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Opinion of the Court.
pute. Plaintiffs' testator had then all the title which he ever could acquire. The parties must have referred to the final location of the patent of the pueblo of Sonoma, when they, in their agreement, used the phrase “in the event the city of Sonoma establishes her claim to any portion of said land. That patent has been finally located, and embraces the land which is the subject of this suit. It follows that the defendants should prevail.”
The judgment of the Superior Court was that the defendants recover costs from the plaintiffs. The latter took an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State, which affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court, by a judgment to review which the plaintiffs have brought a writ of error.
The opinion of the Supreme Court, found in the record, and also reported as Fale v. Akers, 69 Cal. 160, recites the facts as found by the Superior Court, and then states that there are two sufficient answers to the claims made by the plaintiffs. In its first answer, the court considered the meaning of the words, “taking the direction of the Arroyo Seco," found in the second grant, of July 6, 1874, and in the decree of confirmation, and stated that it seemed to it, as it did to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, that the line was to run from the Trancas to the nearest point on the Arroyo Seco, and thence up that creek or gulch; that, if that were so, then it is clear that the line as run by the surveyor did not conform to the decree, but took in lands not covered by the decree; and that it must follow that to the lands so taken in, the original concession to the pueblo, and the patent issued upon confirmation thereof, carried the better right.
The second answer which the Supreme Court made to the claims of the plaintiffs was that the written agreement, before mentioned, was intended to be, and was, binding upon the parties, and was decisive of their rights, when it was executed. The view taken by the court was that when Schell and Akers executed the agreement, in October, 1860, the Huichica patent had been issued to Leese, in August, 1859, and Schell had his deed of January, 1859; that the Sonoma claim had been confirmed by the board of land commissioners, in January, 1856,
Opinion of the Court.
and took in the land lying between the Trancas line and the Arroyo Seco; that the city was asserting a right to that land, and the case was pending before the courts; that Akers had a deed, given by the city in May, 1858, of 111 acres of the land, and was in possession of them; that under these circumstances the parties compromised the pending suit, by dividing the 111 acres about equally between them, Akers releasing to Schell the eastern half and retaining the western half; that, under the terms of the agreement, the only establishment of the Sonoma claim which the parties contemplated was such as would result from the action of the courts upon it, and the issuing of a patent by the government in pursuance of their decrees; that the parties evidently thought that if the city should finally succeed in establishing its claim, and receive a patent for any of the land within the lines of the Huichica patent, it would have the better title to the land, and that they could, therefore, avoid litigation and expense, and safely await the issue of the city's contest; that they rightly interpreted the law; and that Schell, so long as he lived, acquiesced in the arrangement.
It is contended for the defendants that this court has no jurisdiction of this case. For the plaintiffs it is contended that not only was a Federal question raised in the Supreme Court of the State, but it was decided adversely to the plaintiffs ; and that both parties claimed under titles acquired from the Mexican government prior to the cession of California to the United States.
The errors assigned by the plaintiffs are that the Supreme Court of the State erred in adjudging that the Trancas line did not conform to the decree of confirmation of the claim of Leese to the Huichica rancho, made April 22, 1856, by the District Court of the United States; in adjudging that the patent of March 31, 1880, to the mayor and common council of the city of Sonoma, established that the title to the land in controversy was in the defendants, and gave to them a title superior to the title of the plaintiffs under the patent of August 3, 1859, issued to Leese; and in adjudging that Schell and Akers, by their written agreement of October 11, 1860, intended that any
Opinion of the Court.
patent which should be thereafter issued to the city of Sonoma, conveying any portion of the land to which Schell then had title under the Huichica patent of August 3, 1859, would or could divest Schell of his title to the land under the Huichica patent, or establish a superior title thereto in the city of Sonoma.
After contending that the court below erred in its decision of the Federal question; that such decision' was based upon the facts (1) that the land in dispute was a portion of the pueblo land, and (2) that the lines of the survey of the Huichica grant did not conform to the decree of confirmation; and that, in so doing, the court ignored (1) the power of the Mexican government to divest the pueblo title, and (2) the findings of the lower court that the survey did conform to the decree; the plaintiffs urge that the interpretation by that court of the agreement between Schell and Akers was incorrect, and that it would not have so interpreted the agreement had it not been for its erroneous deduction of law regarding the Federal question, and, therefore, that the decision of the Federal question was the controlling decision of the case.
But we cannot take this view. Both of the courts below decided that, irrespective of the Federal question, the agreement of October 11, 1860, was decisive of the case. struction of that agreement involved no Federal question, and controlled the whole case.
In Murdock v. City of Memphis, 20 Wall. 590, 636, this court announced, as one of the propositions which flowed from the provisions of the second section of the act of February 5, 1867, 14 Stat. 386, embodied in section 709 of the Revised Statutes of 1874, and still in force, that even assuming that a Federal question was erroneously decided against the plaintiff in error, the court must further inquire whether there was any other matter or issue adjudged by the state court, which is sufficiently broad to maintain the judgment of that court, notwithstanding the error in deciding the issue raised by the Federal question ; and that, if that is found to be the case, the judgment must be affirmed, without inquiring into the sound ness of the decision on such other matter or issue.
This principle has since been repeatedly applied. In Jenkins v. Loewenthal, 110 U. S. 222, where two defences were made in the state court, either of which, if sustained, barred the action, and one involved a Federal question and the other did not, and the state court in its decree sustained them both, this court said that, as the finding by the state court of the fact which sustained the defence which did not involve a Federal question was broad enough to maintain the decree, even though the Federal question was wrongly decided, it would affirm the decree, without considering the Federal question or expressing any opinion upon it, and that such practice was sustained by the case of Murdoch v. City of Memphis, supra. See, also, McManus v. O'Sullivan, 91 U. S. 578; Brown v. Atwell, 92 U. S. 327; Citizens' Bank v. Board of Liquidation, 98 U. S. 140; Chouteau v. Gibson, 111 U. S. 200; Adams County v. Burlington & Missouri Railroad, 112 U. S. 123; Detroit City Railway v. Guthard, 114 U. S. 133; New Orleans Water Works Co. v. Louisiana Sugar Refining Co., 125 U. S. 18; De Saussure v. Gaillard, 127 U. S. 216, 234.
It appears clearly from the opinion of the Supreme Court that it was not necessary to the judgment it gave that the words “taking the direction of the Arroyo Seco” should be construed at all. It is, therefore, of no consequence whether or not that court was wrong in its conclusions as to the meaning of the Huichica grant. The writ of error is
RIO GRANDE RAILROAD COMPANY v. VINET.
APPEAL FROM THE
UNITED STATES FOR
THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA.
No. 114. Argued November 15, 1889. - Decided December 23, 1889.
The evidence in this case fails to establish any fraud in the making of the
notes and mortgage which are the subject of controversy, or in the use afterwards made of the notes,
Opinion of the Court.
IN EQUITY. The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. George L. Bright for appellant.
Mr. J. D. Rouse for appellees. Mr. William Grant was with him on the brief.
MR. JUSTICE MIller delivered the opinion of the court.
The appellant, which was plaintiff below, obtained in the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on January 5, 1885, a judgment against the partnership firm of Gomila & Co. and against Anthony J. Gomila and Larned Torrey, who constituted the partnership, for the sum of $26,731.97. It caused an execution to be issued upon the judgment, and had it levied upon a house, and the grounds belonging to it, in the city of New Orleans, a description of which is set forth in the bill filed in this case. It was discovered that there existed a mortgage upon this property for the sum of $18,000, made by A. J. Gomila, and the railroad company brought the present suit by way of a bill in chancery to remove this incumbrance, as an obstruction to the successful exercise of its right to sell the property for the payment of its debt. The action, commenced in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, was afterwards removed by Gomila into the Circuit Court of the United States, and the plaintiff there filed a new bill in equity substantially the same as the petition filed in the state court.
This bill, after reciting the judgment in favor of the railroad company, already mentioned, and the levy of the execution under it on the property described, proceeds to state: “That there is inscribed on the books of the recorder of mortgages for the Parish of Orleans, against the name of Anthony J. Gomila and against said property, an inscription of a mortgage made by said Anthony J. Gomila in favor of the commercial firm of Gomila & Co., by act before Samuel Flower, a notary public, dated the 8th of February, 1884, to secure the sum of $18,000.” According to the bill, this act recited an indebtedness by A. J. Gomila to the firm of Gomila & Co. for