Miles v. Caldwell - 69 U.S. 35 (1864)
U.S. Supreme Court
Miles v. Caldwell, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 35 35 (1864)
Miles v. Caldwell
69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 35
1. The established rule, that where a matter has been once heard and determined in one court (as of law), it cannot be raised anew and reheard in another (as of equity), is not confined to cases where the matter is made patent in the pleadings themselves. Where the form of issue in the trial, relied on as estoppel, is so vague (as it may be in an action of ejectment), that it does not show precisely what questions were before
the jury and were necessarily determined by it, parol proof may be given to show them.
2. The reasons which rendered inconclusive one trial in ejectment have force when the action is brought in the fictitious form practiced in England and known partially among ourselves, but they apply imperfectly, and have little weight, when the action is brought in the form now usual in the United States, and where parties sue and are sued in their own names, and the position and limits of the land claimed are described. They have no force at all in Missouri, where the modern form is prescribed, and where, by statute, one judgment is it bar.
3. A state statute, enacting that a judgment in ejectment -- provided the action be brought in a form which gives precision to the parties and land claimed -- shall be a bar to any other action between the same parties on the same subject matter, is a rule of property as well as of practice, and being conclusive on title in the courts of the state, is conclusive also in those of the Union.
Miles brought ejectment against Caldwell in the Circuit Court of Missouri; the action being brought, not in the fictitious form, still sometimes used in the United States, but in the form now more frequent with us, in which the parties actually suing appear in their proper names, as Thomas Miles against William Caldwell, and where the land claimed is described as by metes or bounds, or by both, the action being entitled, in Missouri, "trespass in ejectment." Both parties in the present suit claimed under one Ely, who, in 1837, and prior to that time, was owner of the land, Caldwell claiming under a mortgage made by Ely to Gallagher in that year and a subsequent release by Ely, [Footnote 1] Miles under a mortgage of 1838 by Ely to Carswell and McClellan and a foreclosure and sale founded on it. The defendant, Caldwell, in that ejectment, contended that his own title, under the mortgage to Gallagher, was good, and that the title of Miles, under the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan, was bad as having been made in fraud of creditors. Miles, the
plaintiff, on the other hand, contended that the mortgage to Gallagher had been satisfied, and that his own mortgage was not fraudulent, but given for a valid debt. Both these points -- that is to say, the point whether Gallagher's mortgage had or had not been paid and whether that of Carswell and McClellan was fraudulent or was good -- were submitted to the jury, who, on instructions from the court, passed upon them, finding a verdict for the plaintiff, Miles. Indeed, as to the question of fraud, there was an express agreement, now before this Court, that the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan was, in the action of ejectment, impeached for fraud, and the record of that suit also established the fact that the question whether the mortgage to Gallagher had been paid off in full was submitted to them. But neither of these points were points put in issue by the pleadings themselves, nor indeed was it practicable so to put them in issue in the action -- that of ejectment.
In this state of the facts, Caldwell, wishing, as he represented, to have his title "quieted," filed his bill on the equity side of the court, where the judgment at law had been obtained, to enjoin execution on the judgment and to prevent Miles' taking possession of the land.
The grounds of the complainant's application were these:
1. That his title was good and valid, founded on the senior mortgage, and, being the true legal title, should prevail.
2. That the mortgage to Carswell and McClellan was fraudulent because made for the purpose of hindering and delaying creditors, and that a court of equity should decree it to be void and prevent its being used to the injury of complainant.
3. That he had made valuable improvements, in good faith, on the land, supposing it to be his own, for which he was entitled to compensation before it was taken from him.
It is necessary here to say that in Missouri, one of the Revised Statutes enacts that in ejectment, as in other actions authorized by it, a judgment, except one of nonsuit, "shall be a bar to any other action between the same parties, or those claiming under them, as to the same subject matter."
The court below granted the injunction, and an appeal came here.