99 U.S. 35 (1879), U.s. v. Ames

Citation:99 U.S. 35, 25 L.Ed. 295
Case Date:February 03, 1879
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 35

99 U.S. 35 (1879)

25 L.Ed. 295




United States Supreme Court.

February 03, 1879


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.


Mr. E. S. Mansfield and Mr. G. A. Somerby for the appellant.

Mr. George O. Shattuck and Mr. Oliver W. Holmes, Jr., contra.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

Judicial cognizance of prize cases is derived from that article of the Constitution which ordains that the judicial power shall extend to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; and the district courts for many years exercised jurisdiction in such cases without any other authority from Congress than what was conferred by the ninth section of the Judiciary Act, which gave those courts exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, including the seizures therein mentioned, the rule adopted being that prize jurisdiction was involved in the general delegation of admiralty and maritime cognizance, as conferred by the language of that section. Glass v. The Betsey, 3 Dall. 6; The Admiral, 3 Wall. 603;Jennings v. Carson, 1 Pet. Adm. 7; 1 Kent, Com. (12th ed.) 355; 2 Stat. 781, sect. 6.

Admiralty courts proceed according to the principles, rules,

Page 36

and usages which belong to the admiralty as contradistinguished from the courts of common law. Manro v. Almeida, 10 Wheat. 473; 1 Stat. 276.

Seizure of the property and the usual notice precede the appearance of the claimant; but when those steps are taken, the owner or his agent, if he desires to defend the suit, must enter his appearance in the case, and the court may, in its discretion, require the party proposing to appear and defend the suit to give security for costs as a preliminary condition to the granting of such leave.

Due appearance having been entered, the claiment, if he wishes to avoid the inconvenience and expense of having the property detained until the termination of the suit, may apply to the court at any time to have the property released on giving bond, which application it is competent for the court to grant or refuse.

Bail in such a case is a pledge or substitute for the property as regards all claims that may be made against it by the promoter of the suit. It is to be considered as a security, not for the amount of the claim, but simply for the value of the property arrested, to the extent of the claim and costs of suit, if any, beyond the preliminary stipulation. Williams & Bruce, Prac. 210.

Whenever a stipulation is taken in the admiralty for the property subjected to legal process and condemnation, the stipulation is deemed a mere substitute for the thing itself, and the stipulators are held liable to the exercise of all those suthorities on the part of the court which the tribunal could properly exercise if the thing itself were still in the custody of the court. The Palmyra, 12 Wheat. 1; The Wanata, 95 U.S. 611; The Steamer Webb, 14 Wall. 406.

Fees and expenses of keeping the property having been paid, it is the duty of the marshal to surrender the property as directed in the order of release; and it is settled law that if any one, in defiance of the order, unlawfully detains the same he is liable to be proceeded against by attachment. The Towan, 8 Jurist, 223; The Tritonia, 5 Notes of Cases, 111.

Concisely stated, the material facts as derived from the

Page 37

allegations of the bill of complaint are as follows: 1. That a certain steamboat was with her cargo, consisting of eleven hundred and twenty bales of cotton, seized as enemy property. 2. That proceedings, on the 23d of March, 1865, were commenced against the property in the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, to procure a decree of forfeiture of the property, the charge being that the cargo was obtained within territory occupied by armed public enemies. 3. That the person named in the bill of complaint appeared in the suit as claimant of the cargo, and obtained an order of the court that the cargo of cotton might be released to the claimant, he, the claimant, giving bond to the complaints in the sum of $350,000, with good and solvent security. 4. That the claimant on the following day, in pursuance of the order, filed the required bond to the amount specified in open court, duly executed by the claimant as principal and with sureties accepted by the court as satisfactory. 5. That the marshal on the same day, in compliance with the order of the court, released and delivered the cargo to the claimant. 6. That on the 10th of May following the District Court entered a decree in the suit dismissing the libel and ordered that the cargo seized be restored to the claimant, from which decree the complainants appealed to the Circuit Court. 7. That the Circuit Court on the 8th of June then next reversed the decree of the District Court and entered a decree condemning the steamboat and her cargo as forfeited to the United States, and condemning the claimant to pay to the complainants $204,982.28, with interest, and a decree in the usual form against the sureties. 8. That the decree last named is in full force, and that neither the claimant nor sureties have ever paid the same or any part thereof to the complainants. 9. Nulla bona having been returned upon the execution, the present bill of complaint was filed in the name of the United States; and the prayer is that the executors of Oakes Ames may be decreed to admit assets in their hands sufficient to pay and satisfy the aforesaid decree and interest, and that it be decreed that they shall pay the amount of the decree and interest to the complainants.

Certain other matters are also set forth in the bill of complaint

Page 38

which it is alleged entitle the complainants to the relief prayed, of which the following are the most material: 1. That at the time of the seizure of the steamboat and her cargo, and at the time the bond for the release of the cargo was given, and at the time the decree was entered against the claimant and his sureties in the bond, the testator of the executors named as respondents and the other respondent named were partners of the claimant under the firm and style alleged in the bill of complaint, and that the...

To continue reading