Haythorn v. Margerem, 7 N.J.Eq. 324 (Ch.1848); Nugent v. Lindsley, supra.
But, in the inherent chancery action, a prior determination of the plaintiff's title in an action at law was a condition precedent to filing the chancery action, Thompson v. Engle, 4 N.J.Eq. 271 (Ch.1843); McGee v. Smith, 16 N.J.Eq. 462 (Ch.1863).
The statute enlarged the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery so that it could provide relief in advance of a determination of the title at law, American Dock etc. v. Trustees, 37 N.J.Eq. 266 (E & A 1883).
The action may be likened, in purpose, to that of interpleader because it is designed to compel all claimants to appear and have their rights in the land adjudicated, thus settling forever all disputes and doubts concerning the title. Southmayd v. Elizabeth, 29 N.J.Eq. 203 (Ch.1878); Fittichauer, supra.
Other purposes were to assist a possessor who could not bring ejectment at law, Jersey City v. Lembeck, 31 N.J.Eq. 255 (E & A 1879), to avoid multiplicity of suits and vexatious litigation with more than one disputant, American Dock, supra., Shepard v. Nixon, supra, and like purposes which induced Chancellor Runyon to describe it as "remedial and highly beneficial" and warranting a liberal construction, Holmes v. Chester, 26 N.J.Eq. 79 (Ch.1875).
Since the land must be located in New Jersey, and since named defendants are noticed to appear and state their interests so that there might be a complete settlement of every claim, the action is quasi in rem, Realty Co. v. Burghardt, 91 N.J.Eq. 120, 111 A. 275 (E & A 1919).
With acceptance of the notion of declaratory judgments as an authorized form of judicial remedy, NJSA 2A:16-50, et seq., and the authorization of the trial divisions of the Superior Court to grant both legal and equitable relief so that all matters in controversy may be completely determined in a single action, N.J.Const, 1947, Art. 6, § 3, par. 4, much the same, and sometimes more efficient methods are now available. For one example, see Page v. Johnson, 45 N.J.Super. 97, 131 A.2d 522 (Ch.1957).
The present statute is divided into several segments. The general sections, NJSA 2A:62-1 to 10 are very broad. Actions involving unknown claimants are dealt with by NJSA 2A:62-11 to 16. Actions involving remainder interests are covered by NJSA 2A:62-17 to 19. Actions involving the existence and validity of covenants, conditions, agreements or restrictions in deeds to real estate are allowed by NJSA 2A:62-20 to 22, and title to riparian lands and lands under water by NJSA 2A:62-23 to 26.
The continued existence of the inherent suit to remove a cloud from title remains important for if a state of facts should arise that happens not to come within the statute, suit may nonetheless be filed under the ancient jurisdiction.
In the present case, the statutory suit would normally be available except that the United States cannot be joined without its consent. That consent is given for most such cases by 28 U.S.C. § 2410, with concurrent jurisdiction in federal and state courts, but the United States argues that the consent there given is limited to cases where the interest is that under a mortgage or other lien, and does not extend to a case where the United States claims ownership, as by deed or eminent domain.
For those cases, it is argued, the consent given is that of 28 U.S.C. § 2409a, with exclusive jurisdiction in the federal courts and subject to a 12 year statute of limitations based on knowledge of the claim of ownership.
The paradox of the consent statutes is that where consent arises from § 2410, suit against all claimants, including the United States, can be brought in a State court, and if removed there would be jurisdiction here to resolve all the claims.
But if the consent arises only from § 2409a, the suit must be filed in federal court as to the United States, and there may well be no jurisdiction at all for other claimants, thus compelling separate actions in separate courts. The better course would have been to specify concurrent jurisdiction in § 2409a and allow the United States to remove if it chose. But that solution is for the Congress.