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Thornberg v. Jorgensen

July 11, 1932

THORNBERG
v.
JORGENSEN ET AL.



Appeal from the District Court of the United States in the Virgin Islands.

Author: Woolley

Before BUFFINGTON, WOOLLEY, and DAVIS, Circuit Judges.

WOOLLEY, Circuit Judge.

This appeal concerns broadly the right of a mortgagor under the law of the Virgin Islands to redeem property sold under foreclosure proceedings, and involves particularly the questions, first, what was the law of the Islands in respect to the right of redemption in force at the time of the execution of the mortgages and at the time of sale, and next, if there were different laws at these times, which is applicable in this instance?

From the well pleaded case we extract these facts:

(a) In 1918, Svend Jorgensen executed in favor of N. W. Thornberg a mortgage for Frcs. 75,000 ($15,000), being a first lien upon three estates, "Longford," "Castle Nugent," and "The Springs," situate in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and upon live stock found thereon.

(b) At or about the same time Svend Jorgensen executed in favor of the Plantation Company of the Danish West Indies, Limited, Copenhagen, a mortgage for Frcs. 55,000 ($11,000), being a second lien upon the same three estates and later assigned to O. H. Schmieglow of Denmark, and on his death distributed to his widow, Mrs. O. H. Schmieglow. The record of the mortgage shows payment of Frcs. 10,000 on account, and the petition alleges other payments which have reduced the principal debt to less than Frcs. 25,000 ($5,000).

(c) In 1919, Svend Jorgensen executed in favor of N. W. Thornberg another mortgage for Frcs. 6,000 ($1,200), being a first lien upon the estate known as "LaPrevalois," and upon the live stock thereon.

After the death of Svend Jorgensen, the District Court of the Virgin Islands in 1924 awarded these four estates to his wife, Elinor Jorgensen, with full power of disposal.

(d) In 1927, Elinor Jorgensen executed a nortgage in favor of N. W. Thornberg for Frcs. 24,700 ($4,740), being a lien upon all four estates, a third lien upon the three estates mentioned in the first and second mortgages (a & b) and a second lien upon the estate mentioned in the third mortgage (c).

Following default of interest, Thornberg filed in the District Court of the Virgin Islands a petition of foreclosure in the nature of a bill of foreclosure in equity against Elinor Jorgensen, as mortgagor and terre tenant of the four estates (a, b, c & d) and against the Plantation Company of the Danish West Indies, mortgagee under the second mortgage (b), and Mrs. O. H. Schmieglow, the present holder thereof, alleging a balance due upon the first mortgage (a) of Frcs. 81,300 ($16,260), a balance of Frcs. 6,722.50 ($1,344.50) due upon the third mortgage (c) and a balance of Frcs. 25,870 ($5,174) due upon the fourth mortgage (d), together with costs and attorneys' fees, making a total in excess of Frcs. 106,095.50 ($22,778.00).

Elinor Jorgensen appeared and contested the mortgage foreclosure.

The court appointed a receiver and later issued execution. This was in 1931. The estates and the cattle upon them were sold to Thornberg, the petitioning mortgagee, for Frcs. 106,000 ($21,200). After exceptions by the respondent, Elinor Jorgensen, claiming a year within which to redeem the property, the court confirmed the sale and ordered a deed by the sheriff to the purchaser without right of redemption. From this decree of confirmation Elinor Jorgensen has appealed, raising several more or less related questions. The first is:

Did the local law in force in the Virgin Islands when the United States acquired them on the seventeenth day of January, 1917, grant to a mortgagor the right to redeem property sold under foreclosure of a ...


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