A decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
refusing to adjudicate defendant a bankrupt is not directly
reviewable in this Court.
Under § 24 of the Bankruptcy Act and § 252 of the Judicial Code,
only controversies arising in bankruptcy proceedings, and not the
steps taken in the proceedings themselves, afford basis for direct
appeal to this Court from the Supreme Court of the District of
whether Congress has omitted to provide for
appellate review of bankruptcy adjudications of the Supreme Court
of the District of Columbia.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 242 U. S. 108
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case is brought here by appeal and allowance of writ of
error from a decree of the Supreme Court of the District of
Columbia adjudging Hoover not a bankrupt. Counsel for the appellee
and defendant in error urges that the appeal and writ be dismissed,
but does not argue the question of the jurisdiction of this Court;
but, as such matters are noticed by this Court whether specially
urged by counsel or not, as it concerns our jurisdiction, we
proceed to consider it. Mansfield &c. Ry. Co. v. Swan,
111 U. S. 379
The provisions of the Bankruptcy Act for consideration in this
"Section 24. The Supreme Court of the United States, the circuit
courts of appeals of the United States, and the supreme courts of
the territories, in vacation in chambers and during their
respective terms, as now or as they may be hereafter held, are
hereby invested with appellate jurisdiction of controversies
arising in bankruptcy proceedings from the courts of bankruptcy
from which they have appellate jurisdiction in other cases."
"The Supreme Court of the United States shall exercise a like
jurisdiction from courts of bankruptcy not within any organized
circuit of the United States and from the Supreme Court of the
District of Columbia. . . ."
"Section 25. That appeals, as in equity cases, may be taken in
bankruptcy proceedings from the courts of bankruptcy to the circuit
court of appeals of the United States, and to the Supreme Court of
the territories, in the following cases, to-wit: (1) from a
judgment adjudging or refusing to adjudge the defendant a bankrupt.
. . ."
The same provision as to the review by this Court of
controversies arising in bankruptcy proceedings is carried into the
Judicial Code, § 252, in which provision in made for the review in
this Court of controversies arising in bankruptcy
Page 242 U. S. 109
proceedings in the Supreme Court of the District of
It is apparent from reading these sections of the statute that a
direct appeal to this Court from the Supreme Court of the District
of Columbia is allowed only in controversies arising in bankruptcy
proceedings, and not from the steps in a bankruptcy proceeding. The
nature of such controversies has been frequently considered in
decisions of this Court, and needs little discussion now. Such
controversies embrace litigation which arises after the
adjudication in bankruptcy, sometimes by intervention, the parties
claiming title to property in the hands of the trustee, or other
actions, usually plenary in character, concerning the right and
title to the bankrupt's estate. Such proceedings as the present
one, resulting in a decree refusing to adjudicate the defendant a
bankrupt, are but steps in a bankruptcy proceeding, and not
controversies arising in bankruptcy proceedings within the meaning
of the statute. First National Bank v. Klug, 186 U.
The decisions of this Court in Tefft, Weller & Company
v. Munsuri, 222 U. S. 114
Munsuri v. Fricker, 222 U. S. 121
decisive of this point. In the first of these cases, there was an
attempt to prosecute a direct appeal to this Court from the
District Court of the United States for Porto Rico, where the
proceeding was based upon a claim in bankruptcy. It was there held
that an order of the bankruptcy court of Porto Rico, disallowing
the claim, was not a controversy arising in a bankruptcy proceeding
within the meaning of the statute. The contention that such action,
based upon a claim filed in a bankruptcy proceeding, was appealable
to this Court was denied, the Court saying:
"But the entire argument rests upon a misconception of the words
'controversies in bankruptcy proceedings,' as used in the section,
since it disregards the authoritative
Page 242 U. S. 110
construction affixed to those words. Coder v. Arts,
213 U. S.
, 213 U. S. 234
; Hewit v.
Berlin Machine Works, 194 U. S. 296
, 194 U. S.
. Those cases expressly decide that controversies in
bankruptcy proceedings as used in the section do not include mere
steps in proceedings in bankruptcy, but embrace controversies which
are not of that inherent character, even although they may arise in
the course of proceedings in bankruptcy."
"It is true that, in Audubon v. Shufeldt, 181 U. S.
, and in Armstrong v. Fernandez,
208 U. S.
, this Court did review proceedings in bankruptcy-,
in one case from the District of Columbia, and in the other from
the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico. Of the
case, which was a review by appeal of an
adjudication of bankruptcy, this Court, in the Tefft, Weller
& Company, supra,
"It is true, as suggested in argument, that, in Armstrong v.
Fernandez, 208 U. S. 324
, jurisdiction was
exerted to review the action of the court below in a case which was
not susceptible of being reviewed under the construction of the
statute which we have here applied. But, in that case, there was no
appearance of counsel for the appellee, and while a general
suggestion was made in the argument of appellant as to the duty of
the court not to exceed its jurisdiction, no argument concerning
the want of jurisdiction was made. The case, therefore, in
substance, proceeded upon a tacit assumption of the existence of
jurisdiction -- an assumption which would not be now possible in
consequence of the authoritative construction given to § 24(a) in
Coder v. Arts, supra.
Under these circumstances, the mere
implication as to the meaning of the statute, resulting from the
jurisdiction which was in that case merely assumed to exist, is not
controlling, and the Armstrong
case, therefore, insofar as
it conflicts with the construction which we here give the statute,
must be deemed to be qualified and limited. "
Page 242 U. S. 111
It may be true that Congress has failed to give an appellate
review in proceedings in bankruptcy from the Supreme Court of the
District of Columbia from a decree with reference to an
adjudication in bankruptcy, but, as observed in the Tefft,
Weller & Company
case, that does not give this Court
authority to assume jurisdiction not given to it by law.
It follows that the appeal and writ of error must be dismissed
for want of jurisdiction.