Race To The Courthouse Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Race To The Courthouse, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Race To The Courthouse?

(n) Doctrine of Race to the courthouse establishes the precedence of the documents, deed, mortgage, lien, judgments etc have on the documents subsequently recorded with the country recorder records, irrespective of whether the subsequent recorded document were dated later or not.

History and Definition of Race To The Courthouse

The doctrine of Race to the courthouse is a rule followed by many American states that recognizes the first to record a deed or mortgage for a particular property as having priority over others. This means that if two creditors claim ownership over the same property, the one that registers first in the courthouse will have a superior claim. Under this doctrine, a subsequent creditor who could have seized or recorded interest in the same property is defeated if the first creditor already recorded the interest in the land record. The doctrine assumes the act of recording as serving as notice to all future creditors of the interest in the property.

The legal principle of "Race to the courthouse" was founded on the ‘First In Time’ rule, which ensures that the first party to record their interest in a particular property has priority over parties. It has been historically influential in US law since the 18th century, and its doctrine has been entrenched into state common law under property law.

Examples of Race To The Courthouse

  1. When two lenders make a loan to the same person, "Race to the Courthouse" applies, with the first lender to record the mortgage being the senior lender. The second lender subsequently loses the priority of the mortgage because the first mortgage was already registered in the courthouse.
  2. Suppose a homeowner owes money to two contractors, contractor A and contractor B. If contractor B files a mechanics lien before contractor A when the homeowner wants to sell the house, contractor B holds the priority on the property from the sale.
  3. The Race to the Courthouse can also apply in the case of a prospective property purchase. For example, if two separate buyers put in offers to buy the same property, the first to record the purchase contract would have the priority of ownership on the property.

Legal Terms Similar to Race To The Courthouse

  1. "Recording Acts": State laws govern how to transfer ownership of property using recording acts which determine who is the legal owner when two different parties purport a similar interest in a piece of land; this is the same ideology adopted in Race to the Courthouse.
  2. "Priority of Liens": Real property liens prioritize creditor claims on a particular real estate subject to foreclosure.
  3. "Notice Recording": Document recording law dealing with parties taking the interest of the real estate with notice for the benefit of some third party.