Графични страници
PDF файл
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

ties to said real estate, and to decree the title to the same, or any part thereof, to the party entitled thereto; and the court may issue the appropriate order to carry such decree, judgment or order into effect." Sec. 77, Code of Civil Procedure, Compiled Statutes 1885, p. 637: “Service may be made by publication in either of the following cases : : Fourth. In actions which relate to, or the subject of which is, real or personal property in this State, where any defendant has or claims a lien or interest, actual or contingent, therein, or the relief demanded consists wholly or partially in excluding him from any interest therein, and such defendant is a non-resident of the State or a foreign corporation.” Sec. 78 of the Code: “Before service can be made by publication, an affidavit must be filed that service of a summons cannot be made within this State, on the defendant or defendants, to be served by publication, and that the case is one of those mentioned in the preceding section. When such affidavit is filed the party may proceed to make service by publication.” Sec. 82 of the Code: “A party against whom a judgment or decree has been rendered without other service than by publication in a newspaper, may, at any time within five years after the date of the judgment or order, have the same opened and be let in to defend ; but the title to any property, the subject of the judgment or order sought to be opened, which by it, or in consequence of it, shall have passed to a purchaser in good faith, shall not be affected by any proceedings under this section, nor shall they affect the title to any property sold before judgment under an

attachment.” Sec. 429, b, of the Code: “When any judgment ..or decree shall be rendered for a conveyance, release or acquittance, in

any court of this State, and the party or parties against whom the judgment or decree shall be rendered do not comply therewith within the time mentioned in said judgment or decree, such judgment or decree shall have the same operation and effect, and be as available, as if the conveyance, release or acquittance had been executed conformable to such judgment or decree.”

Under these sections, in March, 1882, Charles L. Flint filed his petition in the proper court against Michael Hurley and

Opinion of the Court.

another, alleging that he was the owner and in pussession of the tracts of land in controversy in this suit; that he held title thereto by virtue of certain tax deeds, which were described ; that the defendants claimed to have some title, estate, interest in, or claim upon the lands by patent from the United States, or deed from the patentee, but that whatever title, estate, or claim they had, or pretended to have, was divested by the said tax deeds, and was unjust, inequitable, and a cloud upon plaintiff's title; and that this suit r as brought for the purpose of quieting his title. The defendants were brought in by publication, a decree was entered in favor of Flint quieting his title, and it is conceded that all the proceedings were in full conformity with the statutory provisions above quoted.

The present suit is one in ejectment, between grantees of the respective parties to the foregoing proceedings to quiet title; and the question before us, arising upon a certificate of division of opinion between the trial judges, is whether the decree in such proceedings to quiet title, rendered in accordance with the provisions of the Nebraska statute, upon service duly authorized by them, was valid and operated to quiet the title in the plaintiff therein. In other words, has a State the power to provide by statute that the title to real estate within its limits shall be settled and determined by a suit in which the defendant, being a non-resident, is brought into court only by publication? The Supreme Court of Nebraska has answered this question in the affirmative. Watson v. Ulbrich, 18 Nebraska, 189 — in which the court says : “The principal question to be determined is whether or not the decree in favor of Gray, rendered upon constructive service, is valid until set aside. No objection is made to the service, or any proceedings connected with it. The real estate in controversy was within the jurisdiction of the District Court, and that court had authority, in a proper case, to render the decree confirming the title of Gray. In Castrique v. Imrie, L. R. 4 H. L. 414, 429, Mr. Justice Blackburn says: “We think the inquiry is, first, whether the subject matter was so situated as to be within the lawful control of the State under the authority of which the court sits; and, secondly, whether the


Opinion of the Court.

sovereign authority of that State has conferred on the court jurisdiction to decide as to the disposition of the thing, and the court has acted within its jurisdiction. If these conditions are fulfilled, the adjudication is conclusive against all the world.' The court, therefore, in this case, having authority to render the decree, and jurisdiction of the subject matter, its decree is conclusive upon the property until vacated under the statutes or set aside.”

Section 57, enlarging as it does the class of cases in which relief was formerly afforded by a court of equity in quieting the title to real property, has been sustained by this court, and held applicable to suits in the federal court. Holland v. Challen, 110 U. S. 15. But it is earnestly contended that no decree in such a case, rendered on service by publication only, is valid or can be recognized in the federal courts. And Hart v. Sansom, 110 U. S. 151, is relied on as authority for this proposition. The propositions are, that an action to quiet title is a suit in equity; that equity acts upon the person; and that the person is not brought into court by service by publication alone.

