SARGENT V. HELTON, 115 U. S. 348 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sargent v. Helton, 115 U.S. 348 (1885)

Sargent v. Helton

Argued October 23, 1885

Decided November 16, 1885

115 U.S. 348


Where a sale of the lands of a bankrupt estate has been made and confirmed by order of the bankruptcy court, and the lands have been conveyed by the assignee, the circuit court of the United States is without jurisdiction at the suit of the purchaser to enjoin a sale of the same lands about to be made upon the order of a state court.

Dana Sargent, one of the appellants, was the sole plaintiff at the commencement of the suit in the circuit court. His bill was filed July 10, 1879. It alleged in substance as follows:

The Pensacola Lumber Company, a corporation of the State of New York, was, on February 27, 1875, adjudicated bankrupt by the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, and on the 18th day of May following, a deed of assignment of all the property of the bankrupt was executed to the assignee in bankruptcy. The property so conveyed consisted in part of a large body of land in Escambia County, in the State of Alabama. Under a decree of the bankruptcy court made on December 22, 1875, these lands were sold at public sale on January 5, 1876, in the City of New

Page 115 U. S. 349

York, and were purchased by Dana Sargent, one of the plaintiffs. The sale was confirmed by the court on January 18, 1876, and, Sargent having complied with the terms of sale, on the 25th of the same month the assignee conveyed the lands to him and he at once took and still retained possession of them. A few days before the Pensacola Lumber Company was adjudicated bankrupt, to-wit, on the 18th, 19th, and 22d of February, 1875, all of the defendants respectively, except the Sheriff of Escambia County commenced actions against it by attachment in the Circuit Court of Escambia County, Alabama, and the writs of attachment were levied on the lands above mentioned of the Pensacola Lumber Company lying in the County of Escambia. More than two years afterwards, to-wit at the fall term in the year 1878 of the Circuit Court of Escambia County, that court rendered final judgments against the Pensacola Lumber Company in all the attachment suits and ordered the lands attached to be sold to satisfy the same in disregard of the fact that the attachments had been dissolved by the adjudication of the defendant as a bankrupt. On June 21, 1879, the clerk of the Circuit Court of Escambia County issued to the sheriff an order directing him to advertise and sell the lands attached in obedience to the judgments condemning them to be sold, and the sheriff was about to execute the order.

The bill alleged that the said order of sale had thrown a cloud upon the title of Sargent to the lands and had impaired their value, that the execution of the order of sale would still further increase the cloud upon the title and further depreciate the value of the lands, impair plaintiff's business and credit, and inflict an injury, for which he could obtain no satisfaction owing to the insolvency of the defendants and the insufficiency of the sheriff's bond and estate, and that the lands, consisting of ninety-odd sections and parts of sections, would probably, if sold, be bought by many persons, and thus plaintiff would be involved in a multiplicity of suits to vindicate his title.

The bill further alleged that the defendants other than the sheriff were general creditors of the bankrupt and parties to the bankrupt proceedings under which the lands were sold and

Page 115 U. S. 350

bought by Sargent. The prayer of the bill was that the sheriff, his agents, and deputies might be enjoined from selling the lands attached.

Before final hearing, by consent of the parties, an amendment was made to the bill by which Daniel F. Sullivan, who was represented to be the assignee of Dana Sargent, the purchaser of the lands, was made a party plaintiff.

The defendants demurred to the bill on several grounds, among which were that the bill was without equity and the court without jurisdiction. The circuit court made a decree by which the demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed. From that decree the plaintiffs appealed.

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