U.S. Supreme Court Slacum v. Simms & Wise, 9 U.S. 5 Cranch 363 363 (1809)
Slacum v. Simms & Wise
9 U.S. (5 Cranch) 363
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, SITTING AT ALEXANDRIA
In this case it was decided:
A magistrate who has received a deed of trust from an insolvent debtor,
which deed is fraudulent in law as to creditors, is incompetent to sit as a magistrate in the discharge of the debtor under the insolvent law of Virginia. And the discharge so obtained is not a discharge in due course of law.
The former judgment of the court below having been reversed in this Court at February term 1806, ante, vol. 3, p. 7 U. S. 300 , and remanded for further proceedings, the following statement of facts, in the nature of a special verdict, was agreed upon by the parties.
That the defendants executed the bond in the declaration mentioned. That the defendant Simms, being in custody under the execution mentioned in
the condition of the bond, afterwards obtained his discharge as an insolvent debtor by authority of the act of assembly of Virginia entitled "An act for reducing into one the several acts concerning executions, and for the relief of insolvent debtors." That he was discharged from the prison bounds by warrant from Amos Alexander and Peter Wise, Jr. two of the aldermen or justices of the Corporation of Alexandria, before whom Simms delivered in a schedule of his estate and took the oath of an insolvent debtor in the manner prescribed by the act, and being so discharged, he departed out of prison bounds, and not before or in any other manner. That the defendant, Peter Wise, Jr., is the same Peter Wise who acted as one of the justices and who signed the warrant of discharge, and that Simms, before taking the oath, executed a deed conveying all his property, real and personal, to John Wise, and the said Peter Wise in trust, for the benefit of the creditors of Simms, who, notwithstanding the said deed, afterwards, and after his discharge, exercised acts of ownership over the property. That Peter Wise never acted under the deed of trust. That the deed of trust was made by Simms with a view of preventing the effect of the plaintiff's execution, and was fraudulent in law, but such fraud was without the participation of the said Peter Wise and without his privity other than that the said deed was exhibited to the said magistrates and discussed by counsel before them at the time the schedule was delivered and the oath administered.
That no escape warrant was ever applied for in consequence of Simms' departing from the prison bounds.
That if the law be for the plaintiff as to both defendants, or either of them, judgment to be entered for $2,570.90, to be discharged by the payment of $1,820.30 damages and costs against such defendant or defendants severally; but if the law be for either or both of the defendants,
then judgment to be entered for such defendant or defendants severally.
The schedule referred to in the statement, was as follows:
"I have neither real or personal property but what has been conveyed by a deed of trust to John Wise and Peter Wise, Jr., for the use of my creditors, as will appear, reference being had to said deed."
"August 30, 1800"
The court below decided the law for both defendants; and the plaintiff sued out his writ of error.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court to the following effect:
The former case between these parties presented the single circumstance of fraud in Simms, the principal debtor, in which Wise had no share as it was then stated.
The decision in that case does not affect the present. It is here stated that defendant Wise was one of the magistrates who granted the discharge and who received a conveyance from Simms of all his estate, &c.;
It cannot be doubted that if there had been a combination between the surety of the insolvent and the magistrate to grant the discharge, such surety could never plead that discharge in bar of this action. Such would have been the law if Peter Wise the surety had been a different person from Peter Wise the magistrate. But being the same person, he is clearly incompetent. He is directly interested, and his interest appears upon the record.
But the case is stronger when we consider the irregularity of the schedule of property delivered by Simms at the time of his discharge.
The whole schedule is in these words:
"I have neither real or personal property but what has been conveyed by a deed of trust to John Wise and Peter
Wise, Jr., for the use of my creditors, as will appear, reference being had to the said deed."
He does not directly affirm that it is or is not his property. He might have taken the oath although he knew that the property contained in the deed remained in himself. The schedule, therefore, was not such as the law requires. The transaction is fraudulent upon the face of it.
The discharge, being granted by an incompetent tribunal, is wholly void.