Edwards v. Kearzey - 96 U.S. 595 (1877)
U.S. Supreme Court
Edwards v. Kearzey, 96 U.S. 595 (1877)
Edwards v. Kearzey
96 U.S. 595
The remedy subsisting in a state when and where a contract is made and is to be performed is a part of its obligation, and any subsequent law of the state which so affects that remedy as substantially to impair and lessen the value of the contract is forbidden by the Constitution of the United States, and therefore void.
This action was commenced by Leonidas C. Edwards, March 31, 1869, in the Superior Court of Granville County, North Carolina, against Archibald Kearzey, to recover the possession of certain lands in that county. They were levied upon and sold by the sheriff by virtue of executions sued out upon judgments rendered against Kearzey on contracts which matured before April 24, 1868, when the Constitution of North Carolina took effect, the tenth article of which exempts from sale under execution or other final process, issued for the collection of any debt, the personal property of any resident of the state, and "every homestead, and the dwelling and buildings used therewith, not exceeding in value $1,000, to be selected by the owner thereof." Prior to that date, under statutes since repealed, certain specified articles of small value, and such other property as the freeholders appointed for that purpose might deem necessary for the comfort and support of the debtor's family, not exceeding in value $50 at cash valuation, and fifty acres of land in the county and two acres in the town of not greater value than $500, were exempt from execution. The lands in question were owned and occupied by Kearzey as a homestead, and as such were set off to him pursuant to the mode prescribed by the legislation for carrying the constitutional provision into effect. He had no other lands, and they did not exceed $1,000 in value.
Edwards was the purchaser at the sheriff's sale of said lands, and received a deed therefor.
The court found for Kearzey, upon the ground that so much of said art. 10 as exempts from sale, under execution or other final process obtained on any debt, land of the debtor of the value of $1,000, and the statutes enacted in pursuance thereof, embrace within their operation executions for debts which were contracted before the adoption of said constitution, and that said article and said statutes, when so interpreted and enforced, are not repugnant to Art. I, Sec. 10, of the Constitution of the United States, which ordains that no state shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.
Judgment having been rendered upon the finding, it was, on appeal, affirmed by the supreme court of the state. Edwards then sued out this writ of error.