Burlington Railway Company v. Simmons/Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

123 U.S. 52

Burlington Railway Company  v.  Simmons

The rulings at the last term in Parsons v. Robinson, 122 U.S. 112, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1153, are decisive of this motion. The right of the junior mortgagee to redeem the prior mortgage has been established by the decree appealed from, but the amount he must pay has not been determined. The validity of his lien as security for the amount due on his mortgage has been declared, but what that amount is has not been fixed. His right to a sale of the mortgaged property in case the debt is not paid has been settled, but such a sale cannot be made until a further order to that effect is entered. The litigation has not been ended; the terms of the redemption have not been fixed, and the foreclosure sale awaits the further judicial action of the court. In short, nothing can be done towards carrying the decree into effect until the 'further order or decree' for which the cause was continued. This is shown more than once on the face of the decree, and consequently the decree is, in fact, what the court took care to say it was, 'interlocutory' only, and not final, for the purposes of an appeal.

It is suggested in the brief of counsel for the appellant that the cases of Bank v. Shedd, 121 U.S. 74, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 807, and Parsons v. Robinson, supra, are in conflict; but this is a mistake. In Shedd's Case there was a decree of sale absolutely and without reserve, which could be carried into execution at once, and when a purchaser acquired title under it he would have held as against all the parties to the suit, no matter what might be the rulings on the other questions in the case which were reserved for further adjudication. The language of the decree, as shown at page 84, was to the effect 'that the whole property be sold as an entirety, * * * and that, upon a confirmation of the sale, the purchaser be entitled to a conveyance freed and discharged of the lien of the mortgages, receiver's certificates, costs, expenses,' etc. Such a decree was surely final, for the purposes of an appeal, within the rule as stated in Forgay v. Conrad, 6 How. 201, where it is said, at page 204: 'When the decree decides the right to the property in contest, and directs it to be delivered up by the defendant to the complainant, or directs it to be sold, or directs the defendant to pay a certain sum of money to the complainant, and the complainant is entitled to have such a decree carried immediately into execution, the decree must be considered as a final one to that extent, and authorizes an appeal to this court, although so much of the bill is retained in the circuit court as is necessary for the purpose of adjusting by a further decree the accounts between the parties, pursuant to the decree passed.' To the same effect are Ray v. Law, 3 Cranch, 179; Bron'son v. Railroad Co., 2 Black, 524, 531; and Thomson v. Dean, 7 Wall. 342, in which last case it is said, (page 345:) 'In this case the decree directs the performance of a specific act, and requires that it be done forth with. The effect of the act, when done, is to invest the transferees with all the rights of ownership. It changes the property in the stock as absolutely and as completely as could be done by execution on a decree for sale. It looks to no future modification or change of the decree.' If a sale had been made under the decree as it stood in Shedd's Case, 'the title of the purchaser would not have been overthrown or invalidated, even by a reversal of the decree; and consequently the title of the defendants to the lands would have been extinguished, and their redress, upon the reversal, would have been of a different sort from that of a restitution of the land sold.' Such was the language of this court, speaking through Mr. Justice STORY, in Whiting v. Bank, 13 Pet. 6, 15, in reference to the effect of a sale under a decree of foreclosure and sale, and there cannot be a doubt of its correctness. It was for this reason the decree in Shedd's Case was held to be final in the sense of a court of equity for the purpose of an appeal.

But in Parsons v. Robinson we held there was no decree of sale which could be 'carried immediately into execution;' that no order of sale could issue until the court had 'given its authority in that behalf;' and that 'further judicial action must be had by the court before its ministerial officers' 'could proceed to carry the decree into execution.' In this consists the difference between the two cases: in Shedd's Case there was actually a decree of sale; in Parson's Case there was not. So, here, there has been no actual decree of sale, and the motion to dismiss is granted.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).