Leon v. Galceran (1870) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Leon v. Galceran (1870) 78 U.S. 185, three sailors brought suits in a state court against the owner of a schooner to recover their wages, and had the schooner, which was subject to a lien or privilege in their favor, according to the laws of Louisiana, similar in some respects to the principles of the maritime law, sequestered by the sheriff of the parish.

The writ was levied upon the schooner, which was afterwards released upon a forthcoming bond. This was held to be an ordinary suit in personam with an auxiliary attachment of the property of the defendant, and no infringement upon the admiralty jurisdiction.

Said Mr. Justice Clifford:

"They brought their suits in the state courts against the owner of the schooner, as they had a right to do, and, having obtained judgment against the defendant, they might levy their execution upon any property belonging to him, not exempted from taxes or execution, which was situated in that jurisdiction."

In that case, the suit was in personam, in a court of the State of Louisiana, to recover mariner's wages.

Under a statute of the State the vessel was subject to a lien or privilege in favor of the mariner; and accordingly at the beginning of the suit, on the application of the plaintiff who asserted his lien, a writ of sequestration was issued and levied upon the vessel which was afterwards released upon the execution by the owner, the defendant in the suit, of a forthcoming bond, with surety.

Judgment was recovered by the plaintiff for the amount claimed, and the vessel not being returned, suit was brought in the state court against the surety.

Upon writ of error from this court to review the judgment in the latter action, it was contended, with respect to the issue and levy of the writ of sequestration, that the vessel had been seized under admiralty process in a proceeding in rem over which the state court had no jurisdiction ratione materiaeand hence that the bond was void.

The contention was overruled and the jurisdiction of the state court maintained.