APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF IDAHO.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The Supreme Court of the Territory held that a non-resident could not make an assignment, with preferences, of personal property situated in Idaho, that would be valid as against a non-resident attaching creditor, the latter being entitled to the same rights as a citizen of Idaho; that the recognition by one State of the laws of another State governing the transfer of property rested on the principle of comity, which always yielded when the policy of the State where the property was located had prescribed a different rule of transfer from that of the domicil of the owner; that this assignment was contrary to the statutes and the settled policy of Idaho, in that it provided for preferences; that the fact that the assignee had taken and was in possession of the property could not affect the result; and that the distinction between a voluntary and an involuntary assignment was entitled to no consideration.
Undoubtedly there is some conflict of authority on the question as to how far the transfer of personal property by assignment or sale, lawfully made in the country of the domicil of the owner, will be held to be valid in the courts of another country, where the property is situated and a different local rule prevails.
We had occasion to consider this subject somewhat in Cole
v. Cunningham, 133 U.S. 107, 129, and it was there said: "Great contrariety of state decision exists upon this general topic, and it may be fairly stated that, as between citizens of the state of the forum, and the assignee appointed under the laws of another state, the claim of the former will be held superior to that of the latter by the courts of the former; while, as between the assignee and citizens of his own state and the state of the debtor, the laws of such state will ordinarily be applied in the state of the litigation, unless forbidden by, or inconsistent with, the laws or policy of the latter. Again, although, in some of the states, the fact that the assignee claims under a decree of a court or by virtue of the law of the state of the domicil of the debtor and the attaching creditor, and not under a conveyance by the insolvent, is regarded as immaterial, yet, in most, the distinction between involuntary transfers of property, such as work by operation of law, as foreign bankrupt and insolvent laws, and a voluntary conveyance, is recognized. The reason for the distinction is that a voluntary transfer, if valid where made, ought generally to be valid everywhere, being the exercise of the personal right of the owner to dispose of his own, while an assignment by operation of law has no legal operation out of the state in which the law was passed. This is a reason which applies to citizens of the actual situs of the property when that is elsewhere than at the domicil of the insolvent, and the controversy has chiefly been as to whether property so situated can pass even by a voluntary conveyance."
We have here a voluntary transfer of his property by a citizen of Utah for the payment of his debts, with preferences, which transfer war valid in Utah, where made, and was consummated by the delivery of the property in Idaho, where it was situated, and then taken on an attachment in favor of a creditor not a resident or citizen of Idaho. Was there anything in the statutes or established policy of Idaho invalidating such transfer?
Title XII of Part Second of the Revised Statutes of the Territory of Idaho, entitled "Of proceedings in insolvency," (Rev. Stats. Idaho, §§ 5875 to 5932,) provided that "no assignment
of any insolvent debtor, otherwise than as provided in this title, is legal or binding on creditors;" that creditors should share pro rata, "without priority or preference whatever;" for the discharge of the insolvent debtor upon compliance with the provisions of the title, by application for such discharge by petition to the District Court of the county in which he had resided for six months next preceding, with schedule and inventory annexed, giving a true statement of debts and liabilities and a description of all the insolvent's estate, including his homestead, if any, and all property exempt by law from execution. The act applied to corporations and partnerships, and declared that if the partners resided in different counties, that court in which the petition was first filed should retain jurisdiction over the case. Nothing is clearer from its various provisions than that the statute had reference only to domestic insolvents. As pointed out by Judge Berry in his dissenting opinion, the first section of the fifty-eight upon this subject, in providing that "every insolvent debtor may, upon compliance with the provisions of this title, be discharged from his debts and liabilities," demonstrates this. The legislature of Idaho certainly did not attempt to discharge citizens of other jurisdictions from their liabilities, nor intend that personal property in Idaho, belonging to citizens of other States or Territories, could not be applied to the payment of their debts unless they acquired a six months' residence in some county of Idaho, and went through its insolvency court.
The instrument in controversy did not purport to be executed under any statute, but was an ordinary common law assignment with preferences, and as such was not, in itself illegal. Jewell v. Knight, 123 U.S. 426, 434. And it was found as a fact that it was valid under the laws of Utah. While the statute of Idaho prescribed pro rata distribution without preference, in assignments under the statute, it did not otherwise deal with the disposition of his property by a debtor nor prohibit preferences between non-resident debtors and creditors through an assignment valid by ...