Bryar v. Campbell,
177 U.S. 649 (1900)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bryar v. Campbell, 177 U.S. 649 (1900)

Bryar v. Campbell

No. 227

Argued April 12, 1900

Decided May 14, 1900

177 U.S. 649


Plaintiff's intestate, a married woman, filed a bill in the district court of the United States against her husband's assignee in bankruptcy and the purchaser of a lot of land at the assignee's sale, setting forth her equitable claim to the property and praying that the purchaser be required to convey to her. A decree was entered in her favor and an appeal taken to the Circuit Court by Campbell, the purchaser. Plaintiff did not press the appeal, but began a new action in ejectment in a state court against the defendant, Campbell, who set up a new title in himself and recovered a judgment. Thereupon, and sixteen years after the decree in her favor in the district court, plaintiff moved to dismiss the appeal to the circuit court. This motion was denied. Thereupon she set up the decree in her favor, although it had not been pleaded by either party in the state court. Held:

(1) That, the plaintiff having abandoned her suit in the district court, it was too late to move to dismiss the appeal.

(2) That the decree, not having been pleaded in the state court, could not now be resuscitated.

(3) That the judgment of the state court was res adjudicata of all the issues between the parties, and that the decrees of the circuit court and circuit court of appeals reversing the decree of the district court and dismissing plaintiff's bill should be affirmed.

This was a suit in equity instituted in the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania April 30, 1877, by Jane Bryar against James Bryar, her husband, and Robert Arthurs, his assignee in bankruptcy, to enjoin the latter from partitioning or offering for sale an undivided half of seven acres of land in the City of Pittsburgh for which, as she alleged, a conveyance had been made by mistake to her husband, though she had paid the purchase money with her own individual funds. Notwithstanding the pendency of this bill, the assignee proceeded to sell the land at assignee's sale to the defendant Thomas Campbell, subject to the two mortgages hereinafter mentioned. On August 15, 1878, Campbell was permitted to intervene and defend

Page 177 U. S. 650

the bill, the bill being amended by a new prayer that the defendants make, execute, and deliver to the plaintiff a deed for the property in question.

The case was heard upon pleadings and proofs, and on June 26, 1879, a decree was rendered in favor of the plaintiff declaring her to be the equitable owner of the land in suit; that defendant Cambell was chargeable with notice of her rights, and was bound to convey according to the prayer of the bill. An appeal was immediately taken by Arthurs and Campbell to the circuit court, where the case was docketed August 30, 1879. Here, the case rested, without further action, for sixteen years, and until December 20, 1895.

Meantime, however, and in February, 1880, Jane Bryar and her husband in her right began an action of ejectment in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County against Thomas Campbell, John W. Beckett, and William B. Rodgers, for the land in controversy, which resulted, May 19, 1881, in a verdict for the defendants, and a writ of error from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which, on November 14, 1881, affirmed the judgment of the court of common pleas. 30 Pitts.Legal Jour. 12.

Nothing further appears to have been done until December 30, 1895, when Mrs. Bryar moved the Circuit Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania for an order declaring the appeal of Thomas Campbell from the decree of the district court deserted upon the ground that the appellants had failed to bring up the record from the district court, to pay the entry costs, or to prosecute their appeal to the next term of the circuit court. Campbell filed an answer to this motion setting up his purchase of the land at assignee's sale and stating that he had not prosecuted his appeal because he had purchased a mortgage made by James Bryar to Edward R. James, upon which mortgage the property had been sold to his attorney, William B. Rodgers, who had conveyed to him; that he went into possession of the land; that the petitioner and her husband had brought the action of ejectment against him above referred to, and a verdict had been rendered in favor of the defendants; that he believed the result of the ejectment case made it unnecessary

Page 177 U. S. 651

for any further proceedings upon the appeal, and that he and his vendees had ever since been in undisputed possession of the land. The motion to dismiss the bill, or rather to declare the appeal deserted, was denied, and the death of the plaintiff Jane Bryar being suggested, it was ordered that her heirs at law, the appellants, be substituted as plaintiffs.

The appeal subsequently went to a hearing in the circuit court upon the former testimony, and new testimony put in by Campbell in support of his answer, and resulted in a reversal of the district court, and a dismissal of the bill. Plaintiffs appealed to the circuit court of appeals, which affirmed the decree of the circuit court, 62 U.S.App. 435, whereupon plaintiffs appealed to this Court.

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