street, as such receiver on the 27th day of June, 1845, and remained in possession as such receiver until the same was sold by him on the first Monday of March, 1847; that notice was given at the marshal's sale, when the property was bid off by Dargan, of the pendency of the above-named suits in chancery, and the claims of the complainants there asserted, and that he was, as receiver aforesaid, then in possession of said property under the decrees in chancery in the above suits. The property was duly sold by the receiver on the 1st day of March, 1847, to K. B. Sewall for six thousand five hundred dollars, and a deed of the same made to him by the said receiver and master in chancery, and on the tenth day of May, 1847, the same was conveyed by said Sewall to the defendant Joseph Wiswall; it was also shown that the purchaser from the receiver went into possession, and that the whole amount of the purchase money was paid and appropriated under the directions of the court of chancery.

The defendant then offered in evidence the transcript of a decree and proceedings had in a court of chancery in Mobile

Page 55 U. S. 56

upon the petition of Edward S. Dargan against Moses Waring, receiver, Joseph Wiswall, John Ticknor, and James L. Day a copy of which is hereto annexed, marked Exhibit D, which decree had been affirmed by the supreme court; C. Cuyler, the deputy marshal who made the sale to Dargan, testified that no money whatever was paid upon said, sale, but that Dargan gave his note to the marshal for the costs.

John F. Adams testified that he acted as the attorney of C. S. Fowler & Co. in recovering their judgment in this Court, and had ever since represented said judgment, and that E. S. Dargan, from some time prior to the marshal's sale represented the judgment of Crouch and Sneed; that it was agreed between said attorneys, Adams and Dargan, representing said judgments, that the land should be sold upon them and bid off in the name of Dargan, and that if the title thus acquired should enable Dargan to recover the property, the judgment of C. S. Fowler & Co. should be paid out of it, but that if the property should not be recovered by such title, then the sale was to be considered a nullity, and no money to be paid whatever on account of it, and that this was the understanding of Adams, but that after the sale, he yielded to the views of Dargan and signed a memorandum to the effect that Dargan should be a trustee for the parties. It was further in evidence that with the arrangements between Dargan and Adams there was no connection on the part of Ticknor, the defendant in the judgment, and no assent was given by him to them.

Adams also testified that as the representative of the judgment of C. S. Fowler & Co., he entered a motion in this Court at the spring term, 1847, to amend the marshal's return made upon the execution in that case to show that no money was in fact paid on said bid of Dargan, and said motion was produced and read to the jury, and is still pending and undetermined

Defendant then offered to read a bill filed in the Chancery Court of Mobile on the 18th February, 1847, in the name of David A. Hall, assignee in bankruptcy of C. S. Fowler & Co., against John Ticknor, James L. Day Moses Waring, receiver, Joseph Wiswall, Bank of Mobile, James Stewart, and Henry Lazarus, the object of which bill was to reach and have appropriated to the payment of said judgment of C. S. Fowler & Co. the proceeds of the sale of the property to be made in that court upon the bill of said Wiswall and others; said bill was filed by J. F. Adams, as solicitor of the parties, and sets forth, among other things, the following:

"That the said premises were sold on the 1st of July, 1845, by the marshal, to Edward S. Dargan, for the nominal sum of $7,500, and the marshal executed to said Dargan his formal deed for the same, and thereupon

Page 55 U. S. 57

made return upon the process that the premises were sold for the sum above named. And your orator now averreth that in fact neither the sum of $7,500 nor any other sum was paid by said Dargan to the plaintiffs in execution or to any person for them, but his said bid was made upon his stipulation made with the plaintiffs' attorney, and on the distinct understanding and intent on his part that in case his title under the said sale should prove to be valid and effectual in law, he would pay to the said plaintiffs or your orator so much money upon his said bid as he might thereafter be able to realize by a sale; but if the said title should not prove to be available nor enable him to obtain possession, that in that case he should pay nothing."

Said bill is not sworn to, and is still pending in the court of chancery; to the introduction of this bill as evidence the plaintiffs objected on the ground that it was not connected with the plaintiffs in this suit, and as being the statement of counsel merely, and not evidence against C. S. Fowler & Co., and the objection was sustained and the said bill excluded, to which the defendant by his counsel excepted. This was all the evidence offered in the case, and thereupon the court charged the jury:

"That the deed from Ticknor to Day of April 28, 1840, was upon its face, in connection with the answers of Ticknor and Day, fraudulent as to creditors and void, to which the defendant excepted."

"The court further charged that the title of Dargan, derived from the marshal's sale under the judgment of C. S. Fowler & Co. and of Crouch & Sneed was superior to the title of Wiswall, derived from the sale under the chancery proceedings, and entitled the plaintiffs to recover, to which the defendant by his counsel excepted."

"The court further charged the jury that the proceedings and decree in the court of chancery upon the petition of Dargan was not binding or conclusive upon the parties in this suit; that it was not necessary for Dargan to go into the court of chancery for aid, that his remedy was at law, and the proceedings there upon his petition had no effect whatever upon his title, and must be wholly disregarded in this suit, to which the defendant by his counsel also excepted and requested the court to give the following charges to the jury:"

"1. That if the jury believe the deed from the marshal to Dargan was made without any pecuniary consideration, it could pass no title, which the court refused, but charged that under the evidence before them, it was valid if no money was paid by the purchaser, to which the defendant excepted."

"2. That the filing of Wiswall's bill in chancery and the proceedings

Page 55 U. S. 58

thereon to a final decree in his favor gave him a specific lien upon the property of Ticknor from the commencement of his suit which could not be divested by any subsequent proceedings upon the older judgments under which the plaintiffs here claim, which was refused, and the defendant excepted."

"3. That the receiver of the court of chancery in the suits of Wiswall and others, being in possession of the property under the order of that court at the time of the marshal's sale and notice thereof being given at that sale, affected the purchaser and invalidated his title, which was refused, and the court charged that such possession and notice in no manner affected the marshal's sale or the purchaser under it, and the defendant excepted."

"4. That the proceedings in the court of chancery upon the petition of Dargan, the purchaser at the marshal's sale, was conclusive upon the parties and his title thus acquired, which was refused, and the defendant excepted."

"5. That under the statutes and decisions of Alabama, it is not the oldest judgment, but the judgment lien that has been kept alive by the oldest execution, regularly issued, without the loss of a term, that has the priority as between judgment creditors which was refused and the defendant excepted."

"6. That if neither Dargan nor Edward Hall were in possession of the property on the 3d of April, 1848, the deed of that date from Dargan to Hall was void and conveyed no title; this was also refused, and the court charged that under the evidence judgment, this deed was valid, to all which the defendant excepted."

"And the defendant tenders the above as his bill of exceptions in the case, and prays the court to sign and seal the same, which is done accordingly."

"WILLIAM CRAWFORD [SEAL]"

All the exceptions were argued in this Court, but it is only necessary to refer to the above charge, viz., that the title of Dargan was superior to that of Wiswall and that the decree in chancery, on the petition of Dargan, was not conclusive upon the rights of the parties; that he was not bound to go into that court for relief, as his remedy was at law.

Page 55 U. S. 61



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