The J. E. Rumbell,
148 U.S. 1 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The J. E. Rumbell, 148 U.S. 1 (1893)

The J. E. Rumbell

No. 1117

Submitted October 14, 1892

Decided March 8, 1893

148 U.S. 1


In the admiralty and maritime law of the United States, the following propositions are established by the decisions of this Court:

(1) For necessary repairs or supplies furnished to a vessel in a foreign port, a lien is given by the general maritime law, following the civil law, and may be enforced in admiralty.

(2) For repairs or supplies in the home port of the vessel, no lien exists or can be enforced in admiralty under the general law, independently of local statute.

(3) Whenever the statute of a state gives a lien, to be enforced by process in rem against the vessel, for repairs or supplies in her home port, this lien, being similar to the lien arising in a foreign port under the general law, is in the nature of a maritime lien, and therefore may be enforced in admiralty in the courts of the United States.

(4) This lien, in the nature of a maritime lien and to be enforced by process in the nature of admiralty process, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, sitting in admiralty.

Page 148 U. S. 2

In the admiralty courts of the United States, a lien upon a vessel for necessary supplies and repairs in her home port, given by the statute of a state, and to be enforced by proceedings in rem in the nature of admiralty process, takes precedence of a prior mortgage, recorded under section 4192 of the Revised Statutes.

This was a certificate from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit under the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, § 6, 26 St. 828, of a question upon which it desired the instruction of this Court in an admiralty appeal. The case, as stated in the certificate, was as follows:

On August 15, 1891, under a writ of venditioni exponas from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois, in admiralty, the propeller J. E. Rumbell was sold by the marshal for the sum of $1,850, and the proceeds were paid into the registry of the court.

On August 21, 1891, F. August Reich and August Reich, partners under the name of F. A. Reich & Son, former owners of the vessel, who had sold and delivered her to Michael C. Hayes on April 23, 1891, filed a petition against those proceeds, claiming the sum of $3,000 and interest, due upon notes given to them by Hayes for the purchase money, and secured by mortgage of the vessel, executed by Hayes to them on the day of the sale, and recorded on the same day in the office of the collector of customs of the port of Chicago, the residence of the owner, and the home port of the vessel, under section 4192 of the Revised Statutes of the United States. In that mortgage it was provided that if at any time there should be any default of payment, or if the mortgagees should deem themselves in danger of losing any part of the debt by delaying its collection until the time limited for its payment, or if the mortgagor should suffer the vessel to run in debt beyond the sum of $150, the mortgagees might immediately take possession of the vessel, and, after ten days' notice to the mortgagor, sell her to satisfy the mortgage debt. The petition of the mortgagees alleged that each of these contingencies had happened.

On September 16, 1891, George C. Finney and others filed a petition against said proceeds for sums due to the petitioners

Page 148 U. S. 3

severally, and amounting in all to $1,108.56, for ship chandler's supplies, engineer's supplies, groceries, provisions, fuel, lumber, and repairs bought for and furnished to the vessel at the port of Chicago since the recording of the mortgage and used for the benefit of the vessel and alleged to have been reasonable and proper to be furnished and done, and also for the sum of $220, due to Patrick Bowe, one of these petitioners, for services as master of the vessel since the recording of the mortgage, "for which supplies, repairs, and services" (the certificate stated) "there was a lien upon the said vessel under the laws of the State of Illinois."

The district court found and adjudged that the sums claimed in each petition were due to the petitioners respectively; that in the distribution of the proceeds, the claim of the mortgagees, Reich & Son, should have priority over that of the other petitioners, Finney and others, and that the entire proceeds of the sale of the vessel, amounting (after payment of seamen's wages and preferred claims for towage and salvage) to $1,105.59, should be paid to the mortgagees.

Finney and others appealed to the circuit court of appeals, which certified to this Court the following question:

"Whether a claim arising upon a vessel mortgage is to be preferred to the claim for supplies and necessaries furnished to a vessel in its home port in the State of Illinois subsequently to the date of the recording of the mortgage. "

Page 148 U. S. 9

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