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CENTRAL LOAN & TRUST COMPANY v. CAMPBELL COMMISSION COMPANY.

decided: February 20, 1899.

CENTRAL LOAN & TRUST COMPANY
v.
CAMPBELL COMMISSION COMPANY.



ERROR TO AND APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF OKLAHOMA.

Author: White

[ 173 U.S. Page 89]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

[ 173 U.S. Page 90]

     On the threshold it is necessary to dispose of a suggestion of want of jurisdiction made by the appellee. It is based on the proposition that as the intervenors in the trial court are not made parties to this appeal, we are without jurisdiction, since the judgment to be rendered may materially prejudice their rights. But the intervenors did not except to the action of the trial court in vacating the attachment and dismissing the action. They were not made parties to the proceedings in error prosecuted from the judgment of the trial court to the Supreme Court of the Territory. In that court the cause was determined without any suggestion, so far as the record discloses, that the questions arising on the record could not be decided in the absence of the intervenors, and the Supreme Court of the Territory manifestly assumed that the intervenors were not essential parties to a determination of the controversy before it, since it passed on the case as presented without their presence. If their absence was treated by the parties to the proceedings in the Supreme Court of the Territory as not affecting the right to a review of the judgment of the trial court, there can be no reason why we should now hold that the presence of such intervenors is necessary on this appeal, which has solely for its object a review of the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court of the Territory. Considering the facts just stated, and the further fact that it is obvious that the rights of the intervenors cannot be prejudiced by a review of the action of the Supreme Court of the Territory in dismissing the cause for want of jurisdiction, the motion to dismiss is overruled.

The third ground stated in the plea of the defendant, the Campbell Company, to the jurisdiction of the court, was the one which the Supreme Court of the Territory found to be well taken, and upon which it based its affirmance of the judgment quashing the attachment and dismissing the action for want of jurisdiction. The reasoning by which the court reached its conclusion was in substance as follows:

The garnishee Pierce answered that he had nothing subject to garnishment. After doing this, he further answered, setting out an alleged contract between himself and the defendant,

[ 173 U.S. Page 91]

     by which he had agreed to sell and ship to the pastures of the defendant a certain number of cattle, which agreement had been carried into execution, the cattle seized under the attachment being a portion of those shipped in carrying out the contract. The answer then stated that although the cattle had been thus shipped, by the terms of the contract, the right to their possession remained in the garnishee Pierce, to whom there was a large amount due under the contract for purchase money and expenses. The answer further stated that the garnishee had been notified of an assignment by the defendant of its rights under the contract, the date of this assignment as given being prior in time to the levy of the attachment. Considering that there had been no traverse by the plaintiff to the answer of the garnishee, within twenty days, as required by the Oklahoma statute, the court concluded that all the facts and averments and the inferences deducible therefrom, stated in the answer, were to be taken as true, not only as between the garnishee and the plaintiff, but also between the plaintiff and the defendant, in determining whether property of the defendant had been levied upon, under the attachment. Upon this assumption, finding that the answer of the garnishee established that no property of the defendant had been levied upon under the attachment, it thereupon dissolved the attachment and dismissed the suit. But this reasoning was fallacious, since it assumed that because the failure to traverse the answer of the garnishee was conclusive of his non-liability, in the garnishment proceedings, it was therefore equally so, as between the plaintiff and defendant, in determining whether the property which had been levied upon under the attachment belonged to the defendant. But the two considerations, the liability of the garnishee under the proceedings in garnishment and the validity of the levy previously made under the attachment, were distinct and different issues. The section of the Oklahoma statute to which the court referred (Oklahoma Stat. 1893, sec. 4085) provides that the answer of the garnishee "shall in all cases be conclusive of the truth of the facts therein stated, unless the plaintiff shall within twenty days serve upon the garnishee a notice

[ 173 U.S. Page 92]

     in writing that he elects to take issue on his answer." It, however, can in reason be construed only as importing that the facts stated in the answer, unless traversed, should be conclusive, for the purpose of determining whether the garnishee was liable under the process issued against him and to which process his answer was directed.

Indeed, all the facts stated in the "further" answer of the garnishee were, in legal effect, substantially irrelevant to the issue between the plaintiff and the garnishee, since they referred not to the garnishee's liability to the defendant, but propounded a distinct and independent claim which the garnishee asserted existed in his favor as against the defendant, as a basis on his part for claiming property which was already in the possession of the court under the attachment, and held as the property of the defendant in attachment. This was the view taken by the garnishee of his rights on the subject, for the answer in the garnishment concluded simply by asking that the garnishee be discharged from the proceedings. And on the same day he intervened in the main action and filed his interplea asserting in his behalf a right of possession to the cattle seized and demanding damages for their detention. The judgment below, then, not alone caused the failure to traverse the answer to conclude the plaintiff as to the issues which could legally arise on the garnishment, that is, the liability of the garnishee thereunder, but it also made the failure to traverse operate as a summary and conclusive finding in favor of the garnishee on his interplea in the action, which was a wholly independent and distinct proceeding from the garnishment itself. The reasoning necessarily went further than this, since by relation it caused the answer of the garnishee to become conclusive between the plaintiff and the defendant, thereby setting aside the seizure made before the garnishment issued, falsifying and destroying the return of the sheriff that he had levied upon the property of the defendant, and in effect decided the case in favor of the defendant without proof and without a hearing.

Nor can a different conclusion be reached by considering that in the further answer of the ...


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