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United States Supreme Court

80 U.S. 14

Webb  v.  Sharp Marshal

ERROR to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia; the case being this:

By the act of Congress, passed February 22d, 1867, [1] the right of distress for rent in the District of Columbia was abolished, and instead thereof, it was enacted, 'that the landlord shall have a tacit lien upon such of the tenant's personal chattels upon the premises as are subject to execution for debt, to commence with the tenancy and continue for three months after the rent is due, and until the termination of any action for such rent brought within said three months.' And under the act this lien may be enforced:

(1.) By attachment, to be issued upon affidavit that the rent is due and unpaid; or, if not due, that the defendant is about to remove or sell all, or some, of said chattels; or,

(2.) By judgment against the tenant and execution, to be levied on said chattels, or any of them, in whosesoever hands they may be found; or,

(3.) By action against any purchaser of any of said chattels, with notice of the lien.

This act of Congress being in force, one Polkinhorn, owner of a house in Washington City, leased it to Snow et al. for a printing-office, and they afterwards bought and placed a printing-press therein. Subsequently, on the 11th of December, 1867, they borrowed money, and executed to one Webb a deed of trust to secure the repayment of the loan, the press, however, still remaining on the premises leased. The loan, though it became due, was never paid. And the tenants falling behind in payment of their rent also, Polkinhorn, their landlord, attached the printing-press; the rent for which the attachment was made having accrued in 1869, within three months prior to the issuing of the attachment. Judgment being perfected on the attachment a writ of fieri facias was issued to the marshal of the District, who levied on the press, then still remaining upon the premises. Hereupon Webb, the trustee, under the deed of trust, issued a replevin against the marshal in the court below. That court adjudged that the plaintiff should take nothing by his suit, and that the marshal have a return of the printing-press. From this judgment Webb brought the case here.

Mr. S. S. Hencle, for the plaintiff in error:

The deed of trust conveyed the printing-press completely out of Snow et al., and vested it completely in Webb, as trustee. It was no longer 'the tenant's personal chattels on the premises, subject to execution for debt.' Yet it is only on such chattels that the lien is given by the statute.

Mr. W. F. Mattingly, contra.

Mr. Justice BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  14 Stat. at Large, 404, § 12.

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).