Under the act of 1898, the Courts which have jurisdiction in bankruptcy causes, are the Federal District Courts for the states and territories "the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia and the United States Court of the Indian Territory and of Alaska." 19
The courts vested with bankruptcy jurisdiction under the present bankruptcy act, are the United States District Courts, with the courts named for the jurisdictions which the District Courts do not serve, as indicated in the black letter text above; and all bankruptcy causes must be brought in the appropriate court.
The United States is divided into judicial districts, each district being either coterminous with a state or territory or a part thereof.
The courts of bankruptcy are (with the additional courts named) the federal district courts, and the federal district courts are the courts established to exercise jurisdiction over the judicial districts established by Congress. Each district constitutes a state or territory or a part thereof. In other words there is at least one judicial district, with a district court therein, for each state, and may be several. Thus, to illustrate, in
19. B. A. 1898, SEC. 1, CI. 8; Id. SEC. 2.
Alabama there are three federal judicial districts, known as the northern, middle and southern districts of Alabama. In Maine, there is one judicial district, known as the District of Maine. In each of these judicial districts, having territorial jurisdiction over it, there is a court known as the United States District Court, and it is such court which is vested with jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases which arise within that district.
Any court of bankruptcy, as distinguished from the courts of bankruptcies in other districts, has jurisdiction over any particular cause when the party concerned as a bankrupt has had a principal place of business, resided, or had a domicile within the territorial limit of the jurisdiction, for the greater part of six months just preceding or has property within that jurisdiction.
We have seen that there are many courts of bankruptcy throughout the United States on account of the division into districts, each court of bankruptcy, as so defined, being of equal dignity with any other court, but having jurisdiction only within its own territorial limits. When may a bankruptcy cause properly be said to be within any particular territory, so that the court there may fasten its jurisdiction upon it? The law provides that this depends upon the facts of residence, or domicile, of having a principal place of business, or having property within the jurisdiction. The law reads :20
"[That the courts of bankruptcy as defined shall have such jurisdiction as will enable them to] adjudge persons bankrupt who have had their principal place of business, resided, or had their domicile within their respective territorial jurisdictions for the preceding six months, or the greater portion thereof, or who do not have their principal place of business, reside or have their domicile within the United States, but have property within their jurisdictions or who have been adjudged bankrupts by courts of competent jurisdiction without the United States and have property within their jurisdiction."
20. B. A. 1898, Sec. 2
It is desirable to discuss briefly the following items:
(1) The period of residence, having domicile or principal place of business.
This must be for the greater part of six months next preceding the adjudication. This means any time, at either the beginning or end of the six months, or interspersed throughout, constituting more than three months.21
(2) Residence of debtor.
If the debtor resides in the district for the greater part of the preceding six months the court in that district has jurisdiction. Residence is a fact consisting in living at a place. It has been defined as "personal presence in a fixed and permanent abode."22
But it is not so broad as domicile, for one may have a domicile where he does not presently reside.23
21. In re Plotka, (C. C. A. 7th Cir.) 104 Fed. 967; In re Tully, (D. C. N. Y.) 156 Fed. 634; In re Isaacson, (D. C. N. Y.) 161 Fed. 777.
22. In re Dingelhoef, (C. C. A. 5th Cir.) 109 Fed. 868.
23. In re Garneau, (C. C. A. 7th Cir.) 127 Fed. 677.
(3) Domicile of debtor.
The debtor may be made a bankrupt in the district in which for the greater portion of the last six months he has had his domicile. "Domicile is the place where one has his true, fixed permanent home and principal establishment, and to which when he is absent he has the intention of returning, and where he exercises his political rights."24
(4) Principal place of business of debtor.
The petition may be filed in the District in which the debtor has had his principal place of business for the greater part of the last six months. A principal place of business is a place in which the principal business affairs of a person have their head - the place where his central offices are located, or his business chiefly carried on.25
As applied to corporations, it has been held that it will be presumed that the principal place of business is the place stated in the charter.26 But it may be elsewhere and is a question of fact.27 Thus in one case it was held to be where the coal was mined and the productive operations carried on, although the office in which the books were kept and the sales made was in another jurisdiction.28
24. Idem; In re Davis, (D. C. N. J.) 217 Fed. 113.
25. In re Gurler & Co., (D. C. la.) 232 Fed. 1016.
26. In re Devonian Mineral Spring Co., (D. C. Ohio) 272 Fed. 527
27. Dressier v. North State Lumber Co., (D. C. N. C.) 107 Fed. 253.
28. Continental Coal Corp. v. Roszelle Bros., (C. C. A. 6th Cir.) 242 Fed. 243.
(5) Concurrent jurisdiction of different courts where domicile, place of residence and principal place of business not in same district.
It follows from what has been said that a petition in bankruptcy might be filed in more than one district, as residence might be in one, domicile in another and place of business in a third. Any one of these districts would have jurisdiction.29 The troublesome cases arise where a petition is filed in more than one jurisdiction where there are two or three possible jurisdictions. Will the several courts retain jurisdiction? The answer is that the court first obtaining jurisdiction will retain it and the entire administration removed to that court, the other courts yielding jurisdiction,30 unless the greater convenience of the parties in interest demands retention of jurisdiction by the other court.31
"Greater convenience" depends on all the circumstances - proximity of creditors, proximity of bankrupt and witnesses, location of assets, and any other factors appealing to the court as in the interest of an orderly, economical and efficient administration of the assets.33
(6) Where bankrupt, not qualifying otherwise, has property in the jurisdiction.
If the bankrupt does not have principal place of business, domicile or residence within the United States, but has property within the jurisdiction, the court in which such property is situated may entertain a bankruptcy petition.34 This provision permits a proceeding against a non-resident debtor where he has property within a district of the United States. Manifestly personal supervision over him cannot be had or the claims of foreign creditors discharged if he is not found within the jurisdiction for service, but the property within the jurisdiction can be administered in bankruptcy.
29. In re Gurler & Co., (D. C. la.) 232 Fed. 1016.
30. In re Stern & Levi, (D. C. Tex.) 190 Fed. 70.
31. Idem; Gen. Ord. in Bankr. No. 6.
32. In re Devonian Mineral Spring Co., (D. C. Ohio) 272 Fed.