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SUMMARY OF EVENTS.
THE SUPREME COURT. — Many of the decisions of the court for the present term will be found in full in the pages of the Chicago Legal News, the (Philadelphia) Legal Gazette, and others of our contemporaries. Feeling the importance of laying the results before our readers at the earliest possible moment, we have prepared the following summary of the more important cases, in which we have aimed to give succinctly the facts of each and the main question decided. Of course many important dicta of the court are contained in these decisions, to be hereafter examined in the pages of Wallace.
Cases reported. - Ochiltree v. Iowa R. R. Contract Co.; Clark v. Iowa City; Cannon v. City of New Orleans; Habich v. Folger; United States v. Villalonga; New Orleans v. Steamship Co.; Avery v. Hackley; United States v. Boecker; Hearne v. New England Mutual Marine Ins. Co.; Woodson v. Murdock; Marsh v. Whitmore.
LIABILITY OF STOCKHOLDERS. Ochiltree v. Iowa R. R. Contracting Co.- Error to Supreme Court of Missouri. By the Constitution of Missouri adopted in 1865, stockholders in private corporations were liable for debts to twice the amount of their stock. In 1870, this was amended so as to make them liable only for the amount of stock subscribed and paid up. The defendants became stockholders in the Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska R. R. Co., after 1870; the plaintiff had a judgment against that railroad, and tried to make the defendants individually liable for twice their stock. Held, that though all stockholders at the time of the amendment might be so liable, new stockholders, subscribing under the new law, were not. The amendment is not obnoxious to the constitutional prohibition against impairing the obligation of contracts. Judgment below affirmed.
LIMITATION OF SPECIALTIES. Clark v. Iowa City. — Error to Circuit Court of Iowa. The city issued coupon bonds, and the coupons due January, 1860, on which this suit was brought, were detached and sold. The defence was that the limit of actions on all written contracts, whether under seal or not, was in Iowa ten years. Held, that coupons thus detached are equivalent to separate bonds, and possess the essential attributes of commercial paper. The limitation begins when the right of action is complete, that is, when they become due. The Iowa statute was properly pleaded, and judgment is affirmed. Incidentally the case of City of Kenosha v. Lamson was examined, where the limit was six years on simple contracts and twenty on specialties; there the court properly held coupons to belong in the latter category. So in the similar case of City of Lexington v. Butler, where a like distinction prevailed between simple contracts and specialties.
TONNAGE Tax. Cannon v. City of New Orleans. — Error to Supreme Court of Louisiana. The plaintiff applied for an injunction originally to prevent the city from collecting dues on his steamboat, known as levee dues. This tax was by an ordinance assessing so much per ton "on all steamboats which shall moor or land in any part of the port of New Orleans." The injunction was refused by the state court; but this decision is now reversed by this court on the ground that this was a tonnage tax assessed by a state without consent of Congress, and so unconstitutional. It is different from a tax on the use of wharves or piers owned by individuals or even a city, though that right be regulated by a state.
Conflict OF LAWS. Habich v. Folger. – Error to Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Folger of Massachusetts, creditor of the Columbian Insurance Company of New York, trusteed Habich of Massachusetts, a debtor to that corporation. The company had been dissolved already by order of the Supreme Court of New York, and receivers appointed. Both the corporation and the receivers appeared by attorney; and, in another suit between the parties, the then plaintiff, Folger, was declared entitled to the funds trusteed. The basis of that decision was that the New York court erred in declaring the corporation dissolved. Folger obtained an undisputed judgment in the present case; but Habich brought the case up on the point that the Massachusetts court erred in its decision in that respect. The court, however, decided that if Habich paid the debt under this judgment, he was protected against all the world, or, as the opinion says, “ without intimating for a moment that an error was made by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, it is too plain for discussion that it is immaterial to the plaintiff whether there was error or not.” Judgment affirmed.
LAW OF Prize. United States v. Villalonga. — Appeal from Court of Claims. V. claimed proceeds of cotton captured and sold at Savannah as owner of part, and as factor having made advances on the rest. Held, that though Congress enacted that for two years any owner who had not aided in the Rebellion might claim proceeds, V. could recover only for his own property and the amounts of his advances reduced to United States currency, because there were other owners, both in law and equity, to whom the court was open.
