Oakey v. Bennett,
52 U.S. 33 (1850)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Oakey v. Bennett, 52 U.S. 11 How. 33 33 (1850)

Oakey v. Bennett

52 U.S. (11 How.) 33


A decree in bankruptcy passed in 1843 by the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana did not pass to the assignee the title to a house and lot in the City of Galveston and State of Texas, which house and lot were the property of the bankrupt.

Texas was then a foreign state, and whatever difference of opinion there may be with respect to the extraterritorial operation of a bankrupt law upon personal property, there is none as to its operation upon real estate. This Court concurs with Sir William Grant, in 14 Vesey 537, that the validity of every disposition of real estate must depend upon the law of the country in which that estate is situated.

Besides, the deed made by the assignee in bankruptcy to one of the parties in the present cause was not made conformably with the laws of Texas, and letters of administration upon the estate of the bankrupt had been taken out in Texas before the fact of the bankruptcy was known there, and the creditors of the estate in Texas had a better lien upon the property than the assignee in Louisiana.

This was an ejectment, conducted by way of petition and answer, for a house and lot in the County and City of Galveston, in the State of Texas, being lot No. 13 in block No. 681.

The suit was brought by Oakey against Bennett, the administrator

Page 52 U. S. 34

of William Hall, and John H. Illies, tenant in possession. In the bill of exceptions, the suit is denominated an action of "trespass to try titles," but as the petition prayed for the restoration of the property as well as damages, it seems more proper to call it an ejectment.

Upon the trial, the plaintiff sought to derive his title from Hall, under whom the defendants claimed also.

In 1842, Hall was in possession of the lot by purchase from John S. Snydor, but no deed was at that time made.

On 9 February, 1843, Hall calling himself William Hall, late of Galveston, Texas, filed a petition in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana praying for the benefit of the Bankrupt Act of the United States passed August 19, 1841. The legal notice was given, and on 10 March, 1843, he was declared a bankrupt, and F. B. Conrad, of New Orleans, appointed assignee.

On 3 April, 1843, Snydor executed a deed to Hall of the house and lot in Galveston.

In March, 1844, Hall died, and Bennett, the defendant, was appointed administrator by the Probate Court of Galveston County in Texas.

In May, 1845, Conrad, the assignee of Hall, petitioned the district court for an order to sell the effects of the bankrupt, and, the usual preliminary proceedings being had, a public sale took place for cash. An article in the inventory was "all the right, title, and interest of the bankrupt in and to a house and lot in Galveston, Texas." Samuel W. Oakey became the purchaser of this for the price of four hundred dollars, and on 18 June, 1845, Conrad executed to Oakey a deed which contained the following recital, viz.:

"And the said William Hall, bankrupt, at the time he filed his petition in said court to be declared a bankrupt, and at the time, said 10 March, 1843, when he was declared and decreed a bankrupt, was possessed of a claim to a house and lots in the City of Galveston, of the exact nature of which the said Francis B. Conrad, assignee as aforesaid, could not obtain any exact knowledge or description, which claim, whether it was one or in plurality, on a house or houses, building or buildings, more or less in number, of lots, parcel, or parcels of land, be they what they were, situated in the City of Galveston, Republic of Texas, by said act of Congress, and the decrees of said court on said bankrupt's petition, with all his property and rights of property, of every name and nature, and whether real, personal, or mixed, became, by the mere operation of said act thus made and provided, ipso facto from the time of such decree aforesaid, and was deemed to be, divested out of such bankrupt,

Page 52 U. S. 35

without any other act, assignment, or conveyance whatsoever, and the same became vested by force of the same in Francis B. Conrad, assignee as aforesaid. All of which rights of property or real estate, whatever might be the nature of his title thereto or interest therein, which was situated in the City of Galveston, Republic of Texas, it was my intention to sell, as assignee as aforesaid, at public auction, and the said court, on considering my petition to that effect, made judgment thereon and issued an order of sale under date of 23 May, 1845, and by virtue of said order of sale by said court, and after due and lawful advertisement made by William F. Wagner, United States marshal for the district, and at the time and place designated in said advertisement, at the hour of 12 noon on this 18 June, A.D. 1845, the said marshal did, under my direction, then and there publicly cry, adjudicate, and sell to Samuel W. Oakey, the last and highest bidder, as follows, viz.:"

"All the right, title, and interest of the said bankrupt (William Hall) in and to a house and lots in the City of Galveston, Texas, being lot 13, block 681, or lot 9, block 622, or both, and sold without any guarantee whatever. The said Samuel W. Oakey became the purchaser for the price and sum of four hundred dollars, the receipt of which is hereby, as it already has been, acknowledged. In consideration thereof, I, the said Francis B. Conrad, assignee as aforesaid, have bargained, sold, conveyed, assigned, transferred, set over,"


This deed was afterwards recorded in Texas.

On 12 December, 1846, Bennett settled an account with the probate court showing that he was in advance for the estate $1,811.03.

On 25 January, 1847, Oakey filed a petition in the District Court of the United States for the District of Texas which, after having been the subject of sundry pleas and demurrers and motions, was finally withdrawn, and an amended petition filed on 31 May, 1848. This was the subject of some motions too, but at length issue was joined on 5 June, 1848, and the cause came on for trial. Being left to a jury, they found a verdict for the defendants.