While these propositions are doubtless correct as statements of the general rules respecting bills to. quiet title, and proceedings in courts of equity, they are not applicable or controlling here. The question is not what a court of equity, by virtue of its general powers and in the absence of a statute, might do, but it is, what jurisdiction has a State over titles to real estate within its limits, and what jurisdiction may it give by statute to its own courts, to determine the validity and extent of the claims of non-residents to such real estate? If a State has no power to bring a non-resident into its courts for any purposes by publication, it is impotent to perfect the titles of real estate within its limits held by its own citizens; and a cloud cast upon such title by a claim of a non-resident will remain for all time a cloud, unless such non-resident shall voluntarily come into its courts for the purpose of having it adjudicated. But no such imperfections attend the sovereignty of the State. It has control over property within its limits; and the condition of ownership of real estate therein, whether the owner be

Opinion of the Court.

stranger or citizen, is subjection to its rules concerning the holding, the transfer, liability to obligations, private or public, and the modes of establishing titles thereto. It cannot bring the person of a non-resident within its limits - its process goes not out beyond its borders — but it may determine the extent of his title to real estate within its limits; and for the purpose of such determination may provide any reasonable methods of imparting notice. The well-being of every community requires that the title of real estate therein shall be secure, and that there be convenient and certain methods of determining any unsettled questions respecting it. The duty of accomplishing this is local in its nature ; it is not a matter of national concern or vested in the general government; it remains with the State; and as this duty is one of the State, the manner of discharging it must be determined by the State, and no proceeding which it provides can be declared invalid, unless in conflict with some special inhibitions of the Constitution, or against natural justice. So it has been held repeatedly that the procedure established by the State, in this respect, is binding upon the federal courts. In United States v. Fox, 94 U. S. 315, 320, it was said: “The power of the State to regulate the tenure of real property within her limits, and the modes of its acquisition and transfer, and the rules of its descent, and the extent to which a testamentary disposition of it may be exercised by its owners, is undoubted. It is an established principle of law, everywhere recognized, arising from the necessity of the case, that the disposition of immovable property, whether by deed, descent, or any other mode, is exclusively subject to the government within whose jurisdiction the property is situated.” See also McCormick v. Sullivant, 10 Wheat. 192, 202; Beauregard v. New Orleans, 18 How. 497; Suydam v. Williamson, 24 How. 427; Christian Union v. Yount, 101 U. S. 352; Lathrop v. Bank, 8 Dana, 114.

Passing to an examination of the decisions on the precise question it may safely be affirmed that the general, if not the uniform, ruling of state courts has been in favor of the power of the State to thus quiet the title to real estate within its limits. In addition to the case from Nebraska, heretofore


Opinion of the Court.

cited, and which only followed prior rulings in that State Scudder v. Sargent, 15 Nebraska, 102; Keene v. Sallenbach, 15 Nebraska, 200 — reference may be had to a few cases. In Cloyd v. Trotter, 118 Illinois, 391, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that under the statutes of that State the court could acquire jurisdiction to quiet title by constructive service against non-resident defendants. A similar ruling as to jurisdiction acquired in a suit to set aside a conveyance as fraudulent as to creditors was affirmed in Adams v. Coroles, 95 Missouri, 501. - In Wunstel v. Landry, 39 La. Ann. 312, it was held that a non-resident party could be brought into an action of partition by constructive service. In Essig v. Lower, 21 Northeastern Rep. 1090, the Supreme Court of Indiana thus expressed its views on the question: "It is also argued that the decree in the action to quiet title, set forth in the special finding, is in personam and not in rem, and that the court had no power to render such decree on publication. While it may be true that such decree is not in rem, strictly speaking, yet it must be conceded that it fixed and settled the title to the land then in controversy, and to that extent partakes of the nature of a judgment in rem. But we do not deem it necessary to a decision of this case to determine whether the decree is in personam or in rem. The action was to quiet the title to the land then involved, and to remove therefrom certain apparent liens. Section 318, Rev. Stat. 1881, expressly authorizes the rendition of such a decree on publication.” This was since the decision in Hart v. Sansom,

v, as was also the case of Dillen. V. Heller, 39 Kansas, 599, in which Mr. Justice Valentine, for the court, says: “For the present we shall assume that the statutes authorizing service of summons by publication were strictly complied with in the present case, and then the only question to be considered is whether the statutes themselves are valid. Or, in other words, we think the question is this: Has the State any power, through the legislature and the courts, or by any other means or instrumentalities, to dispose of or control property in the State belonging to non-resident owners out of the State, where such non-resident owners will not voluntarily surrender

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »