KRYGER v. WILSON(1916)
[242 U.S. 171, 172] Messrs. O. E. Holman and William W. Fry for plaintiff in error.
[242 U.S. 171, 173] Messrs. George S. Grimes and Jesse Van Valkenburg for defendant in error.
Mr. Justice Brandeis delivered the opinion of the court:
This case comes here on writ of error to the supreme court of North Dakota to review a decree quieting title in the defendant in error-the plaintiff below-to land situated in that state. The plaintiff in error, a resident of Minnesota, claimed under an executory contract for [242 U.S. 171, 174] the purchase of the land in controversy, and the rights of the parties turned upon whether this contract was outstanding or had been duly canceled. Both Minnesota, where the contract was made and to be performed, and North Dakota, had statutes providing that a vendor in a contract for the sale of land may not cancel and terminate the same upon default, except after written notice to the vendee, giving him at least thirty days within which to make good his nonperformance. Minn. Rev. Stat. 1905, 4442; N. D. Rev. Codes 1905, chap. 30, art. 3, N. D. Comp. Laws 1913, chap. 30, art. 4. The material provisions of the latter statute are copied in the margin. 1 The vendor in this case (grantor of defendant [242 U.S. 171, 175] in error) had given to the sheriff of the county where the land lay a written notice of cancellation to be served upon the plaintiff in error if found within the said county, and upon return of not found, caused the same to be published in a county newspaper, and later filed for record affidavits of publication and of nonredemption,-all in conformity with the North Dakota statute, if it applied.
When the present action was brought to quiet title, plaintiff in error defended, and asked for counter relief, contending that his contract was still valid and subsisting, as the action prescribed by the Minnesota statute to entitle a vendor to cancel had not been taken. The trial court held that the North Dakota law governed; that under it the contract had been 'duly and legally canceled;' that the plaintiff in error having shown no right in the land, title should be forever quieted in the defendant in error. This decree was affirmed by the supreme court on appeal. Wilson v. Kryger, 29 N. D. 28, 149 N. W. 721. We are asked to review the case on the ground that the state court deprived the plaintiff in error of property without [242 U.S. 171, 176] due process of law and impaired the obligation of his contract, in holding that the cancelation proceeding, of which the plaintiff in error had no actual notice, effectively terminated his rights under the contract.
It is apparent from the above statement that there has been no lack of due process. The court below, having jurisdiction of the suit to quiet title, was called upon to determine the conflicting claims to the land. The plaintiff in error voluntarily appeared, and he availed himself of the opportunity to urge his claims to equitable ownership under the contract of sale. The court decided against him, holding the contract no longer outstanding. The most that the plaintiff in error can say is that the state court made a mistaken application of doctrines of the conflict of laws in deciding that the cancellation of a land contract is governed by the law of the situs instead of the place of making and performance. But that, being purely a question of local common law, is a matter with which this court is not concerned. Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Hughes, 191 U.S. 477 , 48 L. ed. 268, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 132; Finney v. Guy, 189 U.S. 335, 346 , 47 S. L. ed. 839, 845, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 558; Allen v. Alleghany Co. 196 U.S. 458 , 49 L. ed. 551, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 311; Marrow v. Brinkley, 129 U.S. 178 , 32 L. ed. 654, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 267.
The argument of the plaintiff in error is seemingly based upon the erroneous theory that his rights were foreclosed by the cancellation proceeding, which, lacking the requisite notice, deprived him of property without due process. But the action under the cancellation statute was in no sense a judicial proceeding. It was simply a statutory condition with which vendors were required to comply before they could take advantage of a default by the vendee. If the contract, properly interpreted, or the law, properly applied, required that this condition be performed in Minnesota, steps taken by him under the North Dakota statute would be ineffective. Whether or not proper proceedings had been taken to secure cancelation could be determined only by a court having [242 U.S. 171, 177] jurisdiction; and the North Dakota court had jurisdiction not only over the land, but, through the voluntary appearance of plaintiff in error, also over him. His rights have been foreclosed, not by the cancellation proceeding under the statute, but by a due and regular judicial decree which was based upon the finding that a default had occurred, of which the vendor was entitled to take advantage, having complied with the proper law. If the plaintiff in error had not submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court, the decree could have determined only the title to the land, and would have left him free to assert any personal rights he may have had under the contract. But, having come into court and specifically asked in his cross bill that he be declared entitled to the 'possession and control of the real estate described in the complaint herein under a contract of sale,' he cannot now complain if he has been concluded altogether in the premises. The plaintiff in error relies upon Selover, B. & Co. v. Walsh, 226 U.S. 112 , 57 L. ed. 146, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 69. That was a personal action for breach of contract, and not, like the present case, an action merely to determine the title to land; and, as the court found on the facts there involved, that the proper law as to cancellation had been applied, the case cannot be construed as holding that an erroneous application thereof would raise a question of due process.
The contention based on the contract clause is equally devoid of merit, for there has been no subsequent legislation impairing the obligation of the contract. Impairment by judicial decision does not raise a Federal question. Cross Lake Shooting & Fishing Club v. Louisiana, 224 U.S. 632 , 56 L. ed. 924, 32 Sup. Ct. Rep. 577.
[ Footnote 1 ] N. D. Rev. Codes 1905, chap. 30, art. 3;
The provisions of the Minnesota statute are substantially to the same effect.