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McCracken Circuit Court of Kentucky, against Atkins and the vendees of said deed, asking a judgment for the amount of the debt, and seeking to set aside the deed of conveyance as fraudulent and void, causing at the same time a writ of attachment to issue, which writ of attachment was levied upon the real estate described in the deed. Similar actions were begun by the First National Bank of Paducah, and the Old State National Bank of Evansville, asking the same relief, and in each of said actions attachments were issued and levied upon the same property. These suits were begun and the attachments issued within four months of the filing of the petition in bankruptcy. Arthur Y. Martin was duly elected trustee in bankruptcy. On January 9, 1909, the Globe Bank & Trust Company filed its petition contesting the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court, and its right to interfere with the proceedings in the state court for the recovery of the property as aforesaid. On January 20, 1909, the Globe Bank & Trust Company filed a second petition, praying that the attachment lien be preserved under $ 67-f of the Bankruptcy Act, and that it be permitted to make the trustee, A. Y. Martin, a defendant in said state court proceeding. On February 18, 1909, the bankruptcy court entered an order, directing that the attachment lien be preserved for the benefit of the bankrupt estate, as provided in § 67-f and the referee, under authority from the court made an order authorizing the trustee to institute an action for the recovery of the property and to intervene in the state court. Thereafter the trustee in bankruptcy instituted an action in the McCracken Circuit Court, praying that said conveyance be set aside as fraudulent and void, as against creditors both before and after the execution and delivery of the deed, and setting up his right as trustee in bankruptcy to be substituted as the real party in interest in the suits then pending in the state court, and further praying that all rights of action and recoveries resulting
Opinion of the Court.
236 U. S.
therefrom should be decreed to pass to the trustee as assets of the bankrupt estate.
The trustee's action was consolidated with the actions then pending in the McCracken Circuit Court, brought by the creditors, and thereafter judgment was rendered, adjudging that enough of the property be sold to realize the amount of the creditors' debts existing at the time of the conveyance, and adjudging that the conveyance was not actually fraudulent and therefore not voidable as to creditors whose debts were created after the delivery of the deed, and that court appointed the trustee in bankruptcy a special commissioner to sell the property and hold all the proceeds subject to the further order of the court in the further and final distribution of such proceeds, or subject to orders of the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Kentucky in its final distribution of the entire assets of the estate of such bankrupt, and the final adjustment and settlement of its affairs before such court in such proceedings now pending in bankruptcy, “and the rights of all creditors in such bankrupt proceedings in the distribution or disposition of such proceeds by the bankrupt estate are hereby reserved and not determined, but left open for final adjudication among them in such proceedings in bankruptcy.”
The trustee, as well as other parties, appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and that court rendered a judgment which we shall have occasion to consider more at length hereafter.
Subsequently, after the case had gone back to the McCracken Circuit Court from the Court of Appeals, the trustee filed his report of the sale of the property, and asked the court to direct him in the distribution of the proceeds of the sale in his hands. The Globe Bank & Trust Company, the First National Bank, and the Old State National Bank of Evansville, Indiana, claimed the whole of the fund recovered, and afterwards, upon the hearing, the
referee in bankruptcy entered an order, adjudging the three banks named, whose debts were created antecedent to the execution and delivery of the deed, entitled to the entire proceeds of the property, being the sum of $16,146.58, a sum less than the total amount of their debts, leaving nothing for distribution among general creditors.
The District Court affirmed the action of the referee, and an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A petition for review was filed at the same time.
It further appears that the Globe Bank & Trust Company, the First National Bank, and the Old State National Bank of Evansville, Indiana, had originally filed proofs of debts, setting up their claims in bankruptcy. Afterwards the Banks filed amended and supplemental petitions and proofs of claims setting up their alleged priority to which pleadings the trustee filed a response and the order appealed from was entered. The Circuit Court of Appeals, treating the case as before it upon appeal (201 Fed. Rep. 31), entered a decree from which the present appeal is taken, reversing the order and decree of the District Court, and finding that the trustee held the fund for distribution among all the creditors of the estate, and not for the exclusive benefit of the banks named as prior creditors.
