decided: April 7, 1890.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA.
[ 134 U.S. Page 567]
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after stating the facts as above reported, delivered the opinion of the court.
It is suggested that no appeal has been taken as to Charles F. Hall, and that this court is without jurisdiction over the cause as to him. In this view we do not concur. The cause was not finally disposed of as to Clark N. Hall, the remaining defendant, until the 14th of April, 1886, and on the 30th day of the same month the plaintiff was allowed an appeal "in the cause." His appeal bond was executed September 9, 1886, and ran "to the defendants." The record was filed here on the 12th of October, 1886. It appearing, when the case was reached on our docket, that Charles F. Hall had not been served with notice of the appeal, a citation was directed to be served upon him, or, if he was dead, upon his representative. The citation was executed January 13, 1890, upon his widow, who is also administratrix of his estate. There is no ground to question the jurisdiction of this court to proceed to a hearing of the appeal. The record was filed in this court on the day to which the appeal was returnable. Our jurisdiction did not depend upon a citation being issued, Evans v. State Bank, ante, 330, although we could not properly proceed to hear the case until Charles F. Hall, as to whom the suit was dismissed
[ 134 U.S. Page 568]
in 1885, or his representative, was brought into court by citation. Rev. Civil Code La. Articles 1041, 1049, 1155; McCalop v. Fluker's Heirs, 12 La. Ann. 345. And the appeal brings before us not only the final decree of 1886, but that of 1885 sustaining the demurrer and plea of Charles F. Hall, and dismissing the suit as to him. It was not necessary to take an appeal from the latter order until after the whole case was determined in the court below. For these reasons the objections to our jurisdiction are overruled.
The first question, upon the merits, to be considered, relates to the demurrer and plea of Charles F. Hall. It is contended that he was not a necessary party to the suit to fix the amount of the indebtedness of Clark N. Hall, and that the demurrer, for that reason, was properly sustained. If that had been the sole object of the suit the plaintiff could undoubtedly have proceeded at law against Clark N. Hall alone. But such a suit would not have given the relief required. The plaintiff claimed a lien on the mortgaged property to secure the payment of the notes given by the mortgagor. The property was claimed by Charles F. Hall in virtue of a tax sale. While the latter might have been proceeded against alone for the purpose of determining whether his right to the land was not subordinate to the mortgage lien, it was competent, under the practice in equity prevailing in the courts of the United States, and in order that full and adequate relief might to had, to unite in the same suit both the mortgagor and the party claiming the property adversely to the lien of the mortgage, by virtue of proceedings had subsequently to its execution. If the plaintiff was entitled to have the property sold in satisfaction of the debt secured by the mortgage, it was his right to have it sold freed from any apparent claim thereon wrongly asserted by the holder of the tax title. Such relief could not be had without making the latter a party to the suit.
In respect the plea of Charles F. Hall, we are of opinion that it ought not to have been sustained. The constitutional provisions that "all deeds of sale made, or that may be made, by the collector of taxes, shall be received by the courts in evidence as prima facie valid sales," and that "no sale of property
[ 134 U.S. Page 569]
for taxes shall be annulled for any informality in the proceedings until the price paid, with ten per cent interest, be tendered to the purchaser," have no application to cases like the present one. If Clark N. Hall had attempted to have the tax sale set aside for mere informality, it would have been a good plea in bar to any suit by him against the purchaser, that he had not tendered the amount paid by him with interest thereon -- the plea showing distinctly the amount so paid. Barrow v. Lapene, 30 La. Ann. 310; Blanton v. Ludeling, 30 La. Ann. 1232. It is to suits of that character that the authorities cited apply. The case before us is altogether different. It proceeds upon the ground that a mortgagor who had agreed "not to sell, mortgage or in anywise encumber the property," to the prejudice of the mortgage, had fraudulently combined with his brother to defeat the mortgage lien by means of a sale for taxes due from the mortgagor, at which sale the brother was to bid in the property, in his own name, and for the protection of the mortgagor, assert his absolute ownership of it. It certainly was not intended that the mortgagee, in order to maintain a suit to enforce his lien, should tender to the mortgagor, or to his agent, the amount of the taxes, with interest thereon, the non-payment of which by the mortgagor had caused the sale to the prejudice of the mortgagee.
