In an action in personam,
the state court has
jurisdiction to issue an auxiliary attachment against the vessel
whether or not the contract be of a maritime nature.
While a proceeding in rem,
as one essentially against
the vessel itself, is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the
admiralty, an action in personam
with concurrent remedy of
attachment to secure payment of a personal judgment is within the
jurisdiction of the state court even though such attachment, if
auxiliary to the remedy in personam,
against the vessel under a state statute providing for a lien.
Page 237 U. S. 304
A specific attachment in a suit against the owners of a vessel
for repairs made thereto, under the lien provision of §§ 2480-2486,
Kentucky Statutes, held
to be an auxiliary lien attachment
in a suit in personam
to protect the judgment, and not a
proceeding in rem,
and the case was therefore within the
jurisdiction of the state court.
159 Ky. 414 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the construction and validity of the
laws of the Kentucky relating to liens on vessels for repairs and
the jurisdiction of the state court to enforce such liens, are
stated in the opinion.
Page 237 U. S. 305
MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Cloverport Foundry & Machine Company, the defendant in
error, brought this suit against F. T. Rounds and S. A. Jesse, of
Owensboro, Kentucky, in the Breckinridge Circuit Court of that
state, to recover the sum of $5,668.65 for work and materials
furnished under a contract to repair and rebuild a steamboat
formerly known as the "R. D. Kendall," and renamed the "Golden
Girl." The defendants were the owners of the vessel. A specific
attachment was issued under §§ 2480 to 2486 of the Kentucky
Statutes, which provided for a lien upon watercraft for work and
supplies, etc., and the defendants procured a release of the boat
by executing a forthcoming bond. By special demurrer, the
defendants challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain
the action upon the ground that the subject matter was exclusively
cognizable in the admiralty. The demurrer was overruled, and the
defendants, reasserting the absence of authority in the court,
answered, denying the allegations of the petition and setting up a
counterclaim for damages alleged to have been caused by defective
work and by delay in completion. Upon the trial, the counterclaim
was dismissed and the company had judgment against the defendants
for the amount demanded in its petition; it was further adjudged
that, by virtue of the attachment and the applicable law, the
plaintiff had a lien upon the vessel for the payment of the
judgment, and the vessel was ordered to be sold and the proceeds
applied to the debt. The court of appeals of the state affirmed the
judgment. 159 Ky. 414.
The question presented on this writ of error relates solely to
the jurisdiction of the state court. It is contended by the
plaintiffs in error that the contract in suit was for repairs on
the vessel, and therefore was maritime in character; that the
proceeding was in rem
and beyond the
Page 237 U. S. 306
competency of the local tribunal. See
4 Wall. 411; The Hine
4 Wall. 555; The
7 Wall. 624; The J. E. Rumbell,
148 U. S. 1
Glide, 167 U. S. 606
The Robert W. Parsons, 191 U. S. 17
of June 23, 1910, c. 373, 36 Stat. 604. On the other hand, the
defendant in error denies that the contract was maritime,
contending that the old boat was dismantled, its identity
destroyed, and a new boat built, and that the case in this aspect
falls within the decisions relating to contracts for the original
construction of a vessel. People's Ferry Co. v.
20 How. 393; Roach v.
22 How. 129; Edwards v.
21 Wall. 532; The Winnebago,
205 U. S. 354
Further, it is urged in support of the judgment that the proceeding
was in personam,
and not in rem;
attachment and direction for sale were incidental to the suit
against the owners and for the purpose of securing satisfaction of
the personal judgment. Accordingly, it is said, the proceeding was
within the scope of the "common law remedy" saved to suitors by the
Judiciary Act. 1 Stat. 77, c. 20; Rev.Stat. § 563, Judicial Code, §
As the last point is plainly well taken, it is unnecessary to go
further. It is well settled that, in an action in
the state court has jurisdiction to issue an
auxiliary attachment against the vessel, and, whether or not the
contract in suit be deemed to be of a maritime nature, it cannot be
said that the state court transcended its authority. The proceeding
which is within the exclusive jurisdiction of
admiralty is one essentially against the vessel itself as the
debtor or offending thing -- in which the vessel is itself "seized
and impleaded as the defendant, and is judged and sentenced
accordingly." By virtue of dominion over the thing, all persons
interested in it are deemed to be parties to the suit; the decree
binds all the world, and under it the property itself passes, and
not merely the title or interest of a personal defendant.
