Doe v. Childress - 88 U.S. 642 (1874)
U.S. Supreme Court
Doe v. Childress, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 642 642 (1874)
Doe v. Childress
88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 642
Under the fourteenth section of the Bankrupt Act, which enacts that the register shall convey to the assignee all the estate, real and personal, of the bankrupt, and that such assignment shall relate back to the commencement of the proceedings in bankruptcy, and thereupon by operation of law, that the title to all such property and estate shall vest in the said assignee, although the same is then attached on mesne process
as the property of the debtor, "and shall dissolve any such attachment made with in four months next preceding the commencement of said proceedings" -- an attachment which, under state laws, is a valid lien, laid more than four months previously to the proceedings in bankruptcy begun, is not dissolved by the transfer to the assignee in bankruptcy. And if such assignee do not intervene (which in any such case he may do), and have the attachment dissolved, or the cause transferred to the federal court sitting in bankruptcy, but, on the contrary, allow the property to be sold under judgment in the proceedings in attachment, the purchaser, in a case free from fraud, will hold against him -- that is to say, the assignee cannot attack collaterally such purchaser's title.
Doe, lessee of Vaillant, assignee of Montgomery, a bankrupt, brought ejectment against Childress to recover land in Tennessee.
The question was this:
When attachment proceedings are regularly commenced, a levy made, and the property is in the possession of the sheriff before the filing of petition in bankruptcy -- when there is no stay of proceedings or other measures in the bankrupt court to arrest the suit in the state court, there being no fraud, a sale is had under the judgment of the state court, a deed is given by the sheriff, and possession taken under it -- can the title acquired under such sale be attacked by the assignee collaterally in a suit at law?
In other words, can the assignee allege that under these circumstances the state court had no jurisdiction to proceed in the action after an adjudication in bankruptcy, and that no title passed to the purchaser under the judgment of the state court?
The defendant's title rested upon a purchase under two decrees in the Court of Chancery of the State of Tennessee. Proceedings in the suit were commenced by attachment on the 15th and 27th days of April, 1867. Decrees in them were obtained in April and June, 1868, and on the 17th of September, 1868, sales were made under the decrees. The purchaser then entered into possession, and the defendant under him now claimed title and possession by virtue of that purchase.
By the laws of Tennessee, the levy of an attachment gives a specific lien in the property described in them. [Footnote 1]
Montgomery had filed his petition to be declared a bankrupt on the 18th of February, 1868. This was ten months after the attachment proceedings had been commenced, and four months before the decrees were obtained in those suits, and seven months before the sale took place under those decrees.
He was adjudged a bankrupt on the 27th of February, 1868. This again was about seven months before the sale under state decrees took place, and ten months after the actual commencement of the attachment proceedings in the state court.
The fourteenth section of the Bankrupt Act enacts that the register shall convey to the assignee all the estate, real and personal, of the bankrupt. The section thus proceeds:
"And such assignment shall relate back to the commencement of the proceedings in bankruptcy, and thereupon, by operation of law, the title to all such property and estate shall vest in said assignee, although the same is then attached on mesne process as the property of the debtor, and shall dissolve any such attachment made within four months next preceding the commencement of said proceedings."
The court below held that the attachment was not dissolved, and gave judgment for the defendant. Thereupon the plaintiff brought the case here.