173 U.S. 255 (1899), 178, Gunnison County Commissioners v. Rollins

Docket Nº:No. 178
Citation:173 U.S. 255, 19 S.Ct. 390, 43 L.Ed. 689
Party Name:Gunnison County Commissioners v. Rollins
Case Date:February 20, 1899
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 255

173 U.S. 255 (1899)

19 S.Ct. 390, 43 L.Ed. 689

Gunnison County Commissioners

v.

Rollins

No. 178

United States Supreme Court

February 20, 1899

Argued December 15-16, 1898

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF

APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Although the bill of exceptions in this case does not state in so many words that it contains all the evidence, it sufficiently appears that it does contain all, and this Court can inquire on this record whether the circuit court erred in giving a peremptory instruction for the defendant.

The recitals in the bonds of Gunnison County, the coupons of which are in suit in this case, that they were

issued by the Board of County Commissioners of said Gunnison County in exchange at par, for valid floating indebtedness of the said county outstanding prior to September 2, 1882, under and by virtue of and in full conformity with the provisions of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Colorado, entitled "An act to enable the several counties of the state to fund their floating indebtedness," approved February 21, 1881; "that all the requirements of law have been fully complied with by the proper officers in the issuing of this bond," that the total amount of the issue does not exceed the limit prescribed by the Constitution of the State of Colorado, and that this issue of bonds has been authorized by a vote of a majority of the duly qualified electors of the said County of Gunnison, voting on the question at a general election duly held in said county on the seventh day of November, A.D. 1882,

estop the county from asserting, against a bona fide holder for value that the bond so issued created an indebtedness in excess of the limit prescribed by the Constitution of Colorado.

This case is controlled by the judgment in Chafee County v. Potter, 142 U.S. 355, which the Court declines to overrule.

The plaintiff corporation was a bona fide holder, when this suit was brought, of some of the bonds sued for in it.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This action was brought by E. H. Rollins & Sons, a corporation of New Hampshire, to obtain a judgment against the Board of Commissioners of Gunnison County, Colorado, a municipal corporation of that state, for the amount of certain coupons of bonds issued by the defendant in 1882. At the close of the evidence, the defendant requested a peremptory instruction in its behalf. The circuit court charged the jury at some length, but concluded with a direction to find a verdict for the defendant, which was done, and a judgment in its favor was entered. That judgment was reversed in the circuit court of appeals, and the case is here upon writ of certiorari. 80 F. 692.

The case made by the complaint is as follows:

By the laws of Colorado, boards of county commissioners were authorized to examine, allow, and settle all accounts against their respective counties, and to issue county warrants therefor; to build and keep in repair the county buildings, to insure the same, and to provide suitable rooms for county purposes, and to represent the county, and have the care of county property, and the management of the business and concerns of the county in all cases where the law did not otherwise provide.

On the 1st day of December, 1882, the defendant board caused to be made and executed certain bonds, acknowledging the County of Gunnison to be indebted and promising to pay to _____, or bearer, the sum therein named, for value received, redeemable at the pleasure of the county, after ten years, and absolutely due and payable twenty years after date at the office of the county treasurer, with interest at eight percent

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per annum, payable semiannually on the 1st days of March and September in each year at the county treasurer's office, or at the Chase National Bank in the City of New York at the option of the holder, upon the presentation and surrender of the annexed coupons as they severally became due.

Each bond contained this recital:

This bond is issued by the Board of County Commissioners of said Gunnison County in exchange at par, for valid floating indebtedness of the said county outstanding prior to September 2, 1882, under and by virtue of, and in full conformity with, the provisions of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Colorado entitled "An Act to enable the several counties of the state to fund their floating indebtedness," approved February 21, 1881, and it is hereby certified that all the requirements of law have been fully complied with by the proper officers in the issuing of this bond. It is further certified that the total amount of this issue does not exceed the limit prescribed by the Constitution of the State of Colorado, and that this issue of bonds has been authorized by a vote of a majority of the duly qualified electors of the said County of Gunnison voting on the question at a general election duly held in said county on the seventh day of November, A.D. 1882. The bonds of this issue are comprised in three series, designated "A," "B," and "C," respectively, the bonds of series "A" being for the sum of one thousand dollars each, those of series "B" for the sum of five hundred dollars each, and those of series "C" for the sum of one hundred dollars each. This bond is one of series "A." The faith and credit of the County of Gunnison are hereby pledged for the punctual payment of the principal and interest of this bond.

To each bond were attached coupons for the semiannual interest, signed by the county treasurer.

On the first day of December, 1882, for the bonds of the county, with coupons attached, as above specified, the defendant board made an exchange with the parties then holding county warrants which before that time, in accordance with the statutes in such case [19 S.Ct. 391] made and provided, had been issued to them in settlement of claims presented by them against the county.

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In every case when warrants were presented, they were exchanged for the bonds of the county at par for their face and interest. In each case, the blanks were filled out with the name of the party receiving the bonds or exchanging the warrants, and the blank for the place of payment filled in as the banking house of the Chase National Bank in the City of New York. Thereupon the bonds were signed by the chairman of the board of county commissioners, countersigned by the county treasurer, and attested by the county clerk with the seal of the county, and the coupons attached were also filled out, stating the place of payment to be in the City of New York at the banking house of the Chase National Bank, and stating also the number of the funding bond, and the series to which it was attached.

The issue of bonds as above set forth was authorized by a vote of the qualified electors to be exchanged for warrants, and the amount thereof was spread upon the records of the county, as provided for by the Act of February 21, 1881, entitled "An act to enable the several counties of the state to fund their floating indebtedness." In all other respects, the terms and conditions of the act were fully complied with. The bonds were duly registered in the office of the auditor of the state.

In every case where bonds were issued and delivered to the payee or to any person for him, the parties received them in exchange for warrants, the amount of the bonds being the same as the amount of the warrants and interest thereon that had theretofore been issued by the county.

From the 1st day of December, 1882, and up until the 1st day of March, 1886, the county paid the interest on the bonds semiannually in accordance with their terms and of the coup as attached to them.

The defendant board made default in the payment of interest due on the 1st day of September, 1886, and made like default thereafter up to and including September 1, 1892.

The plaintiff was the holder and owner of coupons formerly attached to and belonging to certain bonds of the above issue. It asked judgment for the aggregate amount of the principal

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of the coupons, with interest on the amount of each coupon as it became due.

The answer of the county contained a general denial of all the allegations of the complaint, and in addition set out eleven affirmative defenses, which were chiefly based upon the alleged fact that the county, in issuing the bonds set forth in the complaint, had attempted to incur an indebtedness not authorized by the Constitution of Colorado or by the statute referred to in the bonds.

The provision of the Constitution of Colorado prescribing the extent to which counties may become indebted, and to which the bonds referred, is as follows:

No county shall contract any debt by loan in any form, except for the purpose of erecting necessary public buildings, making or repairing public roads and bridges, and such indebtedness contracted in any one year shall not exceed the rates upon taxable property in such county, following, to-wit: Counties in which the assessed valuation of taxable property shall exceed five millions of dollars, one dollar and fifty cents on each thousand dollars thereof. Counties in which such valuation shall be less than five millions of dollars, three dollars on each thousand dollars thereof. And the aggregate amount of indebtedness of any county for all purposes, exclusive of debts contracted before the adoption of this constitution, shall not at any time exceed twice the amount above herein limited, unless when in manner provided by law, the question of incurring debt shall at a general election, be submitted to such of the qualified electors of such county as in the year...

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