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U.S. Supreme Court

Bank of State of Alabama v. Dalton, 50 U.S. 9 How. 522 522 (1850)

Bank of State of Alabama v. Dalton

50 U.S. (9 How.) 522


A state has power to regulate the remedies by which contracts and judgments are sought to be enforced in its courts of justice unless its regulations are controlled by the Constitution of the United States or by laws enacted under its authority.

Therefore, where a state passed a law declaring that all judgments which had been obtained in any other state prior to the passage of the law should be barred unless suit was brought upon the judgment within two years after the passage of the act, this law was within the power of the state, and not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States or any act of Congress.

And this was true although the person against whom the judgment was given became a citizen of the said state upon the very day on which he was sued. The legislature made no exception, and courts can make none.

The facts were these.

On 7 February, 1843, the President and Directors of the Bank of the State of Alabama recovered a judgment against Robert H. Dalton for $1,844, with interest and costs, in the County Court of Tuscaloosa County and State of Alabama.

On 24 February, 1844, the State of Mississippi passed an act (Hutchinson's Mississippi Code, 830 et seq.), which provided, among other things, that judgments rendered before the passage of the act in any other state of the Union should be barred unless suit was brought thereon within two years from the passage of the act.

On 10 November, 1846, the President and Directors of the Bank of the State of Alabama brought a suit against Dalton in the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Mississippi, held at the Town of Pontotoc. It was an action of debt brought upon the judgment recovered in the County Court of Tuscaloosa County, in Alabama. The writ was served upon Dalton on the same day that it was issued. The defendant pleaded the statute of limitations of Mississippi in the following manner:

"And the said defendant, by his attorneys, comes and defends the wrong and injury, when &c., and for plea says that the said plaintiff his action aforesaid ought not to have or maintain against him, because he says that the said judgment upon which this suit is founded was obtained in a court out of the limits of the State of Mississippi, to-wit, the County Court of the County of Tuscaloosa, in the State of Alabama, and was rendered up against said defendant on 7

Page 50 U. S. 523

February, 1843, and was then and there, on that day, in full force and effect in said court."

"And defendant further says that by an Act of the Legislature of the State of Mississippi entitled 'An act to amend the several acts of limitations,' approved on 24 February, 1844, it is enacted and declared, upon judgments obtained in any court out of the limits of this state, actions shall be commenced within two years after the passage of the said act, and not afterwards, and that this action was not commenced by this plaintiff until the two years had expired within which the said plaintiff was required to bring his suit as aforesaid, and this he is ready to verify; wherefore he prays judgment if the said plaintiff ought to have or maintain his aforesaid action against him,"


To this plea the plaintiff filed the following replication:

"And the said plaintiff, for replication to the pleas of the said defendant by him first above pleaded, says precludi non, because he says that the said defendant, at and from the time of the rendition of the judgment in said plea and declaration mentioned, and from thence until and within two years next before the commencement of this suit, to-wit, on 10 November, A.D. 1846, to-wit, at the district aforesaid, was and continued to be a citizen of the State of Alabama, where the said plaintiff resided, without the jurisdiction of this Court, and this they pray may be inquired of by the country,"


The defendant demurred to this replication, and, upon argument, the court sustained the demurrer.

To review this judgment, the bank brought the case up to this Court.

Page 50 U. S. 526

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