Coit v. Robinson, 86 U.S. 274 (1873)
U.S. Supreme CourtCoit v. Robinson, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 274 274 (1873)
Coit v. Robinson
86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 274
When, after opposition by a creditor to the discharge of a petitioner in bankruptcy, the district court discharges him and the opposing creditor files in the circuit court a "petition of appeal" -- a petition setting forth the application for the benefit of the Bankrupt Act, the opposition, and the discharge, and praying the circuit court for a reversal of the orders of discharge of the district court -- such "petition of appeal" must be regarded as being a petition for review under the first clause of the second section of the, Bankrupt Act, which gives the circuit courts a general superintendence and jurisdiction of all cases and questions arising under the act, and on an affirmance by the circuit court of the decree of discharge by the district court, no appeal lies to this Court, though the debt of the opposing creditor discharged be more than $2,000.
On motion to dismiss an appeal from the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York affirming a decree of the district court in bankruptcy forever discharging, in the usual way, two persons, partners in trade, from payment of all debts and claims against them &c., including a debt of one Coit, to a greater amount than $2,000.
The case was thus:
Robinson & Chamberlain, partners in trade, applied to the District Court for the Southern District of New York for a discharge under the Bankrupt Act of March 2, 1867. [Footnote 1] Coit opposed their discharge, notwithstanding which the court held them entitled to be discharged, and by its decree discharged them accordingly. Thereupon Coit petitioned the circuit court for a reversal of the decree of the district court, and on the same day filed a bond with surety for costs, and, pursuant to the notice given, filed in the circuit court a paper entitled "petition of appeal" in which he referred to the petition in bankruptcy of Robinson & Chamberlain and stated that he was a creditor, that he had proved a part of his claim and filed his proof, that the bankrupts were examined at his instance, that he made opposition
to their discharge, and that he filed the grounds of his opposition with the district court; that he was heard in support of his opposition before that court, and that the court overruled his opposition and granted a discharge with costs against him, the opposing creditor. The petition concluded thus:
"Your petitioner, feeling aggrieved thereby, prays the circuit court for a reversal of the said several orders of the said district court as being contrary to law and to the evidence."
All the proceedings, including the evidence, had in the district court were filed with this petition.
The petition of appeal was heard in the circuit court and a decree made which, after reciting that "at a stated term of the said court,"
"the petition of W. A. Coit, one of the creditors &c., praying for a review and reversal of the decree of the district court &c., granting a discharge to the bankrupts, and the appeal thereon had been brought to a hearing before the said circuit court,"
"Now on all the papers and proceedings herein, and after hearing, Mr. Charles Tracy, of counsel for said creditor and appellant Coit, on behalf of said petition and Mr. G. A. Seixas of counsel for said bankrupts and respondents, in opposition thereto. It is ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the said decree said district court be and the same is hereby affirmed."
Coit thereupon filed in the circuit court a petition, addressed to this Court, giving a statement of the proceedings already referred to, both in the district court and in the circuit court, and concluding as follows:
"Your petitioner therefore prays that all and singular the records and proceedings of said circuit court upon the said case and the appeal thereon may be removed to the Supreme Court, and that the said decree of the circuit court may be reversed, and that your petitioner may have such other and further relief as may be deemed fit and proper."
Before filing this petition, he filed in the same office where he had filed it a bond in $1,000, conditioned to prosecute the
appeal with effect, and approved by the circuit judge "as to form and sufficiency of sureties."
The appeal being entered in this Court, the bankrupts moved to dismiss it on the ground that no appeal would lie in such a case from the circuit court. And whether one would or would not was the question before this Court.
The question depended largely upon certain enactments of Congress, including specially clauses of the Judiciary Act of 1789 and of the Bankrupt Act of March 2, 1867, under which the discharge took place. The sections referred to or relied on in the opinion of the court run thus:
"Judiciary Act [Footnote 2]"
"SECTION 11. The circuit courts shall have appellate jurisdiction from the district courts under the regulations and restrictions hereinafter provided."
"SECTION 22. Final decrees and judgments in civil actions in a district court where the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of $50, exclusive of costs, may be reexamined and reversed or affirmed in a circuit court upon a writ of error."
"And upon a like process may final judgments and decrees in civil actions and suits in equity in a circuit court . . . removed there by appeal from a district court, where the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of $2,000, exclusive of costs, be reexamined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court."
[By act of March, 1803, [Footnote 3] an appeal is given to the Supreme Court from all final judgments or decrees rendered in any circuit court in any cases of equity, of admiralty, and maritime jurisdiction, of prize or no prize, under the same conditions as to the sum or value of the matter in dispute as before existed in regard to writs of error.]
This act, after constituting the several district courts of the United States, "courts of bankruptcy" and after giving to them "original jurisdiction in their respective districts in all matters and proceedings in bankruptcy," enacts by its
second section (the same, for the convenience of the reader of the Court's opinion, being here broken into clauses), as follows:
"SECTION 2. The several courts of the United States, within and for the districts where the proceedings in bankruptcy shall be pending, shall have a general superintendence and jurisdiction of all cases and questions arising under this act, and except when special provision in otherwise made may, upon bill, petition, or other proper process of any party aggrieved, hear and determine the case as a court of equity."
"The powers and jurisdiction hereby granted may be exercised either by said court or by any justice thereof, in term time or in vacation."
"Said circuit courts shall also have concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts of the same district of all suits at law or equity, which may or shall be brought by the assignee in bankruptcy against any person claiming an adverse interest, or by such person against such assignee touching any property or rights of property of said bankrupt, transferable to or vested in such assignee &c."
"SECTION 8. Appeals may be taken from the district courts to the circuit courts in all cases in equity, and writs of error may be allowed to said circuit courts from said district courts, in cases at law, under the jurisdiction created by this act, when the debt or damages claimed amount to more than $500."
"And any supposed creditor whose claim is wholly or in part rejected, or an assignee who is dissatisfied with the allowance of a claim, may appeal from the decision of the district court to the circuit court for the same district &c. &c."
"SECTION 9. In cases arising under this act, no appeal or writ of error shall be allowed in any case from the circuit courts to the Supreme Court of the United States unless the matter in dispute in such case shall exceed $2,000."
The twenty-ninth section authorizes a discharge by the district court of the petitioning debtor when there has been no fraud on the act. The act goes on:
"SECTION 31. Any creditor opposing the discharge of any bankrupt, may file a specification in writing of the grounds of his opposition, and the court may, in its discretion, order any
question of fact so presented to be tried at a stated session of the district court."