Long v. Converse
91 U.S. 105

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U.S. Supreme Court

Long v. Converse, 91 U.S. 105 (1875)

Long v. Converse

91 U.S. 105

Syllabus

1. This Court has no jurisdiction to review the decision of a state court against a right and a title under a statute of the United States unless such right and title be specially set up and claimed by the party for himself, and not for a third person under whom he does not claim.

2. So far as it relates to the above point, sec. 709 of the Revised Statutes, which authorizes this Court, in certain cases, to reexamine upon a writ of error the judgment or decree of a state court, does not differ from the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

3. Former decisions of this Court upon said twenty-fifth section cited and examined.

Page 91 U. S. 106

On the 20th of July, 1870, a bill was filed in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for the foreclosure of a mortgage, executed by the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company, to secure the payment of certain bonds. The bill prayed a sale of the mortgaged property, and the appointment of receivers. Henry N. Farwell was named as one of the defendants, he being one of the trustees under the mortgage and also one of the directors of the company. Process was served upon him July 21, 1870.

On the 2d of August, 1870, an order was made appointing receivers, with authority to take possession of all the property of the railroad company, including all moneys, credits, choses in action, evidences of debt, books, papers, and vouchers.

On the 1st of March, 1871, the railroad company was adjudged a bankrupt by the District Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts, and on the 18th of the same month an assignment of its property, according to the provisions of the Bankrupt Act, was made to Charles S. Bradley, Charles L. Chapman, and George M. Barnard, as assignees. This assignment was made to include all the property of which the company was possessed on the 21st of October, 1870.

On the 20th of September, 1871, the receivers of the railroad company filed in the Supreme Judicial Court their petition against George W. Long and John C. Watson, alleging in substance that when the order appointing them receivers was made, Farwell had in his possession, as one of the officers of the railroad company, certain coupons of bonds of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad Company, and of bonds of the City of Providence, which were the property of the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company and which, by the decree, he was ordered to deliver to them; that the railroad company had no right to sell or transfer the coupons or put them in circulation; that he had no right to the coupons or their possession; that notwithstanding this he had, subsequently to their appointment as receivers, transferred to Long and Watson five hundred of the coupons of the bonds of the City of Providence; and that Long and Watson, at the time, had full knowledge of the

Page 91 U. S. 107

rights of the railroad company, and that Farwell had no power or authority to make the transfer.

The petitioners asked that Long and Watson might be ordered to deliver the coupons to them and restrained from collecting the money due thereon.

Long and Watson answered this petition, denying that Farwell, at the time of the appointment of the receivers, held the coupons in trust for the railroad company and averring that he held them as collateral security for a debt owing to him by the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad Company. Having no knowledge whether the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company had authority to sell the coupons or put them in circulation, they left the petitioners to make such proof of that fact as they might deem material. They admitted the transfer to them by Farwell after the appointment of the receivers, but denied any knowledge of the rights of the railroad company and averred that they purchased the coupons of Farwell in good faith, believing that he had the right to make the transfer.

Subsequently, on the 27th of June, 1872, they filed an amendment to their answer setting up the bankruptcy of the railroad company and the assignment to the assignees, and concluding as follows:

"Wherefore these respondents submit that the said petitioners had not, at the date of the filing of the said petition, if they ever had, any right to the possession of any of the property of the said Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company, and particularly to the possession of the coupons in said petition alleged to be the property of the said company, and in the possession of these respondents."

The cause was referred to a special master. Upon the coming in of his report, exceptions were filed, and at the April Term, 1872, an entry was made on the docket of the court as follows: "Plaintiffs' exceptions sustained. Decree for the receivers upon the evidence reported." The cause was then continued. On the 28th August, 1872, the assignees in bankruptcy filed in the cause a paper addressed to the court, in which they represented, that

"having read . . . the proposed decree of this court against George W. Long and John C. Watson ordering them to surrender and deliver up to the receivers

Page 91 U. S. 108

the coupons of the bonds of the City of Providence described in the petition against them, we do assent to said decree and to the delivery of the coupons to the receivers as therein ordered."

Afterwards, on the 5th of May, 1873, a decree in form was entered by the court in which it was

"found as a matter of fact, and further ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the respondents, George W. Long and John C. Watson, took the interest coupons sought in this petition to be recovered of them, to-wit &c., under circumstances which preclude said Long and Watson from claiming the right of holders for value in good faith, and that as against the petitioners in said petition, said Long and Watson acquired no better title to said coupons than Henry N. Farwell himself had, and that said Farwell had no right or title to the same, and that the right to the possession of and the title to said coupons are now in the petitioners, . . . notwithstanding the amended answer of said defendants and the alleged adjudication in bankruptcy and subsequent assignment made therein."

Thereupon it was further decreed that the receivers recover of Long and Watson the money which it appeared they had collected during the pendency of the suit from the City of Providence upon the coupons received by them from Farwell.

To reverse this decree the present writ of error has been prosecuted by Long and Watson.

The error assigned is that the court below held that the right and title to the coupons in controversy were in the defendants in error, as receivers of the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad Company, and that they were entitled to maintain suit to recover the same notwithstanding the adjudication of the bankruptcy of that company and the assignment of all its property by register in bankruptcy to assignees in bankruptcy before suit brought by the defendants in error.

Page 91 U. S. 112

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