The United States Circuit Court of Appeals decides that under laws of Virginia a woman may be "the head of a family" in the sense demanded by homestead exemption law of this state.
The case arose in New Kent county and has attracted much attention. It is entitled Marian H. Richardson vs. W. f. Woodward, trustee, et al. It went up from the United District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The lower court decided that a married woman living with her husband could not claim the benefit of the exemption law.
STATEMENT OF FACTS.
Mrs Marian H. Richardson, a married woman living with her husband, conducted a mercantile business at Plum Point, New Kent county, under the style of "J. L. Richardson, Agent." J. L. Richardson, the agent, was her husband. Besides the wife and husband, there was a daughter 13 years old, all of whom resided in the home, owned by the wife. Mrs. Richardson was postmaster at Plum Point, the post-office being kept in the store and managed by the husband, who conducted the business. Previous to entering into this business J. L. Richardson was a clerk for R. E. Richardson, and he and the other clerks boarded with his wife. Just when J. L,. Richardson ceased to clerk for R. E. Richardson does not appear, but about May 10, 1898, Mrs.Richardson made an assignment for the benefit of her creditors, and closed the business.
About September, 1898, J. L. Richardson again commenced business in the same house as agent for T. J. Richardson, his brother. During all the time Richardson was. conducting business for his wife and for his brother he carried passengers back and forth between Plum Point and the station. Money made in this was used to aid his wife to support the family.
The goods conveyed in the assignment did not pay off the creditors of J. L. Richardson, agent, and in January, law, Mrs. Marian 11. Richardson filed a petition in bankruptcy, the order of adjudication being entered the next day.
BOTH CLAIMED EXEMPTIONS.
Afterwards J. L. Richardson filed a petition and claimed all his property under the Virginia "Poor Debtors' Law" (section 3650 et. seq., Code of Virginia), which exempts certain chattels to "a householder or head of a family. Marian H. Richardson filed an amended petition and claimed her real property under the "Homestead Exemption Law." The title to the real estate is in the Wife, who, according to her husband's testimony and that of the wife on examination, was, and always had been, regarded 'as' the head of the family. The husband was her assistant and agent. The only question argued was whether, being a married woman, living with her "husband, petitioner is entitled to the homestead exemption as "a householder or head of a family," as provided by the Constitution and laws of Virginia.
SHE IS HEAD OF A FAMILY
The District Court decided to the contrary, and the case was taken up to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, and heard before Judges Goff and Simonton. of that court, and Purnell, of the District Court. Judge Purnell handed down a decision at Raleigh yesterday, which reverses the decree of the District Court, and remands the cause in "order that the bankrupt's claim for homestead exemption may be allowed."
-Richmond Dispatch., August 26, 1900