HOOKER V. BURR, 194 U. S. 415 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hooker v. Burr, 194 U.S. 415 (1904)

Hooker v. Burr

No. 263

Submitted April 26, 1904

Decided May 16, 1904

194 U.S. 415


A party insisting upon the invalidity of a statute as violating any constitutional provision must show that he may be injured by the unconstitutional law before the courts will listen to his complaint.

An independent purchaser at a foreclosure sale, who has no other connection with the mortgage, cannot question the validity of legislation existing at the time of his purchase on the ground that it impaired a contract, even though the law complained of was passed after the execution of the mortgage which was foreclosed. Insurance Co. v. Cushman, 108 U. S. 51, followed, and Barnitz v. Beverly, 163 U. S. 118, distinguished.

Whether the requirements of a statute affecting foreclosure sales and redemption and which does not conflict with the federal Constitution have been complied with is not a federal question.

The plaintiff in error commenced this action in the proper state court to procure a decree cancelling a deed of the premises mentioned in the complaint, executed by the defendant Hammel to the defendant Rhodes, and also directing that a deed should be executed to the plaintiff by defendant Hammel

Page 194 U. S. 416

or Burr, or both, conveying the same property to the plaintiff, which had been purchased by him under the sale in foreclosure hereinafter mentioned. Defendant Burr was sheriff at the time of that sale, and conducted the same, and executed the certificate of sale June 13, 1898. His term of office expired in January, 1899, and defendant Hammel became his successor, and, as such, executed the deed to defendant Rhodes, which plaintiff in error asks to have set aside. The two defendants, Burr and Hammel, were made parties herein because it was not certain which one of them should be decreed to execute the deed to plaintiff which he asks for in this suit.

The defendants, by their answer, denied many of the material allegations of the complaint, and the case went to trial before the court, and, a judgment having been entered dismissing the complaint on the merits, an appeal was taken to the Supreme Court of California, which affirmed the judgment, 137 Cal. 663, and the plaintiff has brought the case here. The material facts are as follows:

On October 16, 1893, Anna P. and Ambrose H. Spencer, then being the owners of the property, mortgaged the same to one Jacob Swiggart to secure the payment of a promissory note of the same date for $5,000. This note and mortgage were subsequently assigned by Swiggart to Charles H. Bishop, who afterwards commenced a suit upon the note and mortgage to recover the amount due on the former and to foreclose the mortgage. On May 14, 1898, a judgment was entered in the case whereby it was adjudged that there was due to the plaintiff upon the note the sum of $6,782.49, and that the same was a lien upon the mortgaged premises, and there was also a judgment for the sale of the premises to obtain payment of the sum found due on the note. On May 16, 1898, an execution upon the judgment was issued to the sheriff (Burr) and on June 13, 1898, he sold to the plaintiff in error, Hooker, the mortgaged premises for the sum of $9,500, who thereupon paid the amount of his bid to Burr, and Burr then gave a certificate of sale to the plaintiff as the purchaser. Plaintiff alleges that he was

Page 194 U. S. 417

entitled to a deed from the sheriff of date December 13, 1898, that being six months after his purchase at the foreclosure sale. On December 12, 1898, Rhodes, one of the defendants (who was a judgment creditor of Spencer, the mortgagor), issued an execution on his judgment, and assumed to redeem the land from the foreclosure sale by the payment of $10,070 to the sheriff, to be paid to the purchaser, the plaintiff in error, being the amount of the purchase price paid by the latter at the foreclosure sale, together with interest thereon at the rate of one percent per month. The sum was received by the sheriff as the full amount due to the plaintiff in error on his bid, with interest. The plaintiff in error declined to accept the money, and now contends that the amount delivered to the sheriff for the redemption was not enough, and he also makes the claim that there was never any legal payment to the sheriff, even of the sum mentioned. The sheriff, after receiving the redemption money, executed a deed to the judgment creditor, Rhodes, and it is this deed which plaintiff seeks to have set aside.

At the time when the above-mentioned mortgage was executed, on October 16, 1893, the law in California provided that a judgment debtor or redemptioner might redeem the property from the purchaser at the foreclosure sale at any time, within six months after the sale, on paying the purchaser the amount of his purchase money, with interest at two percent a month thereon in addition, up to the time of redemption. On March 27, 1895, the legislature altered this statute, which was section 702 of the Code of Civil Procedure, by providing that redemption might be made upon the payment of the amount of the purchase money with one percent a month as interest thereon, and on February 26, 1897, the same section was again amended by the legislature by extending the time for redemption to twelve instead of six months, while keeping the rate of interest at one percent per month on the amount of the purchase price paid at the sale.

It will be noticed that both these amendments had been

Page 194 U. S. 418

enacted, and existed as the law in regard to redemptions at the time when the sale was made on June 13, 1898, upon the foreclosure of the mortgage.

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