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SCOTT v. NEELY.

decided: April 27, 1891.

SCOTT
v.
NEELY.



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI.

Author: Field

[ 140 U.S. Page 108]

 MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a suit in equity to subject the property of the defendants to the payment of a simple contract debt of one of them, in advance of any proceedings at law, either to establish the validity and amount of the debt, or to enforce its collection. It is founded upon sections 1843 and 1845 of the Code of

[ 140 U.S. Page 109]

     Mississippi of 1880, being parts of the chapter which treats of the Chancery Courts of the State. They are as follows:

"SEC. 1843. The said courts shall have jurisdiction of bills exhibited by creditors, who have not obtained judgments at law, or having judgments, have not had executions returned unsatisfied, to set aside fraudulent conveyances of property, or other devices resorted to for the purpose of hindering, delaying or defrauding creditors; and may subject the property to the satisfaction of the demands of such creditors, as if complainant had a judgment and execution thereon returned 'no property found.'"

"SEC. 1845. The creditor in such case shall have a lien upon the property described therein from the filing of his bill, except as against bona fide purchasers before the service of process upon the defendant in such bill."

At the outset of the case the question is presented, whether a suit of this kind, where the complainant is a simple contract creditor, can be maintained in the courts of the United States. It is sought to uphold the affirmative of this position on the ground that the statute of Mississippi creates a new equitable right in the creditor, which, being capable of assertion by proceedings in conformity with the pleadings and practice in equity, will be enforced in those courts. The cases of Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, Broderick's Will, 21 Wall. 503, and Holland v. Challen, 110 U.S. 15, are cited in its support.

The general proposition, as to the enforcement in the Federal courts of new equitable rights created by the States, is undoubtedly correct, subject, however, to this qualification, that such enforcement does not impair any right conferred, or conflict with any inhibition imposed, by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Neither such right nor such inhibition can be in any way impaired, however fully the new equitable right may be enjoyed or enforced in the States by whose legislation it is created. The Constitution, in its Seventh Amendment, declares that "in suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved." In the Federal courts this right cannot be dispensed with, except by the assent of the

[ 140 U.S. Page 110]

     parties entitled to it, nor can it be impaired by any blending with a claim, properly cognizable at law, of a demand for equitable relief in aid of the legal action or during its pendency. Such aid in the Federal courts must be sought in separate proceedings, to the end that the right to a trial by a jury in the legal action may be preserved intact.

In the case before us the debt due the complainants was in no respect different from any other debt upon contract; it was the subject of a legal action only, in which the defendants were entitled to a jury trial in the Federal courts. Uniting with a demand for its payment, under the statute of Mississippi, a proceeding to set aside alleged fraudulent conveyances of the defendants, did not take that right from them, or in any respect impair it.

This conclusion finds support in the prohibition of the law of Congress respecting suits in equity.The 16th section of the Judiciary act of 1789 enacted that such suits "shall not be sustained in either of the courts of the United States, in any case where plain, adequate and complete remedy may be had at law;" and this prohibition is carried into the Revised Statutes. Sec. 723. It is declaratory of the rule obtaining and controlling in equity proceedings from the earliest period in England, and always in this country. And so it has been often adjudged that whenever, respecting any right violated, a court of law is competent to render a judgment affording a plain, adequate and complete remedy, the party aggrieved must seek his remedy in such court, not only because the defendant has a constitutional right to a trial by jury, but because of the prohibition of the act of Congress to pursue his remedy in such cases in a court of equity. Hipp v. Babin, 19 How. 271, 278; Lewis v. Cocks, 23 Wall. 466, 470; Killian v. Ebbinghaus, 110 U.S. 568, 573; Buzard v. Houston, 119 U.S. 347, 351. All actions which seek to recover specific property, real or ...


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