Page 237 U. S. 307
Cranch 126, 13 U. S. 144
The Moses Taylor, supra; The Hine v. Trevor, supra; The
Belfast, supra; The Glide, supra; The Robert W. Parsons, supra;
Bird v. The Josephine,
39 N.Y. 19, 27. Actions in
with a concurrent attachment to afford security for
the payment of a personal judgment are in a different category.
The Belfast, supra; 61 U. S.
20 How. 583, 61 U. S.
-599; The Robert W. Parsons, supra.
is so not only in the case of an attachment against the property of
the defendant generally, but also where it runs specifically
against the vessel under a state statute providing for a lien, if
it be found that the attachment was auxiliary to the remedy in
personam. Leon v.
11 Wall. 185; see also Johnson v.
Chicago &c. Elevator Co., 119 U.
, 119 U. S.
-399; Knapp, Stout & Co. v. McCaffrey,
177 U. S. 638
177 U. S.
In the case of Leon v. Galceran, supra,
the suit was
in a court of the State of Louisiana, to
recover mariner's wages. Under a statute of the state, the vessel
was subject to a lien or privilege in favor of the mariner, and
accordingly, at the beginning of the suit, on the application of
the plaintiff, who asserted his lien, a writ of sequestration was
issued and levied upon the vessel, which was afterwards released
upon the execution by the owner, the defendant in the suit, of a
forthcoming bond, with surety. Judgment was recovered by the
plaintiff for the amount claimed, and the vessel not being
returned, suit was brought in the state court against the surety.
Upon writ of error from this Court to review the judgment in the
latter action, it was contended, with respect to the issue and levy
of the writ of sequestration, that the vessel had been seized under
admiralty process in a proceeding in rem
over which the
state court had no jurisdiction ratione materiae,
hence that the bond was void. The contention was overruled, and the
jurisdiction of the state court maintained. As this Court said in
Johnson v. Chicago &c. Elevator Co., supra,
reviewing Leon v. Galceran, supra,
Page 237 U. S. 308
it was held that
"the action in personam
in the state court was a proper
one, because it was a common law remedy, which the common law was
competent to give, although the state law gave a lien on the vessel
in the case, similar to a lien under the maritime law, and it was
made enforceable by a writ of sequestration in advance, to hold the
vessel as a security to respond to a judgment, if recovered against
her owner, as a defendant; that the suit was not a proceeding
nor was the writ of sequestration; that the bond
given on the release of the vessel became the substitute for her;
that the common law is as competent as the admiralty to give a
remedy in all cases where the suit is in personam
the owner of the property, and that these views were not
inconsistent with any expressed in The Moses Taylor,
The Hine v. Trevor,
or in The Belfast.
The result of the decisions is thus stated in Knapp, Stout
& Co. v. McCaffrey, 177 U. S. 638
177 U. S.
"The true distinction between such proceedings as are and such
as are not invasions of the exclusive admiralty jurisdiction is
this: if the cause of action be one cognizable in admiralty, and
the suit be in rem
against the thing itself, though a
monition be also issued to the owner, the proceeding is essentially
one in admiralty. If, upon the other hand, the cause of action be
not one of which a court of admiralty has jurisdiction, or if the
suit be in personam
against an individual defendant, with
an auxiliary attachment against a particular thing, or against the
property of the defendant in general, it is essentially a
proceeding according to the course of the common law, and within
the saving clause of the statute (§ 563) of a common law
In the present case, as we have said, the suit was in
and the attachment was in that suit. It had no other
effect that to provide security for the payment of the personal
judgment which was recovered, and it was
Page 237 U. S. 309
for the purpose of satisfying this judgment that, in the same
proceeding and by the terms of the judgment, the vessel was
directed to be sold. It was within the scope of the common law
remedy to sell the property of the judgment debtors to pay their
debt. We are not able to find any encroachment upon the exclusive
jurisdiction vested in the federal court in admiralty.