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ROTHSCHILD v. KNIGHT

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


March 3, 1902

ROTHSCHILD
v.
KNIGHT

ERROR TO THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS

Fuller, Harlan, Gray, Brewer, Brown, Shiras, Jr., White, Peckham, McKenna

Author: Mckenna

[ 184 U.S. Page 339]

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

A motion is made to dismiss the writ of error upon the ground that no Federal question was raised in the Superior Court. Federal questions were raised, however, on writ of error to the Supreme Court, and that, we think, was a sufficient claim. Meyer v. Richmond, 172 U.S. 82; Arrowsmith v. Harmoning, 118 U.S. 194; Sully v. American National Bank, 178 U.S. 289.

The objection that the writ of error should have been directed to the Supreme Court and not to the Superior Court is answered by McDonald v. Massachusetts, 180 U.S. 311.

The constitutional questions raised by plaintiffs in error are (1) that they have been deprived of their property without due process of law; (2) that if the judgment be allowed to stand it will impair the obligation of contracts, contrary to the Constitution of the United States; (3) that full faith and credit was not given to certain judicial proceedings had in the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

(1) (2) These grounds may be considered together. To sustain them plaintiffs in error assert the invalidity of certain public statutes of Massachusetts, viz., chapter 164, relating to absent defendants; chapter 183, relating to the trustee process; and chapter 157, relating to insolvency.

The sections in regard to insolvency are inserted in the margin.*fn1

[ 184 U.S. Page 340]

     The provisions relating to trustee process are as follows:

"SEC. 21. When a person who is summoned as trustee has goods, effects or credits of the defendant entrusted or deposited in his hands or possession, such goods, effects and credits shall be hereby attached and held to respond to the final judgment in the suit, in like manner as goods or estate attached by the ordinary process, except as hereinbefore provided."

"SEC. 25. Any money or other thing due to the defendant may be attached, as herein mentioned, before it has become payable, if it is due absolutely and without any contingency; but the trustee shall not be compelled to pay or deliver it before the time appointed by the contract."

It is difficult to state the argument made to support the contention of plaintiffs in error. It rests ultimately on a claim of immunity from suit in Massachusetts and a claim of immunity from attachment of debts due plaintiffs in error from citizens of

[ 184 U.S. Page 341]

     Massachusetts. Argumentatively, it is said that the action originally brought did not justify trustee process, and that the amendments subsequently made to the declaration were not authorized, though consented to by counsel who appeared in and conducted the case. We do not assent to either proposition.

To what actions the remedy of attachment may be given is for the legislature of a State to determine and its courts to decide, and the power of counsel certainly extends to consenting to amendments authorized by the laws of the State. Indeed, it would be novel to hold that the court could not have granted the amendments, even against the opposition of counsel, without violating the Constitution of the United States. And the contention that the debts due to plaintiffs in error by certain citizens of Massachusetts were not subject to attachment in that State because their situs was in New York, cannot be maintained. We decided adversely to the proposition in Chicago, Rock Island &c. Ry. v. Sturm, 174 U.S. 710. That case was followed and applied in King v. Cross, 175 U.S. 396, and we are satisfied with the reasoning of both cases.

But it is urged that the transaction between McKeon and the agent of the plaintiffs in error did not constitute a debt, but was in the nature of an offence to which a penalty was incident, and to the commission of the offence an intent was necessary, and that the intent of the agent of plaintiffs in error could not be ascribed to them. The Supreme Court of the State, however, decided that "the action is not for recovery of a penalty, but to recover the value of goods conveyed in fraud of the laws relating to insolvency, and it properly might be commenced by trustee process. Pub. Sts. c. 157, §§ 96, 97; c. 183, § 1."

We need only add that the law would be of little value if its prohibition did not apply to non-resident creditors, whether acting directly or through an agent. That the conveyance to plaintiffs in error was made to give a fraudulent preference must necessarily have been found as a fact by the jury, and such finding we accept.

(3) No record was introduced in evidence of the judicial proceedings to which, it is claimed, faith and credit were not given. The only evidence in regard to the proceedings consisted of

[ 184 U.S. Page 342]

     the affidavit already referred to, and an affidavit of like import made by S. Rothschild, one of the plaintiffs in error. The affidavits were introduced by defendants in error. On behalf of plaintiffs in error Frank J. Rothschild testified as follows: "These goods (meaning the goods received from McKeon) were attached by Simon Rothschild & Bro., and were sold by order of the sheriff. We bought them, that, is, Simon Rothschild & Bro. bought them, at the sheriff's sale."

Assuming, but not deciding, that such evidence was sufficient, and that a record properly authenticated was not necessary to give the plaintiffs in error the benefit of the Constitution and statutory provisions, the proceedings, notwithstanding, did not constitute a defence to the action. The preference given by McKeon to plaintiffs in error was consummated in Massachusetts. Therefore the proceedings had in New York were immaterial.

Finding no error in the record, judgment is

Affirmed.


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