Florentine v. Barton
69 U.S. 210 (1864)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Florentine v. Barton, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 210 210 (1864)

Florentine v. Barton

69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 210

Syllabus

A state legislature may constitutionally pass a private act authorizing a court to decree, on the petition of an administrator, private sale of the real estate of an intestate to pay his debts, even though the act should not require notice to heirs or to anyone, and although the same general subject is regulated by general statute much more full and provident in its nature.

In making the order of sale under such private act, the court is presumed to have adjudged every question necessary to justify such order or decree, viz., the death of the owners; that the petitioners were his administrators; that the personal estate was insufficient to pay the debts of deceased; that the private acts of assembly, as to the manner of sale, were within the constitutional power of the legislature, and that all the previsions of the law as to notices which are directory to the administrators have been complied with.

A general statute of Illinois, passed at an early day, enacted that, when any administrator whose intestate had died leaving real estate, should discover that the personal estate was insufficient to pay his debts, such administrator should make and deliver to the circuit Court of the county, an account of the debts and personal estate of such his intestate,

Page 69 U. S. 211

with a petition requesting aid of said court by its order of sale of a part of the real property.

The act was full, minute, and stringent in its requirements of notice to the heirs of the intestate, with "a copy of the account and petition." It directed "due examination" by the court of all objections made by anyone, and that sale of so much of the realty as would pay the debts should, from time to time, be ordered, or the whole, if requisite, only in case the court should find that the personalty was insufficient to do so. But the act directed that no sale not a public one, made in open hours of day, and upon full public notice, and with a description, to "common certainty," of the land, should be made at all.

With this general statute in existence and force, the Legislature of Illinois passed, in 1821, a private act, reciting that Beck and O'Harra, administrators of Aron Crane, had, by petition to it, set forth that the said Crane, late of Missouri, had died intestate, not leaving sufficient personal estate to pay his debts, but leaving real estate; and enacting that the said Beck and O'Harra should have power to sell such part of his real estate as they might at any time be ordered to do by the proper court, for the payment of his debts; and that such sales "may be made at private sale instead of public sale," notwithstanding the above recited general act. It was provided, however, that before any sale was completed, it should be reported to one of the judges of the court allowing it, and be approved by him.

The administrators accordingly made a petition to the state circuit court. Neither the petition, however, nor any other proceeding except the record of court, now appeared. This record recited a petition setting forth that the personal estate was not sufficient to pay debts, and praying an order to sell certain parts of the real estate, for the purpose of paying them, agreeably to the private act of legislature already referred to, and concluding with an order that the administrators should sell an item described. But there was no mention whatever in the record, that any notice had been given to heirs or to anybody, or that the estate was in any way indebted.

Ten days after order made, the administrators sold the property, and their sale was reported by them to one of the judges of the court, which allowed it, and by him was approved. This was in A.D. 1823.

Ejectment for the land thus sold was now brought, A.D. 1857, in the federal court for the Northern Circuit of Illinois, by Florentine, who had purchased, in 1856, from the heirs of Crane, against Barton, claiming under the vendee of the administrators. Judgment was given for the defendant, which was the error assigned.

Page 69 U. S. 215

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