1. Where it can see that no harm resulted to the appellant, this
Court will not reverse a decree on account of an immaterial
departure from the technical rules of proceeding.
2. The statute of Minnesota declares that, in the foreclosure of
a mortgage by a proceeding in court, the debtor, after the
confirmation of the sale, shall be allowed twelve months in which
to redeem by paying the amount bid at the sale with interest.
Where, in a foreclosure suit, a decree, passed by a court of the
United States sitting in that state, ordered the master, on making
the sale, to deliver to the purchaser a certificate that, unless
the mortgaged premises were, within twelve months after the sale,
redeemed, by payment of the sum bid, with interest, he would be
entitled to a deed, and should be let into possession upon
producing the master's deed and a certified copy of the order of
the court confirming the report of the sale, held
decree gave substantial effect to the equity of redemption secured
by the statute.
MR. JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court for the
District of Minnesota ordering a sale of land in a proceeding to
foreclose a mortgage. The appellant, who was defendant
Page 97 U. S. 145
below, entered his appearance in due time, but default was taken
for want of answer, and a decree pro confesso rendered. The case
was then referred to a master to ascertain the sum due and report a
decree. This reference, and his report a few days after, and the
decree now complained of, were all made during the same term of the
court, and no exceptions were taken to the report.
We are asked to reverse the decree and send the case back
because it does not appear that the appellant had notice of the
time of the sitting of the master or of the filing of his report.
It is sufficient to say that the reference to the master was wholly
unnecessary, as he had nothing to do but compute the sum due on the
face of the papers, which the court ought to have done by itself,
or by the clerk, or by the complainant's counsel. The papers are
all now in this record, and there is no pretense of any mistake or
wrong in these matters done to the appellant.
This Court will not reverse a decree in chancery for an
immaterial departure from the technical rules, when it can see that
no harm resulted to the appellant.
But the assignment of errors attempts to raise the question
which we considered in Brine v. Insurance Company,
96 U. S. 627
namely that the time given by the statutes of Minnesota for
redemption after sale is disregarded by this decree.
The Minnesota statutes declare that, in a foreclosure of a
mortgage by a proceeding in court, there shall be allowed to the
debtor twelve months after the confirmation of the sale in which he
may redeem by paying the amount of the sale with interest.
The decree of the court in this case orders the master, on
making the sale, to deliver to the purchaser a certificate that
unless the property is redeemed within twelve months after the sale
by payment of the sum bid, with interest, he will be entitled to a
And it proceeds to say that unless the land be so redeemed
within the twelve months, the purchaser shall be let into the
possession upon the production of the deed of said master, and a
certified copy of the order confirming the report of the sale.
Page 97 U. S. 146
It would seem probable from this that the court intends to defer
the order confirming the sale until the time for redemption has
expired, and that the report of the sale and the deed of the master
will then be confirmed in one order. There does not seem to be any
objection to this practice, as there will be no occasion to confirm
the sale if the land is redeemed, and if it is not, the court can
confirm the sale and approve the deed by the same final order.
We have, in the case above referred to, expressed the view that
if the courts of the United States give substantial effect to the
right of redemption secured by the statute, they are at liberty in
so doing to adhere to their own modes of proceeding. We think this
has been done in the present case. The substantial right is to have
a year to redeem. In the state courts, where the practice
undoubtedly is to report the sale at once for confirmation, the
time begins to run from that confirmation. But if in the federal
court, the practice is to make the final confirmation and deed at
the same time, it is a necessity that the time allowed for
redemption shall precede the deed and confirmation. There is here a
substantial recognition of the right to redeem within the twelve
months, and we do not think there is any error for which the decree
should be reversed.