Pierce v. United States,
255 U.S. 398 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pierce v. United States, 255 U.S. 398 (1921)

Pierce v. United States

No. 173

Argued January 24, 1921

Decided March 7, 1921

255 U.S. 398


1. A judgment for a fine imposed in a criminal case is enforceable, like a civil judgment, by execution (Rev.Stats., § 1041), and by creditor's bill. P. 255 U. S. 401.

2. A corporation against which an indictment was pending for taking rebates in violation of the Elkins Act divested itself of its assets by distributing them among its stockholder, who were also its officers and had notice of the prosecution. Held that the United States, having secured a conviction a year later upon which a fine

Page 255 U. S. 399

was imposed, was entitled to pursue the assets by creditor's bill against the stockholders to satisfy the judgment. P. 255 U. S. 402.

3. The United States, to satisfy a judgment recovered and upon which execution has been returned unsatisfied in one district, may bring a creditor's bill in another district in another state, without a preliminary issue of execution and return of nulla bona there. So held where it was agreed that the judgment debtor had no property out of which the judgment could have been satisfied at law. P. 255 U. S. 404.

4. A corporation against which an indictment was pending under the Elkins Act sold all its property to another corporation, which assumed its "debts, obligations, and liabilities" as part of the purchase price. Held that, assuming the second corporation thus became liable to satisfy a judgment for a fine imposed upon a subsequent conviction in the criminal case, the existence of such legal remedy did not operate to debar the United States from seeking satisfaction of the judgment in equity by a creditor's bill against the stockholders of the first corporation, nor did the institution by the United States of a suit against the second company to subject land, part of the property purchased, to its judgment amount to an election of remedies. P. 404.

5. Inasmuch as a judgment in favor of the United States may be made the basis of an execution in any state and district (Rev.Stats. § 986), the objection that a corporation against which the United States has a judgment in one district is a necessary party to a creditor's bill brought by the government in another state and district to obtain satisfaction from the stockholders is purely technical and, if not made in the circuit court of appeals, cannot be availed of in this Court as a ground for attacking a decree against the stockholders. P. 255 U. S. 405.

6. Under Rule 24 of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, a plain error may be noticed though not assigned or specified. Held that such an error, refused consideration in that court because first called to its attention by petition for rehearing, was assignable and reviewable here. P. 255 U. S. 405.

7. A judgment recovered by the United States as a fine in a prosecution by indictment does not bear interest, since interest is statutory, and Rev.Stats. § 966, the provision most nearly applicable, applies only to judgments recovered by civil process. Id.

257 F. 514 modified and affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the circuit court of appeals affirming a decree of the district court in favor of the

Page 255 U. S. 400

United States in a creditor's suit brought by the government against stockholders to satisfy a fine recovered from their corporation.

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