The case, in many respects, is like Austin v. Citizens' Bank and Sheriff, 30 La. Ann. 689, in which it appeared that a mortgage creditor proceeded directly against the mortgaged property which had been sold for taxes, and the title taken in the name of a third person. The holder of the tax title brought a suit to enjoin such proceeding. The court said: "The plaintiff [the holder of tax title] entrenches himself behind our ruling in Lannes v. Workingmen's Bank, 29 La. Ann. 112, and insists that his title must be held good until it is annulled in a direct action. But that principle holds good only as to those title that are bona fide, and are acquired without fraud, or that are real and not simulated. Unquestionably a purchaser at a tax sale may acquire a good title to a valuable property for a small price, if the requisite formalities have preceded and attended the sale. . . . But no government will
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permit its machinery, constructed to enforce the payment of public dues to the fisc, to be used to manipulate a fraud, and if the purchaser is a part to the fraud he must share its punishment. It might be very different if he were wholly disconnected and unacquainted with it. The purchase by Moss was nothing more or less than a purchase by Mrs. Austin, the debtor and mortgagor, through her son, the plaintiff. The money paid as the price at the tax sale was only what she, as the owner of the property, owed the State, and what she honestly and in good conscience ought to have paid without, and before, and to prevent a sale. If she could not pay it, the debt being exigent and of so high a rank, she should have acquainted her creditor and mortgagee with its imminence, instead of observing the suspicious reticence which characterized her conduct. The creditor's rights, as mortgagee and vendor, cannot be imperilled by the mortgagor's collusive combination with others to interpose an apparent but fraudulent obstacle in his way in enforcing those rights."
All that was said in that case is pertinent to the one before us. The mortgagor had obtained liberal indulgence as to time from the mortgagee. He made such representations of his embarrassed financial condition as induced the mortgagee to forbear taking steps to enforce his lien upon the property. He gave positive assurances that he would make a payment of twenty-five hundred dollars on the mortgage debt by the fall of 1882. He knew that there were taxes upon the property which it was his duty to pay, and that their non-payment endangered the security upon which his generous creditor depended for the payment of the notes given for the property. And his brother, with many expressions of friendship for the mortgagee and his family, joined in the appeals for time, assuring the mortgagee that he would himself assist in meeting the mortgagor's engagement to pay, if the mortgagee would wait until January 1, 1883. He voluntarily promised that he would keep the mortgagee "posted about things." But neither the mortgagor nor his brother informed the mortgagee that the land was advertised to be sold for the taxes which the mortgagor was under a duty to pay. The way in
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which Charles F. Hall complied with his promise to keep the plaintiff posted was to withhold information as to the tax sale, buy the land for the amount of the taxes, and take the title in his own name. The evidence leaves no doubt that the non-payment of taxes by the mortgagor, and the purchase of the property by his brother, was in execution of a scheme upon their part to defeat the mortgagor's lien upon the land.
In respect to the credits allowed by the decree below upon his notes to the mortgagor, no error was committed. The credit of $1340.52, as of January 1, 1879, was a trifling amount in excess of the aggregate interest that had been paid by the mortgagor up to that date. The credit of $544.15 was for the amount of the two judgments rendered against Mendenhall by a justice of the peace in Ohio, of which Clark N. Hall became the owner on the 9th of May, 1879. The plaintiff being a non-resident of Louisiana, it was proper to allow that amount as a set off against the notes. Spinney v. Hyde, 16 La. Ann. 250; Woolfolk v. Ship Gradham's Polly, 18 La. Ann. 693. As to the note for $1733.61, dated June 1, 1875, and executed by the Delaware Paper Company, the court below properly disallowed it as a set off. The evidence clearly showed that it was not an enforceable obligation against that company. The attempt to use it against Mendenhall is only additional evidence of the purpose to defraud him. But, for the reasons stated, the court below erred in rejecting the plaintiff's demand for recognition of the mortgage lien upon the property.
To the extent indicated the decree is reversed, with directions to enter a decree recognizing and establishing the mortgage of December 24, 1875, as against Clark N. Hall, and the succession of Charles F. Hall, and as giving a lien in behalf of the plaintiff superior and paramount to any right which the succession of Charles F. Hall has in the mortgaged property by virtue of the sale for taxes and the sheriff's deed to him, and ordering a sale of the mortgaged property to satisfy the above balance due the plaintiff upon the notes given by Clark N. Hall.
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