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McNutt v. Bland et al.

to appoint such agent, the sheriff should not be obliged to give notice previous to the discharge of such prisoner for want of security for his prison fees, but such prisoner should be discharged without any notice to be given to the creditor so failing.

The defendants then averred that Leggett, Smith, and Lawrence, at the time of the commitment, were not residents of Claiborne county, nor were they ever so afterwards, and that they failed to appoint any agent or attorney to receive a notice from the sheriff; that McNider was unable to pay his prison fees, and that the plaintiffs wholly failed to give security to the sheriff for the payment of the said prison fees.

2. That McNider was regularly, and according to the provisions of the acts of the legislature of Mississippi for the relief of insolvent debtors, brought before McDougall, a judge of probate, and then and there, by the order and warrant of the said judge, discharged from the custody of the said sheriff.

The replication of the plaintiffs to the first plea was, that at the time of the discharge of McNider, they had an agent residing within the state of Mississippi, to wit, in the county of Warren, and that no application whatever was made to the plaintiffs or their agent, for the payment of jail fees, or to give security for the same; nor was any notice whatever given to the plaintiffs or their agent or attorney of an intention to discharge the prisoner, or of his application to be discharged, either for that cause or any other.

The replication to the second plea was, that the prisoner was, by virtue of process legally issuing from the Circuit Court of the United States, taken into custody by the marshal of the district, and by him was delivered to the defendant, Bland, for safe keeping, who was then sheriff of the county in which the prisoner was taken. That the prisoner was not discharged from custody aforesaid by virtue of any process emanating from any court of the United States or judge thereof, nor by virtue of any law of the United States, but that he was discharged contrary to the provisions of the several acts of Congress made and provided, prescribing the mode and manner of discharging prisoners confined under process from the courts of the United States.

To both these replications the defendant demurred. There was a joinder in demurrer as to the first; what was done with the second, the record did not show.

The court below sustained both dernurrers.


McNott v. Bland et al

Jones, for the plaintiffs in error.
Walker, for the defendants.
Jones contended

1. That the laws of the United States and of Mississippi, and the bond of the sheriff, bound the defendant to receive and hold McNider as a prisoner, under the laws and jurisdiction of the United States, not of the state of Mississippi.

2. That the pleas of the defendant were insufficient, and whether the replications were good or not, the court would look to the first error in the pleadings, the insufficiency of the pleas.

3. That the United States and Mississippi have each separate systems for insolvent debtors; that they cannot be reconciled with each other.

4. That the courts of the United States and of the states can each look only to their respective systems and act upon them.

5. That the state courts cannot discharge a debtor in confinement under execution from a court of the United States, either under the laws of insolvency, or by any other state authority.

He considered this case as coming fully within the principle established by this court in Duncan v. Darst, 1 Howard, 301. No state can change the laws of the United States. The insolvent law of Mississippi is confined to cases where persons are under execution by process issued by any court of record within the state. 1 Howaru and Hutchinson, 637. It provides also, that no creditor shall receive any thing unless he shall have obtained a judgment. The discharge by the sheriff in consequence of not being indemnified is also a branch of the state system. The marshal could not have discharged the prisoner, and the sheriff was pro hac vice the marshal. The latter was responsible to the former for the fees.

Walker contended tnat the equity of the case was with the defendants, inasmuch as the discharge had been ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction, which would have enforced its order by an attachment. The first replication averred that the plaintiffs had an agent in an adjoining county, which was tendering an immaterial issue. The demurrer to this was therefore properly sustained There was no question raised below as to the power of the state. But the court below had no jurisdiction in the case, as it was between citizens of the same state. Although this court has decided that where the real party is out of the state, he may use the name of a nominal

McNutt v. Bland

plaintiff within it, yet it has also decided that where the assignment is by operation of law, such a plaintiff cannot sue. The law of Mississippi gives no right of action on a sheriff's bond, but provides other remedies. Howard and Hutchinson, 625 et seq. They are by motion against the sheriff and his securities.

Jones, in reply.

The replication must be overlooked, if the plea itself is bad, which is the case here. It is settled that the real party, to a suit is the party for whose use it is brought. The governor's name is only used pro forma, If the argument on the other side be sound, there is no remedy on the bond at all; for an escape could not be tried upon motion. The object of requiring a bond was to secure the interest of all the citizens of the state, and yet the bond would become of no use in cases of escape. The law of Mississippi accepting the Resolutions of 1789, gives a remedy to all parties concerned. Howard and Hutchinson, 49.

Mr. Justice BALDWIN delivered the opinion of the court.

As the judgment below was rendered on a general demurrer, it is necessary to ascertain in what part of the pleadings the first demurrable defect occurred, which the defendant here alleges was in the declaration, inasmuch as it appears that the plaintiffs and defendants were citizens of Mississippi, and consequently the court below had not jurisdiction of the case.

