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Argument for the Appellee.
whether in actual possession or not, claiming the title to real estate, against any person or persons who claim an adverse estate or interest therein, for the purpose of determining such estate or interest, and quieting the title to such real estate: Ileld, That it dispensed with the general rule of courts of equity, that in order to maintain a bill to quiet title, it is necessary that the party should be in possession, and in most cases that his title should have been established by law, or founded on undisputed evidence, or long continued possession. Clark v. Smith, 13 Pet. 195, with reference
to a Kentucky statute in some respects similar, approved. 2 Jurisdiction over proceedings to quiet title and prevent litigation is inherent
in courts of equity ; and although the courts have imposed limitations upon its exercise, it is always competent for the legislative power to re
move those restrictions. 3. While it is true that alterations in the jurisdiction of State courts cannot
affect the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts of the United States, so long as the equitable rights themselves remain ; yet an enlargement of equi
courts of the State. 4. Under the Nebraska statute cited above, a bill to quiet title which, on its
face, presented a good title in the complainant, gave him the right to call upon the defendant to produce and disclose whatever estate he had in the premises in question, to the end that its validity might be determined, and, if adjudged invalid, that the title of the plaintiff might be quieted.
Bill in equity to quiet title. Plaintiff claimed under a tax sale, but did not aver possession. Defendant was owner prior to the tax sale. The bill charged:
“ That said defendant is contriving now to wrong and injure your orator in the premises by claiming to be the owner of said real estate, and by trying to obtain, take, and keep possession thereof, and by denying and slandering your orator's title to and his right of possession thereof, all of which acts, doings, and pretences of said defendant are contrary to equity and good conscience, and tend to the manifest wrong, injury, and oppression of your orator in the premises.”
The defendants demurred, and the court below dismissed the bill. The plaintiff appealed.
Mr. Lewis A. Groff and Mr. C. S. Montgomery for appellant. Mr. T. W. Marquett and Mr. Geo. W. Doane for appellee. -1. This bill is exhibited by the holder of the tax titles to
Opinion of the Court.
have the same established as against the true owner, who claimed the fee-simple title, before the complainant acquired any interest in the property described in the bill, and who still claims it. The title so held by complainant, and the only title which he holds, as shown by the averments of his bill, is at best a very doubtful title, and the principle applied by courts of equity is, that where a complainant has himself a doubtful title, he cannot have the relief sought in a bill quia timet. West v. Schuebley, 54 Ill. 523; Huntington v. Allen, 44 Miss. 654; Low v. Staples, 2 Nev. 209.—II. The bill states no facts constituting grounds for equitable relief. It sets forth the tax deeds held by complainant, the adverse fee-simple title claimed by the defendant, that complainant is entitled to possession and that defendant is keeping him out of possession, or in the language of the bill, “trying to obtain, take and keep possession thereof,” and denying the right of possession of complainant. These allegations are sufficient as the basis of an action at law to recover possession, but there is not an allegation in the bill showing any ground for equitable jurisdiction.
MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.
This is a suit in equity to quiet the title of the plaintiff to certain real property in Nebraska as against the claim of the defendant to an adverse estate in the premises. It is founded upon a statute of that State which provides :
“ That an action may be brought and prosecuted to final decree, judgment, or order by any person or persons, whether in actual possession or not, claiming title to real estate, against any person or persons who claim an adverse estate or interest therein, for the purpose of determining such estate or interest and quieting the title to such real estate.”
The bill alleges that the plaintiff is the owner in fee simple and entitled to the possession of the real property described. It then sets forth the origin of his title, particularly specifying the deeds by which it was obtained, and alleges that the de fendant claims an adverse estate or interest in the premises ;
Opinion of the Court.
that the claim so affects his title as to render a sale or other disposition of the property impossible, and that it disturbs him in his right of possession. It therefore prays that the defendant may be required to show the nature of the adverse estate or interest claimed by her; that the title of the plaintiff may be adjudged valid and quieted as against her and parties claiming under her, and his right of possession be thereby assured ; and that the defendant may be decreed to have no estate in the premises and “be enjoined from in any manner injuring or hindering” the plaintiff in his title and possession.
The defendant demurred to the bill, on the ground that the plaintiff had not made or stated such a case as entitled him to the discovery or relief prayed. The court below sustained the demurrer and dismissed the bill. From this decree the case is brought here on appeal.
