Open main menu

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

55 U.S. 29

Hagan  v.  Walker

THIS was an appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Alabama.

The bill was originally filed in the names of John Hagan, of New Orleans, and a citizen of the State of Louisiana, and Thomas Barrett, of New Orleans, and a citizen of the State of Louisiana, formerly commission merchants and partners, trading under the firm, name, and style of John Hagan & Co., complainants, against William H. Pope, of Huntsville, and a citizen of the State of Alabama, Samuel Breck, of Huntsville, and a citizen of the State of Alabama, the said Breck being the administrator of the estate of Leroy Pope, who in his lifetime resided in Huntsville, and was a citizen of the State of Alabama, and Charles B. Penrose, of Washington city, and a citizen of the District of Columbia, and successor in office of Virgil Maxcy, who in his lifetime resided in Washington city, and was a citizen of the District of Columbia, and Solicitor of the Treasury of the United States.

The suit was commenced in February, 1846. The plaintiffs were judgment creditors of Leroy Pope, by a judgment rendered in April, 1834, upon which an execution in October, 1834, was returned, 'No property found.'

The plaintiffs sought to obtain satisfaction of this judgment, from property which they allege the said Leroy Pope conveyed fraudulently to his son William H. Pope, the defendant.

This property was conveyed, March, 1834, by Leroy Pope to William H. Pope, and upon considerations which the plaintiffs alleged to be colorable and inadequate.

The property thus conveyed, was charged to have been the whole estate of the said Leroy, and William H. Pope was charged to have been, before that time, without property, and to have had no means of payment for this.

The plaintiffs alleged that the property was never delivered to the 'exclusive possession' of William H. Pope, but 'remained as much in the possession of the said Leroy as the said William, and that the said Leroy and William enjoyed the proceeds and profits jointly.'

They alleged that William H. Pope, in March, 1834, conveyed the land and slaves to the Solicitor of the Treasury in mortgage, to secure a debt due to the United States by the said Leroy Pope, of $29,290.90, which William H. Pope at that date assumed, and for which he gave his notes; and that at the same date he guaranteed to the United States a debt of $20,000, for which other security had been given to the United States by Leroy Pope.

They averred that the $20,000 thus mentioned, was paid from the securities deposited by Leroy Pope, and that the only debt really incurred by William H. Pope, was that for $29,290.90. This debt the plaintiffs admitted to be a charge on the property, and they did not contest it. They charged, however, that the securities to the Solicitor of the Treasury were designed by the grantor (William H. Pope) as a fraud upon the creditors of Leroy Pope.

The death of Leroy Pope was alleged to have occurred in 1844, and the appointment of Breck, as administrator, in 1844.

The prayer of the bill was, that the conveyances of Leroy and William H. Pope should be declared null. That, after satisfying the debt of the United States, the remainder of the property should be appropriated to satisfy the debt of the plaintiffs. Process was prayed against William H. Pope and Samuel Breck, administrators of Leroy Pope, and the Solicitor of the Treasury, (Penrose,) a citizen of the District of Columbia.

The defendants, Breck and Pope, demurred to the bill; the demurrer was allowed by the District Court, and the bill was dismissed.

An appeal from this decree of dismissal brought the case up to this court. It was argued by Mr. Johnson for the appellant, and Mr. J. A. Campbell for the appellees.

As the demurrer was sustained in the court below, the points before this court to be argued were, the reasons for dismissing the bill and sustaining the demurrer. These were stated by Mr. Campbell, as follows, and it is sufficient to state the points and authorities.

I. That the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery to set aside conveyances executed by a failing debtor to defraud creditors, is not an original and independent jurisdiction of that court, but is an auxiliary and limited jurisdiction. The creditor must show that the remedies at law have been exhausted-that there is an obstruction which can only be removed by the aid of the Court of Chancery, and that his cause is so situated at law, that, upon the interposition of the court in the manner sought, he could immediately enforce the right he claims. 3 Mylne & Craig, 407; 11 S. & M. 366; 8 Barb. N. Y. R. 593; 7 Ala. 319, 928; 1 Hill's So. Car. R. 297, 307; 20 Johns. 554; 2 Rand. 384; 1 Paige, 388.

II. The bill shows in this case three facts sufficient to have determined the lien of the judgment against Leroy Pope, under the laws of the United States, and the State of Alabama.

Five years had elapsed from the 3d of March, 1839, before the filing of the bill. The act of Congress of that date determined the lien. 5 Stat. at Large, 338.

Ten years had elapsed from the judgment and return of the last execution. Clay's Digest, 206, 207, § 28, 29; 5 Ala. R. 188; 18 Ala. 675; 19 Ala. 207.

The death of Leroy Pope put an end to the lien of the judgment and the right to issue execution. Bush v. Jones, 13 Ala. R. 167.

III. The plaintiff sets forth the conveyance of Leroy Pope to William H. Pope, to have taken place in 1834. He does not aver that the conveyance was upon any trust for Leroy Pope, nor does he aver that any title remained in Leroy Pope. The bar of the statute of limitations of six years will apply to the personal property. 7 Yerger, 222; 1 Bailey, Ch. R. 228; 1 Humph. 335; 1 Hill, Ch. R. 113; 8 Yerger, 145; 7 Wheat. 60, 117, &c.; Peck's Rep. 41.

IV. The Court of Chancery, except in cases of express trusts and fraud, follow the courts of law in the application of the statute of limitation.

In this case no trusts in favor of Leroy Pope are charged to exist; nor is there an averment that the plaintiff did not discover till within six years the fraudulent purpose and consideration upon which they were made.

In the absence of such averments, the court will presume the possession to have been consistent with the legal title, and the bar of the statute will run from the date of the title deeds. 4 How. S.C.. R. 503, 560; 7 How. 234; 10 Wheat. 168.

In reference to personal property, the limitation upon personal actions is adopted in equity. 1 Dev. & B. Eq. 95; 5 Ala. R. 90, 508; 3 Ala. R. 756.

V. No averment is made by the plaintiff showing the condition of the estate of Leroy Pope, after his death. The bill contains an averment, that the crops from the lands and other profits of the estate have been large, and that Leroy Pope enjoyed them till his death.

There is nothing to show that ample means are not to be found in the hands of the administrator to pay the debt. No presentment to, nor demand of, the administrator is averred, and no refusal to pay on his part shown. A bill must show this, or it is fatally defective. 3 Ham. 287; 5 Har. & J. 381; 5 Gill & J. 432; 2 McCord's Ch. R. 416, 169.

VI. The court had no jurisdiction of the cause. The Solicitor of the Treasury, a citizen of the District of Columbia, is made a party. The prayer of the bill is to cancel deeds made to him, and to appropriate property in which he has a legal right. 3 Cranch, 267; 14 Pet. 60, 65.

Mr. Justice CURTIS delivered the opinion of the court.


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).