Barrow v. Hunton - 99 U.S. 80 (1878)
U.S. Supreme Court
Barrow v. Hunton, 99 U.S. 80 (1878)
Barrow v. Hunton
99 U.S. 80
1. A. having recovered a judgment against B. and C. in the District Court for the Parish of New Orleans, B., on the ground, among others, that the judgment, having been obtained by default and without lawful service upon him, was void, filed a petition in that court praying for a decree of nullity and for an injunction. An injunction and citation were issued and served upon A., who thereupon, alleging that he was a citizen of Missouri and B. a citizen of Louisiana, prayed that the action of nullity be removed to the circuit court of the United States. It having been so removed, and B.'s petition amended by converting it into a bill so as to conform to the practice in equity, that court, on a final hearing upon the pleadings and proofs, the latter including an exemplification of the record and proceedings in the original suit, dissolved the injunction and dismissed the bill. Held that the causes relied on for the nullity of the judgment being, under the Code of Louisiana, vices of form, the proceeding by petition was substantially a continuation of the original suit, and that the circuit court could not take cognizance thereof.
2. The character of cases sought to be removed to the courts of the United States is always open to examination to determine whether, ratione materiae, they are competent to take jurisdiction thereof. State rules on the subject cannot deprive them of it.
On the 19th of January, 1874, Logan Hunton recovered in the Fourth District Court for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, against F. M. Goodrich and one Pilcher, a judgment for $2,500, and interest at eight percent per annum from May 1, 1861. On the 28th of that month, Goodrich filed a petition in said court praying for a decree of nullity of the said judgment and for an injunction in the meantime, setting forth as grounds for such relief that the judgment complained of was void because it was founded on a default taken, and no lawful service of the petition and citation in the suit had ever been made on him, Goodrich, and because the partnership of Pilcher & Goodrich had been dissolved before 1866, and because he, Goodrich, had been discharged as a bankrupt in 1868. An injunction and citation were thereupon issued and served.
On Feb. 3, 1874, Hunton, the defendant in this proceeding, filed a petition for the removal of the action of nullity to the circuit court of the United States alleging that he was a citizen of Missouri and that Goodrich, the plaintiff, was a citizen
of Louisiana, and after a hearing on the subject, an order of removal was made by the district court. The plaintiff moved the circuit court of the United States to remand the cause, but this motion was denied and the suit proceeded in the latter court. After various proceedings had, the plaintiff, by leave of the court, amended his petition to conform to the equity practice of the United States court, converting it into a bill in equity containing substantially the same averments and praying the same relief as before. The defendant answered, and the parties went to proofs. Amongst the proofs adduced was an exemplification of the record and proceedings in the original suit in which the judgment was rendered, which the plaintiff in this suit sought to have declared null and void. On the 14th of February, 1876, the circuit court made a final decree, as follows:
"This cause came on to be heard upon the bill, answer, replication, and proofs, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the injunction herein issued by the state court was wrongfully obtained, and is therefore dissolved. And it is further ordered and decreed that the plaintiff's bill be dismissed at his costs. "
A rehearing having been refused, the decree was confirmed on the 28th of February, 1876.
From this decree the present appeal was taken, and it is sought to be reversed on two grounds, upon which errors are assigned, namely:
1st, that the transfer was illegally made, and the circuit court was without jurisdiction.
2d, that it appears that the Fourth District Court, which rendered the judgment against F. M. Goodrich, was without jurisdiction, and therefore the judgment is null and void.
Goodrich having died pendente lite, Barrow, his administrator, was substituted in his stead.