HUNTINGTON V. ATTRILL, 146 U. S. 657 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Huntington v. Attrill, 146 U.S. 657 (1892)

Huntington v. Attrill

No. 33

Argued April 26, 1892

Decided December 12, 1892

146 U.S. 657


A bill in equity in one state to set aside a conveyance of property made in fraud of creditors, and to charge it with the payment of a judgment since recovered by the plaintiff against the debtor in another state upon his liability as an officer in a corporation under a statute of that state, set forth the judgment and the cause of action on which it was recovered and also asserted, independently of the judgment, an original liability of the defendant as a stockholder and officer in that corporation before the conveyance. The highest court of the state declined to entertain the bill by virtue of the judgment, because it had been recovered in another state in an action for a penalty, or to maintain the bill on the original liability, for various reasons.

Held that the question whether due faith and credit were thereby denied to the judgment was a federal question, of which this Court had jurisdiction on writ of error.

The question whether a statute of one state which in some aspects may be called penal is a penal law in the international sense, so that it cannot be enforced in the courts of another state, depends upon the question whether its purpose is to punish an offense against the public justice of the state or to afford a private remedy to a person injured by the wrongful act.

A statute making the officers of a corporation who sign and record a false

Page 146 U. S. 658

certificate of the amount of its capital stock liable for all its debts is not a penal law in the international sense.

Whether a statute of one state is a penal law which cannot be enforced in another state is to be determined by the court which is called upon to enforce it.

If the highest court of a state declines to give full faith and credit to a judgment of another state because in its opinion that judgment was for a penalty, this Court, in determining whether full faith and credit have been given to that judgment, must decide for itself whether the original cause of action was penal in the international sense.

If a judgment for a fixed sum of money, recovered in one state by a creditor of a corporation against one of its officers upon a liability for all its debts imposed by a statute of that state for making and recording a false certificate of the amount of its capital stock, is sued on in a court of another state, and that court declines to enforce the judgment because of its opinion that the original liability was a penalty, the judgment is thereby denied the full faith, credit and effect to which it is entitled under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

In equity. The bill was dismissed by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, to which judgment this writ of error was sued out.

Page 146 U. S. 660

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