It is first contended that this court has no jurisdiction because the case, if not properly before the Circuit Court of Appeals by petition for review, should have been taken to that court under $ 25 of the Bankruptcy Act, which section limits the time of appeal and requires special findings of fact in bankruptcy proceedings upon claims. We are of opinion, however, that the Circuit Court of Appeals rightly decided (201 Fed. Rep. 31) that the contest over the distribution of this fund in the hands of the trustee was a controversy arising in the bankruptcy proceedings, and hence appealable as other cases in equity
under the Circuit Court of Appeals Act, and the appeals to the Circuit Court of Appeals and this court were properly taken. Hewit v. Berlin Machine Works, 194 U.S. 296; Coder v. Arts, 213 U. S. 223; Knapp v. Milwaukee Trust Co., 216 U. S. 545; Matter of Loving, 224 U. S. 183; In re Mueller, 135 Fed. Rep. 711. This view of the jurisdiction of the court results in the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari in No. 292, submitted at the same time with the other cases now under consideration.
We come then to the cases upon their merits. Section 67-f of the Bankruptcy Act (July 1, 1898, c. 541, 30 Stat. 544, 565) provides:
“That all levies, judgments, attachments, or other liens, obtained through legal proceedings against a person who is insolvent, at any time within four months prior to the filing of a petition in bankruptcy against him, shall be deemed null and void in case he is adjudged a bankrupt, and the property affected by the levy, judgment, attachment, or other lien shall be deemed wholly discharged and released from the same, and shall pass to the trustee as a part of the estate of the bankrupt, unless the court shall, on due notice, order that the right under such levy, judgment, attachment, or other lien shall be preserved for the benefit of the estate; and thereupon the same may pass to and shall be preserved by the trustee for the benefit of the estate as aforesaid. And the court may order such conveyance as shall be necessary to carry the purposes of this section into effect: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall have the effect to destroy or impair the title obtained by such levy, judgment, attachment, or other lien, of a bona fide purchaser for value who shall have acquired the same without notice or reasonable cause for inquiry.”
Under $ 70-a of the Bankruptcy Act the trustee of the estate is vested with the title of the bankrupt, including all property transferred by him in fraud of creditors and
property which prior to the filing of the petition he could by any means have transferred or which might have been levied upon and sold under judicial process against him.
Under $ 70-e of the same Act, the Trustee may avoid any transfer by the bankrupt of his property which any creditor of the bankrupt might have avoided, and he is given authority to recover the property in the hands of anyone not a bona fide holder for value. The authority of the trustee to prosecute such actions does not seem to be questioned, and is ample for the purpose involved in the present suit. Security Warehousing Co. v. Hand, 206 U. S. 415, 425, 426. In the cases in the McCracken Circuit Court the
property was charged to have been conveyed in fraud of creditors and also involved a consideration of § 1907 of the Laws of Kentucky (Carroll, 1909), which provides that:
“Every gift, conveyance, assignment, transfer or charge made by a debtor, of or upon any of his estate, without valuable consideration therefor, shall be void as to all his then existing liabilities, but shall not, on that account alone, be void as to creditors whose debts or demands are thereafter contracted, nor as to purchasers with notice of the voluntary alienation or charge; and though it be adjudged to be void as to a prior creditor, it shall not therefore be deemed to be void as to such subsequent creditors or purchasers.”
It is the contention of the appellants that, as the conveyances were held in the Kentucky courts to be void under that section as to creditors whose debts and demands then existed, and because of the lack of actual fraud were held not to be void as to subsequent creditors or purchasers, they are entitled to priority, because of the Kentucky statute and the judicial determinations of the state court.
The argument of the appellants does not depend upon the attachments alone, but is based upon their right to