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CRITES v. PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE CO. ET AL.

decided: May 22, 1944.

CRITES, INCORPORATED
v.
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE CO. ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Murphy

[ 322 U.S. Page 408]

 MR. JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case to determine certain important questions concerning the proper administration of federal receiverships.

Henry M. Crites and his wife, May R. Crites, executed mortgages in 1929 to the Prudential Insurance Company of America upon 22 parcels of adjoining farm property in

[ 322 U.S. Page 409]

     Madison and Pickaway Counties, Ohio. Each mortgage, being in default, was matured by acceleration on December 30, 1931. On February 17, 1932, Prudential began 22 separate foreclosure proceedings against the Criteses and Crites, Inc., the petitioner. Only the 11 proceedings relating to the 11 contiguous farms in Madison County, on which the mortgages aggregated $192,000, are now before us.

An involuntary petition in bankruptcy had been filed against Henry M. Crites. Petitioner is an Ohio corporation formed by Crites' creditors in an effort to salvage something from the farms. To it had been conveyed all the properties of the Criteses, including the equities of redemption. Prudential requested that a receiver be appointed to take charge of the mortgaged farms pending the termination of the foreclosure proceedings. The District Court accordingly appointed as co-receivers the respondents Simkins and Florence "to collect the rents and proceeds of the real estate . . . to operate and manage said real estate through tenants, lessees, or otherwise, to rent and lease said real estate, to pay delinquent taxes and assessments and insurance premiums, to make such repairs as may be necessary to preserve the value of the premises and to produce normal income therefrom, and to do such other acts as may be from time to time ordered by the court." Subsequent orders authorized them to borrow money from Prudential and from the local bank to pay necessary expenses relating to the farms and to execute leases of the farms upon a share or crop rental basis.

No answers to the foreclosure complaints were filed. In the hope that economic conditions would improve and bring about a higher sale value, the District Court allowed the receivers to operate the farms for a year before entering decrees pro confesso on May 2, 1933. By these decrees the mortgages and equities of redemption were declared foreclosed and the marshal was directed to sell each farm

[ 322 U.S. Page 410]

     individually on July 1, 1933, at a public sale for cash at not less than two-thirds of the appraised value. The appraisers set the value of the 11 Madison County farms at $244,080, making $162,720 the minimum price at which they could be sold. The decree indebtedness in the 11 cases was $223,742.32. Prudential made the sole bids at the public sale on July 1 and secured title to the 11 farms for $163,900, slightly more than the upset price. The District Court confirmed this sale on July 18.

Prudential subsequently objected to the allowance of the receivers' claims on the ground that they were excessive. Petitioner also filed objections. Hearings were held before a special master. The District Court overruled petitioner's exceptions to the special master's report and its counterclaim, amended and approved the receivers' accounts, and affirmed the special master's report. Petitioner alone appealed, the court below affirming the action of the District Court with a slight modification as to additional fees for the receivers' attorneys. 134 F.2d 925.

I.

Petitioner's first contention is that Simkins' actions in connection with the foreclosure sales constituted a breach of his duty as a receiver and rendered him accountable for certain profits made by him and others.

The evidence indicates that a Col. Proctor of Cincinnati was interested in purchasing the entire 11 Madison County farms as a unit and that he employed a real estate agent, Edwin Jones,*fn1 to represent him in the matter. Several weeks before the foreclosure sales, Jones visited Simkins and told him that he ...


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