Blanchard v. Brown - 70 U.S. 245 (1865)
U.S. Supreme Court
Blanchard v. Brown, 70 U.S. 3 Wall. 245 245 (1865)
Blanchard v. Brown
70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 245
In Illinois, and under its statutes relating to ejectment, when a question of fraud in obtaining a title to real estate has been submitted, in a suit in ejectment, to a jury and determined against the party setting it up, such party, notwithstanding the nature of the action, cannot go into equity and ask relief there, setting up essentially the same frauds and sustaining them by the same evidence that he relied on to make out his case in the suit in ejectment at law.
The doctrine of Miles v. Caldwell, 2 Wall. 35, a case from Missouri, giving the same conclusive effect to a verdict and judgment in ejectment as to verdicts in other actions -- the form of the ejectment not being fictitious -- held applicable in Illinois, and under its statutes.
Various judgments had been given against a debtor in Chicago owning real estate there, among them one in favor of Lyman. Execution issued in April, 1847, and on it, in April, 1848, the premises were sold to Blanchard.
A certain Hart had also obtained judgment against the same party. Execution issued in 1845, but was not returned into the clerk's office until 1852. The execution, it seemed, recited a judgment of the Cook County Court of Common Pleas, a court not at the time in existence, that court having been created by act of legislature only in 1848, and the name of the court in which the judgment was really given -- to-wit, the "Cook County Court" -- having in that act been changed to it. An alias was subsequently issued on the same judgment and the land sold for $71 to Brown, its actual value at the time being about $2,000, or, as was alleged, even $4,000.
Blanchard being in possession, Brown brought ejectment against him. Both parties, of course, claimed under the same judgment debtor and by virtue of their respective judgments and execution sales, the judgment under which Blanchard claimed being junior to the one on which Brown rested his title, and judgments being liens in Illinois according to their priority. Blanchard set up, as his ground of defense on this ejectment, that the sale under the judgment in favor of Hart, and under which Brown sought to dispossess
him, was a fraudulent sale made to defeat subsequent encumbrancers, and accordingly, that Brown had no title. To show the fraud, evidence was given of the value of the property compared with the price for which it sold; that it was sold in a body instead of having been sold, as it might naturally and much more profitably have been, in a divided form; that false representations were made as to the encumbrances on it, the representations having been that it was largely encumbered when it was not so; that no proper notice of the sale had been given, the advertisement which gave the notice having announced only that the sale would be on a day named "between 9 o'clock A.M. and sunset."
Blanchard set up also that irrespective of fraud (of which, indeed, the execution process was said to be one evidence), the sale was void for the irregularity in such process, and put in evidence the facts connected with this part of the proceeding.
The suit resulted in a verdict and judgment for Brown, and a second trial had the same termination. Blanchard, tendering the money paid by Brown and ten percent interest from the day of sale, now filed a bill in equity in the Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asking to have the estate upon equitable terms. Under his bill, some new evidence -- objected to as being in breach of professional confidence -- was introduced; but with it all admitted, he made in effect the same attack on the judgment title of Brown that he did in the previous actions of ejectment.
The circuit court dismissed the bill, and this Court was now asked by Blanchard, appellant in the case, to reverse the decision.
It is here necessary to state that in Illinois the old English form of ejectment does not prevail. Ejectment, like other actions, is brought by a real plaintiff against the party actually claiming, and is for the specific property demanded, with damages for its detention. A statute of the state, it should also be said, declares [Footnote 1]
"that every judgment
in the action of ejectment rendered upon a verdict shall be conclusive as to the title established in such action upon the party against whom the same is rendered, and all persons claiming from, through, or under such party by title accruing after the commencement of such action."
One defense, among others made to the bill and argued by Mr. Fuller was that Blanchard now set up in his bill substantially what he had done in his ejectments, and that the case could not be distinguished from Miles v. Caldwell, [Footnote 2] decided at the last term of the court -- a case which, though from another state, Missouri, was obligatory in the circumstances in this case from Illinois. In the case cited, statute of Missouri enacted that in ejectment, as in other actions, 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," and this Court held that as ejectment was in Missouri an actual as distinguished from a fictitious proceeding, a title decided in it could not be reviewed in chancery any more than any other matter tried and decided at law.