The bill of exceptions sets forth all the deeds offered in evidence by the plaintiff for the purpose of showing a title in Hall, and also the record of the proceedings in bankruptcy, to show that this title passed to himself. This part of the bill is not necessary to an understanding of the prayers addressed to the court, and it is therefore omitted. Nor is it necessary to insert the evidence, as offered by the defendant, to prove interlineations and falsifications of the record. The following are the prayers addressed to the court on the part of the plaintiff.

Page 52 U. S. 36

"The plaintiff requests the court to charge the jury -- "

" 1st. That if the jury find from the evidence that at the date of Hall's bankruptcy, he was seized and possessed of the premises in question, and that, being so possessed, he, Hall, voluntarily applied to the honorable United States District Court of Louisiana to be declared a bankrupt, and was, in accordance with the Act of Congress of 19 August, 1841, adjudged and decreed by the court to be a bankrupt, such voluntary petition and decree operated to divest and pass Hall's estate in the premises, and vested the property as absolutely in Hall's assignee as he, Hall, might have done by his own voluntary conveyance."

"Which instruction the court gave."

" 2d. That if the said assignee, Conrad, so appointed by said court, in execution of the order of said court, sold said property to plaintiff for a valuable consideration, such bankruptcy, decree, order, sale, and purchase passed the right of property as effectually to plaintiff as Hall might have done by his voluntary deed of conveyance."

"Which second instruction the court refused to give"

" 3d. That if Hall did petition, and at the time of his petition in bankruptcy surrendered the premises in question as part of his assets, although he only had possession thereof under a purchase by inchoate title, which was afterwards perfected by full grant, such subsequently acquired title enured to the benefit of plaintiff."

"Which third instruction the court refused"

" 4th. That if the jury find from the evidence that Hall applied to the proper court, by his own voluntary petition, for the benefit of the Act of Congress of the United States of 19 August, 1841, and obtained a decree of bankruptcy on said voluntary application, then all the property of said Hall, of every kind and nature whatever, real, personal, or mixed, was thereby divested out of said Hall and vested as fully and effectually in his proper assignee, duly appointed, as the same was previously vested in Hall."

"Which instruction the court gave"

" 5th. That the act of the United States Congress of 19 August, 1841, was recognized and adopted by the laws of Texas as part of the law of the Republic of Texas."

"And this fifth instruction the court refused to give, saying that the law of the Republic of Texas referred to recognized the bankrupt's discharge, but did not affect his real estate, and here directs the clerk to insert the law referred to, which is an act of the Republic of Texas, approved February, 1841, laws of that year, p. 143, entitled 'An act for the relief of

Page 52 U. S. 37

those who have taken the benefit of the insolvent laws of other countries.'"

" 6th. That if Hall made a voluntary assignment in Louisiana of the premises in question in order to obtain the benefit of the said act of 19 August, 1841, such assignment was and is, in point of law equivalent to a voluntary conveyance made by Hall of said premises to the plaintiff."

"Which instruction the court refused"

" 7th. That the transcript of the record, marked A, from the United States District Court of Louisiana, is competent and conclusive evidence of what it purports to contain and what is recited therein, and that under law, said transcript of record is entitled to full faith and credit."

" 8th. That Bennett is in no better condition in relation to the property in controversy than Hall himself would have been had he been living and the defendant in this suit."

"This charge, the eighth, the court gave."

"As to the seventh instruction asked, the court charged the jury that full faith and credit should be given to the transcript of the record of the court in Louisiana; that is, that it is entitled to the same force and efficacy here that it would be entitled to in the court where the transaction was had, and of which it purports to be the record; that in this Court, as in that, parol testimony is competent to show that that which claims to be a record is void for forgery."

" 9th. That if the jury believe from the evidence that after Hall's act of bankruptcy, he became a citizen of Texas, Oakey being and remaining a citizen of the United States until the annexation of Texas to the United States, then, by the act of annexation, the property in question became as absolutely Oakey's as though Texas had been one of the United States at the date of the bankruptcy, the act of annexation having, by relation, removed every disability growing out of the laws of the place where the land is situated, and of Oakey's personal right to hold."

"Ninth refused by the court."

" 10th. That if the jury believe from the pleadings and evidence that Oakey has derived his title from or through Hall's voluntary act, either of record or by conveyance, and that the defendant Bennett only claims as Hall's administrator and Illies as his tenant, then Bennett is only the personal representative of Hall and, as such a proxy, and as fully and effectually estopped from denying Oakey's title as Hall himself would have been, and that Hall would have been absolutely estopped."

"Refused by the court. "

Page 52 U. S. 38

" 11th. That if the jury find for the plaintiff, they may find the rents as damages."

"Which the court gave."

" 12th. That the act for the relief of persons who have taken the benefit of foreign insolvent laws of Texas, passed February, 1841, before referred to, recognizes a surrender under a foreign bankrupt law, if honestly made, as a valid and legal mode of transferring the bankrupt's real estate lying in Texas."

"Which the court refused"

" 12th. That Oakey is vested with all the rights that were vested in Conrad by virtue of his due appointment as assignee of Hall."

"And this twelfth instruction the court refused to give."

" And to the failure and refusal of the court to give the instructions hereinbefore asked, and by the court refused as noted, and to the giving the said several instructions not asked, which by the court were given as hereinbefore set forth, the said plaintiff at the time excepted."

"And now, for the purpose of saving the said several exceptions taken, as well as to set forth the whole facts of the case, the court seals this bill of exceptions, and orders the same to be filed and made a part of the record, which is done 5 June, 1848."

"JOHN C. WATROUS, [L.S.] U.S. Judge"

The case came up to this Court upon all these points.

Page 52 U. S. 42

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