Christmas v. Russell - 72 U.S. 290 (1866)
U.S. Supreme Court
Christmas v. Russell, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 290 290 (1866)
Christmas v. Russell
72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 290
1. A state statute which enacts that
"No action shall be maintained on any judgment or decree rendered by any court without this state against any person who, at the time of the commencement of the action in which such judgment or decree was or shall be rendered, was or shall be a resident of this state, in any case where the cause of action would have been barred by any act of limitation of this state if such suit had been brought therein"
is unconstitutional and void as destroying the right of a party to enforce a judgment regularly obtained in another state, and
as conflicting therefore with the provision of the Constitution (Art. IV, § 1), which ordains that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state."
2. A plea of fraud in obtaining a judgment sued upon, cannot be demurred to generally because not showing the particulars of the fraud set up. Going to a matter of form, the demurrer should be special.
3. Subject to the qualification that they are open to inquiry as to the jurisdiction of the court which gave them and as to notice to the defendant, the judgment of a state court, not reversed by a superior court having jurisdiction nor set aside by a direct proceeding in chancery, is conclusive in the courts of all the other states where the subject matter of controversy is the same.
In March, 1840, Christmas, being a citizen and resident of Mississippi, made at Vicksburg, in that state, and there delivered to one Samuel a promissory note, promising to pay to his order in March, 1841, a sum certain. This note was endorsed by Samuel to Russell a citizen and resident of Kentucky. By statute of Mississippi, action on this note was barred by limitation, after six years, that is to say, was barred in March, 1847. In 1853, the defendant, who was still and had continuously been a resident of Mississippi, having a mansion house therein, went into Kentucky on a visit, and was there sued in one of the state courts upon the note.
Defense was taken on a statute of limitations of Mississippi and otherwise, and the matter having been taken to the Court of Appeal of Kentucky and returned thence, judgment was entered below in favor of the plaintiff.
A transcript being promptly carried into Mississippi, the place of the domicil of Christmas, an action of debt was brought upon it in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Mississippi, the action which was the subject of the writ of error now before this Court.
The transcript above referred to, was one duly authenticated under the Act of Congress of 26 May, 1790, which provides that records authenticated in a manner which it prescribes, shall "have such faith and credit given to them in every other court in the United States, as they have by law or usage in the court from which they are taken," an act passed in pursuance of Section 1 of Article IV of the Constitution
of the United States, declaring that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings in every other state," and that "Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such records shall be proved, and the effect thereof."
In the action brought as above said, in the Circuit Court of Mississippi, the defendant filed six pleas -- of which the second was to this effect:
"That at the time the cause of action accrued, and thenceforth until suit was brought in Kentucky, and at the time when said suit was brought, he was a resident of Mississippi, and that the cause of action would have been barred by an act of limitation of that state, if the suit had been brought therein, and so by the law of Mississippi, no action could be maintained in said state upon the said judgment."
He also pleaded
"4th. That the judgment set forth was obtained and procured by the plaintiff by fraud of the said plaintiff."
"6th. That the said suit in which judgment was obtained, was instituted to evade the laws of Mississippi, and in fraud of said laws."
The second and sixth pleas were intended to set up a defense under a statute of Mississippi, adopted in February, 1857, and which went into effect on the 1st day of November of that year. [Footnote 1] That statute enacted:
"No action shall be maintained on any judgment or decree rendered by any court without this state against any person who, at the time of the commencement of the action in which such judgment or decree was or shall be rendered, was or shall be a resident of this state, in any case where the cause of such action would have been barred by any act of limitation of this state, if such suit had been brought therein. "
To these pleas the plaintiff below demurred. The demurrer was sustained, and judgment having gone for the plaintiff, the question on error here was, as to the sufficiency of these pleas, or either of them, to bar the action.