VALIDITY OF CONTRACTS BY MILITARY OFFICERS. New Orleans v. The Steamship Company. — Appeal from Circuit Court of Louisiana. In 1865, one Kennedy, military mayor of New Orleans, leased certain river-front land to the defendants for a term of ten years, at a rent of $8,000, with an agreement that important improvements should be made by the tenants, to revert to the city. The defendants spent more than $65,000, and paid rent. In April, 1866, civil government having been restored, the then mayor, Clark, under an order of the City Council, destroyed part of the property, and claimed that the lease was void. Held, that “the lease was a fair and reasonable exercise of the power vested in the military mayor and the two boards." Held, also, that probably “the city is estopped from denying the validity of the lease, by receiving payment of one of the notes " given by the defendants for rent.
As a side issue, after the case had been commenced in the Circuit Court, the mayor applied to a state court for an injunction against the defendants. For this the Circuit Court fined him $300 for contempt of court. Held, that this action of the mayor was “unnecessary, unwarranted in law, and grossly disrespectful to the Circuit Court,” and also that this court has no jurisdiction in the matter. Adopting Blackstone's words in Crosby's case, “ the sole adjudication for contempt and the punishment thereof, belongs exclusively and without interfering to each respective court.”
BANKRUPTCY. Avery v. Hackley. — Error to Circuit Court of Western District of Michigan. Hackley & Co. made advances to one Blake, who therewith got out logs which were brought to their saw-mill, under a contract. Some four months after, Blake, fearing insolvency, gave Hackley a bill of sale of all his property, but the contract was not cancelled. Soon after Blake failed, and Avery was made assignee, when H. on request delivered up to him all the property except the logs. The question was whether the first contract was merged in the bill of sale, the latter being clearly void as against the creditors. Held, that, as the contract was not in fact surrendered, the law did not hold it to be merged in the bill of sale subsequently. The lien under it was not affected, and the assignee could only claim any excess after the sale of the lumber.
PENAL BONDS. United States v. Boecker et al. - Error to Circuit Court of Maryland. Suit to recover on a bond given by B., as principal, for taxes due by a distiller. The bond recited that the distillery was on the corner of Hudson Street and East Avenue in Canton; but in reality it was situated on the corner of Hudson and Third Streets. The majority of the court (four dissenting) affirmed the judgment below, that this variation was fatal, and the bond could not be enforced.
MARINE INSURANCE. Hearne v. New England Mutual Marine Ins. Co. Appeal from Circuit ourt of Massachusetts. Bill to reform a contract. The policy was for a vessel to go from L. to a port in Cuba, thence to E. The vessel touched at two ports in Cuba, and was lost on the voyage to E. Payment of loss was refused on the ground of deviation; afterwards plaintiff claimed to reform the contract on the ground of a general and uniform usage of trade to allow two ports in Cuba on such a voyage. Held, that in this case the contract, as shown in the policy of insurance, .was plain; and that " admissible to explain an ambiguous contract, but it is never received to contradict what is plain in a written contract.” In this case, also, “ the usage relied upon is not sustained by the evidence."
RELEASE OF LIENS. Woodson and Ewing v. Murdock and Clark — Appeal from Circuit Court of Missouri. The point was the constitutionality of the fifth section of the Act of March 31, 1868, of the Missouri Legislature. By the state constitution it was provided that “ the General Assembly shall have no power, for any purpose, to release the lien held by the state on any railroad.” By the act, the state, which had unmatured claims for state bonds
against the P. and H. and St. J. Railroad for $7,000,000, sold all its right and interest therein for $5,000,000 cash. Held, that the words “ to release the lien held by the state were technical intentionally, and mean “ that while the debt remains, the legislature may not let go the security for it.” But " the legislature is not prohibited from selling the claim or conimuting the debt." The act is therefore constitutional.
