Dupasseur v. Rochereau,
88 U.S. 130 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dupasseur v. Rochereau, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 130 130 (1874)

Dupasseur v. Rochereau

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 130


1. When, in a case in a state court, a right or immunity is set up under and by virtue of a judgment of a court of the United States and the decision is against such right or immunity, a case is presented for removal and review by writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States under the Act of February 5, 1867.

2. In such a case, the Supreme Court will examine and inquire whether or not due validity and effect have been accorded to the judgment of the federal court, and if they have not and the right or immunity claimed has been thereby lost, it will reverse the judgment of the state court.

3. Whether due validity and effect have or have not been accorded to the judgment of the federal court will depend on the circumstances of the case. If jurisdiction of the case was acquired only by reason of the citizenship of the parties, and the state law alone was administered, then only such validity and effect can be claimed for the judgment as would be due to a judgment of the state courts under like circumstances.

4. Judgment was rendered by the Circuit Court of the United States for Louisiana on a vendor's privilege and mortgage, declaring it to be the first lien and privilege on the land, and the marshal sold the property clear of all prior liens, and the mortgagee purchased, and paid into court for the benefit of subsequent liens, the surplus of his bid beyond the amount of his own debt. This judgment and sale were set up by way of defense to a suit brought in the state court by another mortgagee, who claimed priority to the first mortgage and who had not been made a party to the suit in the circuit court. The state court held that the plaintiff was not bound by the former judgment on the question of priority, not being a party to the suit. The case was brought to the Supreme Court of the United States by writ of error, and this Court held that the state court did not refuse to accord due force and effect to the judgment, that such a judgment in the state courts would not be conclusive on the point in question, and the judgment of the circuit court could not have any greater force or effect than judgments in the state courts.

Page 88 U. S. 131

Pierre Sauve, of the City of New Orleans, being indebted to one Rochereau of the same place in the sum of $35,000, executed on the 26th of February, 1858, an authentic act of mortgage to him before a notary public for the security of the debt upon a sugar plantation in Louisiana above New Orleans, with all the farming utensils, machinery, cattle, and slaves belonging thereto. The mortgage, shortly after its execution, was duly recorded in the proper office of the parish.

On the 15th of March, 1866, Rochereau obtained judgment against Sauve in the Sixth District Court of New Orleans for the debt with interest and costs, with a recognition of the special mortgage.

On the 7th of June, 1866, Rochereau commenced an action in the same court against Edward Dupasseur by a petition setting forth the said judgment and the act of mortgage, and the failure of Sauve to pay the same, and alleging that Dupasseur had taken possession of the plantation as owner thereof, and charging that the same was bound for the debt, and that Dupasseur was bound either to pay the debt or to give up the plantation, and praying process and decree accordingly.

Dupasseur, in his answer, set up the following defense:

"That he purchased the property described in the plaintiff's petition at a sale made by the marshal of the United States, in virtue of an execution issued on a judgment rendered by the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in the case of Edward Dupasseur v. Pierre Sauve, free of all mortgages and encumbrances, and especially from the alleged mortgage of the plaintiff; that the marshal's sale was made in virtue of a judgment based on and recognizing the existence of a superior privilege and special mortgage to that claimed by the said plaintiff, and that the whole of the proceeds of said sale was absorbed to satisfy the judgment in favor of this respondent, except $15,046, which are in the said marshal's hands, subject to the payment, pro tanto, of the plaintiff's mortgage. "

Page 88 U. S. 132

The record of the judgment and proceedings in the United States circuit court, together with execution and sheriff's deed to Dupasseur and also the original act of mortgage on which the proceedings were founded, were given in evidence. From these it appeared that Sauve purchased the plantation in question from one Jacobs in June, 1852; that he paid part cash, and secured the balance by five notes payable respectively in one, two, three, four, and five years, and that the payment of the notes was secured by a reservation of the vendor's lien in the act of sale by way of special mortgage, with a covenant not to alien, &c., which act was duly recorded as a special mortgage in the proper office in 1852, but was not reinscribed within ten years, and not until 1865, it being alleged and proof being offered to show that it was impossible, on account of the prevalence of the war, to have the reinscription made within the proper time. The last note of $29,000 was not paid, and suit was brought upon it against Sauve by Jacobs, the then holder, in October, 1858, in the Third Judicial District Court of Louisiana for Jefferson Parish, and on the 21st of November, 1859, judgment was rendered for the amount, recognizing priority of the mortgage on the plantation, and an order made for paying the money into court. On the 5th of April, 1861, Sauve borrowed $37,011 of Dupasseur, the defendant, to pay this judgment, and gave him a new note for that amount, and Dupasseur was, by a notarial act, subrogated to the rights of Jacobs in the judgment and mortgage.

On the 1st of December, 1863, Dupasseur & Co., citizens of France, in right of Dupasseur, filed a petition in the circuit court of the United States for a sequestration of the crops, that Sauve might be cited to appear and answer, and for judgment for $37,011 (the amount of the previous judgment), with interest and costs, to be paid by right of special mortgage and with vendor's lien and privilege, before all other creditors, and for sale, &c. No one was made a party to this suit except Pierre Sauve. On the 23d of February, 1865, judgment was rendered in this case, to the effect that Dupasseur recover from Sauve the amount sued for, with vendor's

Page 88 U. S. 133

lien and privilege upon the plantation in question, and an execution was issued thereon by virtue of which the marshal, on the 5th of May, 1866, sold the property to Dupasseur for $64,151, being $15,046 more than sufficient to satisfy his claim. The balance was paid to the marshal, and by him paid into the circuit court of the United States, to be disposed of according to law.

In the suit first abovementioned -- the one brought in the Sixth District Court of New Orleans by Rochereau against Dupasseur, and to which Dupasseur set up the defense just abovementioned -- judgment was finally given for Rochereau on the 28th of January, 1868, and was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Louisiana on the 28th of April, 1868. The judgment of the supreme court was now brought here by the present writ of error. Dupasseur, the now plaintiff in error, alleging as a ground of bringing the case here that the state court decided against the validity of a judicial decision in his favor made by the circuit court of the United States on the very question at issue in this action, which decision was set up and relied on by him in his defense, and therefore that the case came within the terms of the second section of the Act of February 5, 1867 [Footnote 1] (section 709, Revised Statutes of the United States), replacing the twentyfifth section of the Judiciary Act, [Footnote 2] which enacts among other things that a writ of error from this Court will lie to the highest court of the state in which a decision in the suit could be had --

"Where any title, right, privilege, or immunity is claimed under the Constitution, or any treaty or statute of or commission held, or authority exercised under the United States, and the decision is against the title, right, privilege, or immunity specially set up or claimed under such Constitution, treaty, statute, commission or authority."

Two questions were thus raised by Dupasseur in this Court:

Page 88 U. S. 134

1st. Whether this Court had jurisdiction under the act of 1867, already mentioned, to hear the case?

2d. Did the state court refuse to give validity and effect to the judgment of the circuit court of the United States in favor of Dupasseur?

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