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United States Supreme Court

69 U.S. 759

Ex parte Fleming

THE La Crosse and Milwaukie Railroad Company, a railroad company of Wisconsin, had mortgaged its road and other property to secure certain negotiable bonds which it had issued. The bonds not being paid, a bill of foreclosure was filed in the District Court of the United States for the Wisconsin district, the only Federal court then in that State, and which court had at that time Circuit Court powers. The railroad, &c., was sold by the marshal, who reported his sale to the District Court. The sale was confirmed by that court and the purchaser placed in possession.

About the time, however, when this report and confirmation was made, Congress passed certain acts establishing a Circuit Court for the Wisconsin district, transferring to the new tribunal, with certain reservations and limitations, the powers which had previously been exercised by the District Court. The extent, however, of the reservations and limitations above referred to was a matter not absolutely above question. However, this court, in a case decided at the last term, in reference to a part of the same suit now brought forward, had adjudged that the reservations and limitations were not of as extensive operation as was then contended by counsel that they were, and that certain orders made by the District Court in this same proceeding were void; the right to make them having passed by the acts of Congress to the new tribunal. [*]

In this state of enactments and decision on them, one Fleming, conceiving that the right to confirm or set aside the sale above mentioned, had also passed to the Circuit Court, petitioned that court for an order on the marshal to report to it the sale which had been made by that officer under the decree of the District Court.

He set forth in his petition that he was the equitable owner of certain of the bonds (describing them by number), to secure which the company had made its mortgage; which bonds he showed that he had bought of one H. G. Weed.

It appeared, however, by documents which he annexed to his petition and referred to, that when the La Crosse and Milwaukie Railroad was about to be sold under the decree of foreclosure, a number of its creditors formed themselves into a consociation, with a view of buying it in, and of reorganizing the road with a new name, that of the Milwaukie and St. Paul Railway. These creditors, acting for themselves and all who should become 'assentents,' and making in writing a scheme of reorganization, to which other creditors might assent,-appointed certain persons, Seymour and others, to act as agents and trustees in the whole matter of all persons who chose to deliver their bonds to them for use in the contemplated purchase. This scheme of reorganization made Seymour and the others agents of all the 'assentents,' giving them power 'to do any and all things which they deem for the benefit of the holders as fully as they might do if personally present;' and authorizidng them 'in relation to all matters, exigencies and things not herein specifically provided for to exercise a liberal discretion, except to oblige us personally for the payment of money.'

Weed was an 'assentent,' and deposited his bonds, getting in return a certificate of interest in the embryo Milwaukie and St. Paul Railway Company. The La Crosse and Milwaukie was sold under the decree of foreclosure. The agents, &c., purchased it, and it was now reorganized as the St. Paul and Minnesota Railway Company; the managers of that company being put, on confirmation of the sale, into possession of the road. All this, as it was to be collected from Fleming's petition and the documents annexed to it, was prior to his purchase of the bonds from Weed. In fact, the date of his purchase, as stated by him (September 26, 1863), was after the marshal's sale and the confirmation by the District Court.

Being dissatisfied with the sale as made by the marshal and confirmed by the District Court, Fleming petitioned the Circuit Court for the order as already mentioned. That court refused the order.

Mr. Carpenter, counsel of Fleming, now moved this court for a mandamus to the judges of the Circuit Court, commanding them to make such a rule on the marshal as had been prayed for and refused. The application to this court set forth that the marshal had sold, or pretended to sell, property belonging to another road, and not decreed to be sold, and that the District Court had pretended to confirm the same; but alleged that the District Court had no jurisdiction over the cause for any purpose whatever, the cause having been transferred to the Circuit Court; that the pretended confirmation of the sale was void; that the sale remained, therefore, in law unconfirmed; and that no steps could be taken to complete the foreclosure of the mortgage and protect the rights of the petitioner as a holder of bonds secured by the mortgage, except by having said sale reported, as it ought to be, to the Circuit Court.

Mr. Cowdrey, as amicus curiae, submitted a brief, suggesting that no proper interest was shown in Fleming to have what he asked for even if he had merits in fact; and arguing that, for various reasons which he set forth, no merits could exist; a matter, however, this last one, which the court, disposing of the case in limine, did not touch.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered its opinion.

NotesEdit

^*  Bronson v. La Crosse Railroad Company, 1 Wallace, 405, where the acts of Congress, &c., may be seen.

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).