This Court cannot entertain argument based on the theory that
the decision of the highest court of the state is in conflict with
the law of the state.
The ruling of the highest court of the state as to enforcement
of a vendor's statutory lien is a matter of state law not
reversible by this Court.
Where the vendor attached within four months, alleging a
vendor's lien under the state statute, and the state court holds
that the proceedings under the vendor's lien failed for want of
possession, the lien is simply that created by ordinary attachment
and garnishment, and is dissolved by the express provisions of §
67f of the Bankruptcy Act.
Page 236 U. S. 449
Where an inferior state court attempts to proceed under
attachment based on a vendor's statutory lien filed within four
months of the petition, and the supreme court of the state holds
there is no vendor's lien, but only ordinary attachment, a
peremptory writ of prohibition against the state court and
relegating the parties to the Bankruptcy Court is the proper
132 La. 231 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the effect of bankruptcy proceedings on
attachments in the state court, are stated in the opinion.
Page 236 U. S. 451
MR. JUSTICE LAMAR delivered the opinion of the Court.
On March 12, 1912, Lehman, Stern, & Company sold to Martin
& Company 392 bales of cotton for the sum of $19,238. The
checks given in payment were not honored when presented to the
bank, and, on the day after the sale, the Lehman Company brought
suit in a state court to obtain a general judgment against Martin
& Company, and to foreclose the lien, given by the Louisiana
statute, on agricultural products
"to secure the payment of the purchase money for and during the
space of five days only after the day of delivery, within which
time the vendor shall be entitled to seize the same in whatsoever
hands or place it may be found, and his claim for the purchase
money shall have preference over all others."
Writs of sequestration and of attachment issued, requiring the
sheriff to seize the cotton in whatsoever place it might be found,
and to attach other property of Martin & Company and the
individual members thereof, and hold the same subject to the
further judgment and order of the court. The New Orleans Railway
Company, Gumbel & Company, and the Hibernia Bank were served
with summons of garnishment.
On March 19th, the defendants, Martin & Company, were
adjudged voluntary bankrupts. On the next day Thompson was
appointed receiver of the bankrupts' estate. Shortly afterwards,
the New Orleans Railway Company, garnishee in the state suit,
answered that it had in its
Page 236 U. S. 452
possession 83 bales of the cotton mentioned in the pleadings;
stating, however, that the cotton was claimed by Thompson, receiver
of Martin & Company, bankrupts, and that he had notified the
railroad company not to surrender the same.
By virtue of an order of the bankrupt court, Thompson, receiver,
thereafter intervened in the suit pending in the state court.
Calling attention to the fact that the attachment proceedings had
been commenced within four months prior to the petition in
bankruptcy, and averring that the action did not involve property
within the possession of the court, the receiver filed a motion "to
dismiss the proceedings herein, relegating the parties to the
proper court of bankruptcy to determine their conflicting claims."
Gumbel & Company, garnishees, also excepted to the jurisdiction
of the court on the ground that Martin & Company had been
adjudicated bankrupts. Both of these motions were overruled by the
judge presiding in the state court, who held that the bankruptcy
act did not dissolve the vendor's lien, nor did it prevent the
court from enforcing that lien against the cotton which had been
brought into the custody of the court by means of garnishments
served before the bankruptcy proceedings were filed.
Thereupon Gumbel & Company applied to the Supreme Court of
Louisiana for a writ of prohibition forbidding the judge of the
civil district court of the Parish of New Orleans from proceeding
further in the cause. The petition set out the history of the
litigation and averred that, although § 67f dissolved the
attachment, the court below had retained jurisdiction; that the
receiver had given notice that he claimed title to any property of
Martin & Company in the hands of Gumbel & Company, and
would proceed to enforce the same by proceedings in the bankrupt
court. By reason of these facts, and to avoid conflicts of
jurisdiction between the courts, Gumbel & Company claimed to be
entitled to the benefit of the writ of prohibition forbidding
Page 236 U. S. 453
judge of the parish court from proceeding further in the case as
against them, garnishees, and claimants of the cotton under bills
of lading issued by the railway company. A rule nisi
issued and was served upon the judge of the civil district court.
He answered, and after argument the Supreme Court of Louisiana
ordered that the peremptory writ be issued
"on the ground that, as § 67f dissolved the attachment, the
state court had no jurisdiction to enforce the garnishment process
under the writ of attachment for the purpose of subjecting the
property to the vendor's lien claimed by the plaintiff."
A petition for a rehearing having been granted, the court, one
judge dissenting, held that, unless the state court had possession
of the res,
its jurisdiction was destroyed by the
bankruptcy proceedings, and as the summons of garnishment did not
operate to transfer the cotton from the possession of the garnishee
into the possession of the court, there was no jurisdiction to
foreclose the vendor's lien. It also held that the state court was
without power to afford relief to the attaching creditors, who
would therefore be obliged to have their rights adjudicated in the
The case having been brought here by writ of error, the
plaintiffs cited Louisiana cases in support of the contention that,
in their suit for the recovery of the purchase price of
agricultural products, they were entitled to an attachment not only
to secure a fund out of which to satisfy a general judgment, but
also as a means by which to bring the cotton into court so as to
have the vendor's lien foreclosed. In the light of those cases, the
plaintiffs further insisted that the garnishment operated as a
seizure of the cotton, and that, while § 67f may have dissolved the
lien created by the attachment, it did not affect the lien given by
statute on the cotton which the garnishment had brought into the
legal possession, custody, and control of the civil district court
of the Parish of Orleans.
Page 236 U. S. 454
But this Court cannot entertain an argument based on the theory
that the decision of the Supreme Court of Louisiana was in conflict
with the law of the state. Its opinion in this case is to be taken
as conclusively establishing that, in Louisiana, the vendor's lien
can only be enforced against property in the possession of the
court, and also that such possession was not acquired by means of
the service of the summons of garnishment.
From this ruling -- on a matter of state law, not subject to
review here -- it follows that the proceedings in the civil
district court to foreclose the vendor's lien failed for want of
possession of the cotton. That, then, left the case an ordinary
suit for purchase money against Martin & Company, in which an
attachment had been levied on property in the hands of the certain
garnishees. But the lien thus created by attachment and garnishment
was dissolved by the express provisions of § 67f of the Bankruptcy
Act. The judgment granting the peremptory writ of prohibition, and
relegating the parties to the bankruptcy court, is therefore