It does not appear from the record in what particulars it was contended in the court below that the bill is defective, that is, in what respect it fails to show a right to the relief prayed. We infer, however, from the briefs of counsel, that the same positions now urged in support of the decree were then urged against the bill, that is, that the title of the plaintiff to the property has not been by prior proceedings judicially adjudged to be valid, and that he is not in possession of the property—the contention of the defendant being, that when either of these conditions exists, a court of equity will not interpose its authority to remove a cloud upon the title of the plaintiff and determine his right to the possession of the property.
The statute of Nebraska enlarges the class of cases in which relief was formerly afforded by a court of equity in quieting the title to real property. It authorizes the institution of legal proceedings not merely in cases where a bill of peace would lie, that is, to establish the title of the plaintiff against numerous parties insisting upon the same right, or to obtain repose against repeated litigation of an unsuccessful claim by the same party; but also to prevent future litigation respecting the property by removing existing causes of controversy as to its title, and so embraces cases where a bill quia timet to remove a cloud upon the title would lie.
Opinion of the Court.
A bill of peace against an individual reiterating an unsuc cessful claim to real property would formerly lie only where the plaintiff was in possession and his right had been successfully maintained. The equity of the plaintiff in such cases arose from the protracted litigation for the possession of the property which the action of ejectment at common law permitted. That action being founded upon a fictitious demise, between fictitious parties, a recovery in one action constituted no bar to another similar action or to any number of such actions. A change in the date of the alleged demise was sufficient to support a new action. Thus the party in possession, though successful in every instance, might be harassed and vexed, if not ruined, by a litigation constantly renewed. To put an end to such litigation and give repose to the successful party, courts of equity interfered and closed the controversy To entitle the plaintiff to relief in such cases, the concurrence of three particulars was essential : He must have been in possession of the property, he must have been disturbed in its possession by repeated actions at law, and he must have established his right by successive judgments in his favor. Upon these facts appearing, the court would interpose and grant a perpetual injunction to quiet the possession of the plaintiff against any further litigation from the same source. It was only in this way that adequate relief could be afforded against vexa
Adams on Equity, 202; Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, $248; Stark v. Starrs, 6 Wall. 402; Curtis v. Sutter, 15 Cal. 259; Shepley v. Rangeley, 2 Ware, 242; Devonsher v. Newenham, 2 Schoales & Lef. 199.
In most of the States in this country, and Nebraska among them, the action of ejectment to recover the possession of real property as existing at common law has been abolished with all its fictions. Actions for the possession of such property are now not essentially different in form from actions for other property. It is no longer necessary to allege what is not true in fact and not essential to be proved. The names of the real contestants must appear as parties to the action, and it is generally sufficient for the plaintiff to allege the possession or Opinion of the Court.
seizin by him of the premises in controversy, or of some estate therein, on some designated day, the subsequent entry of the defendant, and his withholding of the premises from the plaintiff; and although the plaintiff may in such cases recover, when a present right of possession is established, though the ownership be in another, yet such right may involve, and generally does involve, a consideration of the actual ownership of the property; and in such cases the judgment is as much a bar to future litigation between the parties with respect to the title as a judgment in other actions is a bar to future litigation upon the subjects determined. Where this new form of action is adopted, and this rule as to the effect of a judgment therein obtains, there can be no necessity of repeated adjudications at law upon the right of the plaintiff as a preliminary to his invoking the jurisdiction of a court of equity to quiet his possession against an asserted claim to the property.
A bill quia timet, or to remove a cloud upon the title of real estate, differed from a bill of peace in that it did not seek so much to put an end to vexatious litigation respecting the property, as to prevent future litigation by removing existing causes of controversy as to its title. It was brought in view of anticipated wrongs or mischiefs, and the jurisdiction of the court was invoked because the party feared future injury to his rights and interests. Story's Equity, § 826. To maintain a suit of this character it was generally necessary that the plaintiff should be in possession of the property, and, except where the defendants were numerous, that his title should have been established at law or be founded on undisputed evidence or long continued possession. Alexander v. Pendleton, 8 Cranch, 462; Peirsoll v. Elliott, 6 Pet. 95; Orton v. Smith, 18 How. 263.
The statute of Nebraska authorizes a suit in either of these classes of cases without reference to any previous judicial de termination of the validity of the plaintiff's right, and without reference to his possession. Any person claiming title to real estate, whether in or out of possession, may maintain the suit against one who claims an adverse estate or interest in it, for the purpose of determining such estate and quieting the title