McDonald v. Smalley – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

McDonald v. Smalley - Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

McDonald v. Smalley, 26 U.S. 1 Pet. 620, 624 (1828), was a suit in equity in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio to obtain a conveyance of a tract of land situated in that State - the plaintiff McDonald being a citizen of Alabama and deriving title under one McArthur, a citizen of Ohio, and the defendants, Smalley and others, being citizens of Ohio.

The Circuit Court dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction and the judgment was reversed by this court. Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the court, said:

"This testimony, which is all that was laid before the court, shows, we think, a sale and conveyance to the plaintiff, which was binding on both parties. McDonald could not have maintained an action for his debt, nor McArthur a suit for his land. His title to it was extinguished, and the consideration was received. The motives which induced him to make the contract, whether justifiable or censurable, can have no influence on its validity. They were such as had sufficient influence with himself, and he had a right to act upon them. A court cannot enter into them when deciding on its jurisdiction. The conveyance appears to be a real transaction, and the real as well as nominal parties to the suit are citizens of different States... . The case depends, we think, on the question, whether the transaction between McArthur and McDonald was real or fictitious; and we perceive no reason to doubt its reality, whether the deed be considered as absolute or as a mortgage."