Fleitas v. Richardson,
147 U.S. 550 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Fleitas v. Richardson , 147 U.S. 550 (1893)

Fleitas v. Richardson (No. 2)

No. 148

Argued April 14, 1892

Decided March 6, 1893

147 U.S. 550


The liability of a husband to his wife for her paraphernal property, secured by legal mortgage of his estate, under the law of Louisiana, is extinguished by his discharge in bankruptcy; her mortgage therefore cannot attach to land acquired by him after the discharge, and a subsequent mortgagee from the husband may set up the discharge in bankruptcy against the wife.

This was a bill in equity filed December 30, 1887, by Mary Corinne Warren Fleitas, authorized by her husband, Francis B. Fleitas, both citizens of Louisiana, against Gilbert M. Richardson, a citizen of New York, Albert R. Shattuck and Francis B. Hoffman, citizens of Massachusetts, and partners under the name of Shattuck & Hoffman, and others, in the District Court of the Parish of Orleans, and State of Louisiana, to remove a cloud on her title to lands in the Parish of St. Bernard in that district, which she claimed under a judgment and sale on execution upon a legal mortgage from her husband, and to restrain the above-named defendants from seizing and selling the lands under a conventional mortgage from him.

The case was duly removed by said defendants into the circuit court of the United States upon the grounds that there was a separable controversy between them and the

Page 147 U. S. 551

plaintiff, and that the suit involved a question under the bankrupt law of the United States as to the effect of the husband's discharge in bankruptcy upon the plaintiff's claim and mortgage.

In that court, a supplemental bill, answers (setting up, among other defenses), the husband's discharge in bankruptcy, and replications were filed, and on May 31, 1889, the case was heard upon pleadings and proofs, by which the material facts appeared to be as follows:

The plaintiff was married to Francis B. Fleitas on February 6, 1868. Before the marriage and on the same day, they and her parents signed a marriage contract before a notary public, and in the presence of two witnesses, which provided that there should be a community of acquets and gains between the husband and wife in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code of Louisiana, and by which her parents declared that in consideration of her intended marriage, they thereby made to her a donation of $20,000 in money, and Fleitas acknowledged that he had received that sum and declared that "he has taken charge of said amount for account of his said future wife, and for which he holds himself and remains liable to her according to law," and

"by mutual consent it is hereby agreed that all the property of the future wife, now owned by her or which may be hereafter acquired by her with funds unto her belonging, shall be and remain her paraphernal property."

This contract was duly recorded on September 27, 1870, in the Parish of St. Bernard.

Francis B. Fleitas, on April 25, 1877, obtained a discharge in bankruptcy in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana under proceedings commenced April 26, 1876, and afterwards, and before 1884, purchased the lands in question, and on January 28, 1884, mortgaged them by notarial act, duly recorded, to secure debts of his to Richardson, and to Shattuck & Hoffman.

On September 3, 1887, the plaintiff filed a petition in the district court of the Parish of St. Bernard against her husband for separation of property, and for a recognition of her mortgage on all his lands in that parish, alleging that he was

Page 147 U. S. 552

largely in debt and that there was danger that his estate would not be sufficient to satisfy her rights and claims. On the same day, he filed an answer denying all her allegations, except the marriage and the marriage contract, and on September 10, 1887, she recovered judgment against him dissolving the community of acquets and gains, decreeing a separation of property between them, and ordering that the sum of $20,000, held by him as her paraphernal property, be returned to her and be recognized as secured by legal mortgage on all his lands in that parish, to take rank and effect from September 27, 1870. Execution was issued on this judgment, under which the sheriff levied on the lands in question, and on November 19, 1887, sold and conveyed them to the plaintiff.

On June 29, 1888, Richardson instituted executory proceedings upon the mortgage of January 28, 1884, for the seizure and sale of the lands, as set forth in the next preceding case, the record of which was made part of the record in this case.

In the present case, the circuit court dismissed the bill and the supplemental bill upon the ground that the husband's discharge in bankruptcy barred the plaintiff's claim, and defeated any mortgage or lien in her favor. 39 F. 129. The plaintiff appealed to this Court.

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