Boone v. Chiles (1836)

Boone v. Chiles (1836) 35 U.S. 177, was a bill in equity to establish the title to a tract of seven hundred acres of land in Bourbon County, in the State of Kentucky. Among other defences it was alleged that an agreement in writing had been made between Boone, the plaintiff, and one Engles, by which Engles undertook at his own expense to prosecute a suit for the seven hundred acres in dispute, and, as a consideration for his trouble, was to have one-half of the land, and that the suit was prosecuted under that agreement; that it was, therefore, a case of champerty and maintenance forbidden by law, in which the court could give no relief. But the court held that, although the English statutes which had been adopted in Kentucky punished the offence and declared the contract for maintenance void between the parties, the right of the plaintiff was not forfeited by such an agreement, and it might be asserted against the defendants whether the contract with Engles was valid or void. In Boone v. Chiles, it is said that a commissioner is in no sense an agent of the party, but is an officer of the court, and acts strictly under its authority. The Court said at page 211: "The answer setting it up is no evidence against the plaintiff who is not bound to contradict or rebut it (citing cases). It must be established affirmatively, by the defendant, independently of his oath (to the answer), (citing cases)." The Court also said that "In setting it up by plea or answer, it must state the deed of purchase, the date, parties, and contents briefly; that the vendor was seized in fee, and in possession; the consideration must be stated, with a distinct averment that it was bona fide and truly paid, independently of the recital in the deed. Notice must be denied previous to, and down to the time of paying the money, and the delivery of the deed; and if notice is specially charged, the denial must be of all circumstances referred to, from which notice can be inferred; and the answer or plea show how the grantor acquired title. . . . The title purchased must be apparently perfect, good at law, a vested estate in fee-simple. . . . It must be by a regular conveyance; for the purchaser of an equitable title holds it subject to the equities upon it in the hands of the vendor, and has no better standing in a court of equity. . . . Such is the case which must be stated to give a defendant the benefit of an answer or plea of an innocent purchase without notice; the case stated must be made out, evidence will not be permitted to be given of any other matter not set out." "This leads to the reason for protecting an innocent purchaser, holding the legal title, against one who has the prior equity; a court of equity can act only on the conscience of a party; if he has done nothing that taints it, no demand can attach upon it, so as to give any jurisdiction. Strong as a plaintiff's equity may be, it can in no case be stronger than that of a purchaser, who has put himself in peril by purchasing a title, and paying a valuable consideration without notice of any defect in it, or adverse claim to it.' "