By the law of that state, How. and Hut. 290, 291, all sheriffs must give a bond to the governor of the state for the time being, and his successors, conditioned for the faithful performance of the duties of his office; which bond may be put in suit and prosecuted from time to time at the costs and charges of any party injured, until the whole amount of the penalty thereof be recovered. This suit was accordingly brought in the name of the governor, for the use of Legget, Smith, and Lawrence, citizens of New York.

The parties in interest, therefore, had a right to sue the defendants in the Circuit Court in their own names, by a bill in equity in an appropriate use, or by an action of debt, or for an escape against the sheriff himself, as in Darst v. Duncan, 1 How. 301, if he made out a cause of action in either form, and we can perceive no sound reason for denying the right of prosecuting the same cause of action against the sheriff and his sureties in the bond, by and in the name of the governor, who is a purely naked trustee for any party injured.


McNutt 0. Bland et al.

He is a mere conduit through whom the law affords a remedy to the person injured by the acts or omissions of the sheriff; the governor cannot prevent the institution or prosecution of the suit, nor has he any control over it. The real and only plaintiffs are the plaintiffs in the execution, who have a legal right to make the bond available for their indemnity, which right could not be contested in a suit in a state court of Mississippi, nor in a Circuit Court of the United States, in any other mode of proceeding than on the sheriff's bond.

It would be a glaring defect in the jurisprudence of the United States, if aliens or citizens of other states should be deprived of the right of suit on sheriffs' bonds in the federal courts sitting in Mississippi, merely because they were taken in the name of the governor for the use of the plaintiffs in mesne or final process, who are in law and equity the beneficiary obligees; we think this defect does not exist. The constitution extends the judicial power to controversies between citizens of different states; the 11th section of the Judiciary act gives jurisdiction to the Circuit Courts, of suits between a citizen of the state where the suit is brought, and a citizen of another state. In this case there is a controversy and suit between citizens of New York and Mississippi ; there is neither between the governor and the defendants: as the instrument of the state law to afford a remedy against the sheriff and his sureties, his name is in the bond and to the suit upon it, but in no just view of the constitution or law can he be considered as a litigant party: both look to things not names to the actors in controversies and suits, not to the mere forms or inactive instruments used in conducting them, in virtue of some positive law.

This court must have acted on these principles in Browne et al. v. Strode, 5 Cranch, 303, which was a suit on an administration bond of an executor, for the faithful execution of the testator's will, in conformity with a law of Virginia, 5 Hen. st. 461, which requires all such bonds to be payable to the justices of the county court, where administration is granted, but may be put in suit and prosecuted by, and at the costs of the party injured. The object of that suit was to recover a debt due by the testator to a British subject; the defendant was a citizen of Virginia; the persons named in the declaration as plaintiffs were the justices of the county, who wețe also citizens of Virginia, yet it was held that the Circuit Court of that state had jurisdiction. We are aware of no subsequent decision of this court, which in the least impairs the authority of that case, or contravenes the principle

McNutt v. Bland et al.

on which it was decided ; that where the real and only controversy is between citizens of different states, or an alien and a citizen, and the plaintiff is by some positive law compelled to use the name of a public officer who has not, or ever had any interest in, or control over it, the courts of the United States will not consider any others as parties to the suit, than the persons between whom the litigation before them exists.

Executors and administrators are not in this position, they are the actors in suits brought by them; the personal property of the decedent is vested in them; the persons to whom they are accountable, for whose benefit they act, can bring no suit to assert their rights against third persons, be the cause of action what it may; nor can they interfere with the conducting of the suit to assert their rights to the property of the decedent, which do not vest in them. The personal representative is, therefore, the real party in interest before the court, 12 Pet. 171, and succeeds to all the rights of those they represent, by operation of law; and no other persons are capable, as representatives of the personalty, of suing or being sued. They are contradistinguished, therefore, from assignees who claim by the act of the parties, and may sue in the federal courts in cases where the decedent could not. 8 Wheat. 668; 4 Cranch, 308, S.P. By the 11th section of the Judiciary act, assignees cannot sue where the assignor could not, nor can they sue in their own names if the assignor could, unless the assignees were aliens or citizens of another state than that of the defendant, and the instrument sued on was so assigned as to vest the right of action in the assignees, in which latter case, the suit must be by the party originally entitled to sue. Thus where the payee of a promissory note, which was neither negotiable nor assignable, so as to sustain an action by the assignees, sued for the use of a corporation incapable of suing in the federal courts, this court held that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction, on the ground that the suit was on a contract between the plaintiff and defendant. The legal right of acting being in the plaintiff, it mattered not for whose use the suit was brought, the parties being citizens of different states. Irvine v. Lowry, 14 Pet. 298. In that case the decision in 5 Cranch was reviewed and affirmed ; and as it is in all respects analogous to, it must govern this and similar cases, where the cause of action is not founded on a contract between the parties or their legal representatives.

The objection to the jurisdiction cannot, therefore, be sustained.

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