RIO GRANDE R. CO. V. GOMILA, 132 U. S. 478 (1889)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Rio Grande R. Co. v. Gomila, 132 U.S. 478 (1889)

Rio Grande Railroad Company v. Gomila

No. 113

Argued November 15, 1889

Decided December 9, 1889

132 U.S. 478


Property of a debtor, brought within the custody of the circuit court of the United States by seizure under process issued upon its judgment, remains in its custody to be applied in satisfaction of its judgment notwithstanding the subsequent death of the debtor before the sale under execution.

The jurisdiction of a court of the United States, once obtained over property by its being brought within its custody, continues until the purpose of the seizure is accomplished, and cannot be impaired or affected by any legislation of the state or by any proceedings subsequently commenced in a state court.

Probate laws of a state which, upon the death of a party to a suit in a federal court, withdraw his estate from the operation of the execution laws of the state and place it in the hands of his executor or administrator for the benefit of his creditors and distributees do not apply when, previous to the death of the debtor, his property has been seized upon execution and thus specifically appropriated to the satisfaction of a judgment in that court.

This case came from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana. It arose out of the following facts:

On the 5th of June, 1885, the Rio Grande Railroad Company, a corporation, recovered a judgment in that court against a co-partnership firm known as Gomila & Co., and against its members, Anthony J. Gomila and Larned Torrey, in solido, for $26,731.99, with interest from January 1, 1884. Upon this judgment execution was issued under which certain interests were attached, or seized, as it is termed in the laws of Louisiana, namely, a claim upon which, in February, 1885,

Page 132 U. S. 479

judgment was recovered in that court in favor of Gomila & Co. against Culliford & Clark for $23,999.76, with interest at the rate of five percent per annum from June 30, 1883, from which judgment an appeal was at the time pending in the Supreme Court of the United States; also a claim and judgment thereon in favor of Gomila & Co. against John T. Milliken, rendered in a state court of Louisiana, on the 27th of June, 1883, for $6,200, with interest at the rate of eight percent per annum from February 27, 1883, and also a claim made by Gomila & Co. against Kehlor Brothers, garnishees in the suit of Gomila $Co. against Milliken. Under this execution, a parcel of real estate in the City of New Orleans was also seized. The property, except the real estate, was advertised by the marshal of the district for sale. Whilst thus advertised, and before the day of sale designated, Gomila, of the firm of Gomila & Co., died. The sale did not, therefore, take place, and the representatives of Gomila were made parties to the proceedings under the execution. Subsequently a new sale was advertised. Before the day of sale arrived, the public administrator, and as such dative testamentary executor of Gomila, upon an affidavit that three-fourths of these assets belonged to and were inventoried as of the succession of the deceased, and should be administered with his other assets in the Probate Court of the Parish of Orleans, moved the circuit court of the United States for an order directing the marshal of the district to discontinue and withdraw the advertisement of sale and desist from making the sale as advertised or offering for sale the property seized. To this motion the railroad company appeared and, by way of exception and demurrer, pleaded, 1st, that the executor could not proceed by motion if he had any cause of complaint, but must proceed by an original bill in equity and, 2d, that the motion presented issues of law and fact, which, if within the jurisdiction of the law side of the court, should be tried in the ordinary way by a jury. The company further stated that if the demurrer and exception were overruled, it desired to set up in answer to the motion the fact that the claims were seized and advertised for sale before the death of Gomila, and were in the custody and jurisdiction of

Page 132 U. S. 480

the court at the time of his death, and should not therefore be transferred to the Probate Court of the parish. Upon the hearing, which took place on the 5th of November, 1885, the court overruled the exception and demurrer and ordered that the marshal discontinue and withdraw the advertisement of sale, which had been fixed for that day, and desist from making the sale until further order of the court, reserving to the parties all the rights not therein passed upon. This order merely operated to postpone the sale. Subsequently another rule was taken out by the executor upon the railroad company to show cause why the effects and property should not be delivered to him, burdened with any liens in its favor which might have resulted from their seizure, and be received and held by him as executor for the purpose of administration under the orders of the probate court. Upon the hearing which followed, the circuit court, in December, 1885, adjudged and decreed that the rule be made absolute and that the property described in the motion, then in the possession and under the control of the marshal, be delivered to the executor as the officer of the Probate Court for the Parish of Orleans, the said property to pass into his possession burdened with any liens in favor of the plaintiff which might have resulted from its seizure, and that it be received and held by the executor for the purpose of administration under the orders of the probate court, and that the cost of the proceedings be paid by the Rio Grande Railroad Company, Rio Grande Railway v. Gomila, 28 F.3d 7.

To reverse this judgment, the case was brought to this Court on writ of error.

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