LACHES. PRINCIPAL AND AGENT. Marsh v. Whitmore. — Appeal from Circuit Court of Maine. The defendant held certain bonds of a railroad company as security on notes indorsed by him for the plaintiff's benefit. The defendant finally sold the bonds at public auction and with due notice, and at the sale bought a part of them. This was in 1857, and in 1858, W. offered to return the bonds to M. if the notes were paid. In 1858 and 1859 the bonds depreciated much below the rate paid.
• There is no doubt,” says the court, “that the prices bid at the sale were all that the bonds were then worth, and there is no reason for imputing intentional fraud to the defendant.” Twelve years afterwards, and when the bonds had obtained a different value, the plaintiff sought to recover, but the court now held that the claim was a stale one. In regard to the claim that the defendant was guilty of neglect in not prosecuting certain notes of the corporation held with the bonds as security, it was shown that the decision of the state courts render such suit unwise. On this point, in confirmation, held, that an attorney cannot be charged with negligence, when he accepts as a correct exposition of the law, a solemn decision of the Supreme Court of the state.
CONFLICT OF AUTHORITIES. SUPREME COURT. We should infer from the following case that a convicted criminal was a rarity in California, since the possession of a single specimen proved so embarrassing. We are glad, however, that the Chief Justice had the courage to throw the responsibility of his custody where it properly belonged. One Le Bur was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for robbing the mails. After conviction, the court, finding that he could not be kept in the Oregon penitentiary, sent him to the county jail of Multnomah County; and the Secretary of the Interior ordered him to be placed in the California penitentiary. Application was made to Wallace, C. J., for his discharge, on the ground that the Secretary had no power to change the place of confinement. Held, following Ableman v. Booth, 21 How. 523, that the petitioner was in the domain and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.
THE REVISION OF THE GENERAL STATUTES, which has been in progress for the past two years, was published and went into effect in January. The number of titles has been reduced from over seventy to twenty-two, and a new arrangement adopted. It is probably the most thorough revision which
has ever been attempted in the state, with one exception, - that of 1821, which immediately followed the substitution of the present state constitution for the royal charter of Charles II., under which the government had been administered up to that time, notwithstanding the Revolution. All the public laws of the state are now brought within less than six hundred pages ; and the work is sold at $2.00, - a sum below its cost, fixed by the state to ensure its general circulation.
CIVIL RIGHTS BILL. SUPREME COURT. - In the case of the District V. Saville et al., the court held that an act of the General Assembly of the District of Columbia, providing that after opening for the reception or entertainment of persons attending, any theatrical exhibition, public show, or amus
usement, of whatever name or nature, within the District of Columbia, for which money or other reward is in any manner demanded or received, it should be unlawful for any person or persons to sell or dispose of, or to permit the disposal of, such tickets or seats so as to reserve particular seats, in either portion of said show, theatre, or exhibition, to any individual, or to mark or describe as reserved or taken any seat or seats which had not been reserved by the sale of tickets therefor, previous to the opening of such exhibition, show, or place of amusement, was an unwise, vexatious, and unlawful interference with the rights of private property, which it was beyond the power of the legislature to enact.
It is obvious that this act must have been passed to prevent an ingenious attempt of theatrical managers to reserve all their seats for white spectators, in which they are upheld by the court. Though this is the only adjudged case which we have yet seen, the daily journals are full of attempts at evading the act on the part of hotel-keepers and proprietors of theatres. The matter will probably cure itself soon, unless unwise zealots on both sides keep it alive.
JURISDICTION. SUPREME COURT. We
copy from the Legal News the head-note of the following case, which is not without interest:
Mississippi River Telegraph Co. v. First National Bank. – 1. The appellees were a corporation organized under the banking laws of Congress, which was located in the State of Iowa, and appellants were also a foreign corporation, organized under the laws of Iowa. The first count in the declaration avers that appellees, in violation of the law of Congress, received from appellants interest over and above the rate allowed by the laws of Iowa, whereby, under the act of Congress, appellees became liable to pay to appellants double the sum received. The common counts were also added. Held, that the court below had no jurisdiction to try a case of the character shown in the first count of the declaration, it being for the recovery of a penalty imposed by the laws of another state, or of Congress, or of both.
3. That the act of Congress only confers jurisdiction upon the state courts in the state where the delinquent bank is situated.