Hall Et Al v. United States

Decision Date01 October 1875
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota.

Argued by Mr. Assistant Attorney-General Edwin B. Smith for defendants, and submitted on printed arguments by H. J. Horn for plaintiffs.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

Fifteen hundred dollars per annum are allowed to collectors of internal revenue as salary for their services and that of their deputies, to be paid quarterly. Commissions, in addition to salary, are also allowed to such officers, to be computed upon the amounts by them respectively collected, paid over, and accounted for, under the instructions of the Treasury Department, as follows: Three per cent upon the first $100,000; one per centum upon all sums above $100,000, and not exceeding $400,000; and one-half of one per centum on all sums above $400,000. Such an officer may also keep and render to the proper officers of the treasury an account of his necessary and reasonable charges for stationery and blank-books used in the performance of his official duties, and for postage actually paid on letters and documents received or sent, and exclusively relating to official business; and, if the account is approved by the proper accounting officers, the collector is entitled to be paid for the same: but the provision is that no such account shall be approved, unless it shall state the date and the particular items of every such expenditure, and shall be verified by the oath or affirmation of the collector.

Two provisos are annexed to those enactments: (1.) That the salary and commissions of no collector, exclusive of stationery, blank-books, and postage, shall exceed $10,000 in the aggregate, nor more than $5,000, exclusive of the expenses for rent, stationery, blank-books, and postage, and pay of deputies and clerks, to which such collector is actually and necessarily subjected in the administration of his office. (2.) That the Secretary of the Treasury be authorized to make such further allowances from time to time, as may be reasonable, in cases in which, from the territorial extent of the district, or from the amount of internal duties collected, or from other circumstances, it may seem just to make such allowances. 13 Stat. 231.

Sufficient appears to show that the principal defendant was duly appointed a collector of internal revenue under the act of Congress in that case made and provided, and that the foundation of the suit is the official bond given by the appointee for the faithful discharge of the duties of the office. Breaches of the conditions of the bond having been committed, as alleged, the United States commenced an action of debt in the District Court against the principal and his sureties, claiming the penalties of the bond. Service was made; and the defendants appeared, and pleaded (1.) non est factum; (2.) performance; (3.) set-off in the sum of $8,203.06 for money before that time advanced, paid, laid out, and expended by the defendant to and for the use of the plaintiffs, and at their instance, for the work and labor of the defendant and his servants and deputies, done and performed by him, as such collector, for the plaintiffs, and at their instance and request.

Claim is also made for the same sum in the same plea, upon the ground that it was due and owing to the defendant from the plaintiffs for commissions, expenses, and charges for extra services of himself and his servants, done and performed at the special instance and request of the plaintiffs.

Issue was joined by the plaintiffs upon the first plea; and to the second the plaintiffs reply, and deny that the defendant has well and truly performed the conditions of the writing obligatory, and assign the following breaches: (1.) That he has not accounted for and paid over to the United States all the public moneys whien came into his hands, in compliance with the orders and regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury. (2.) That he did not faithfully execute and perform all the duties of his office, as more fully set forth in the replication.

Both parties, having waived a trial by jury, went to trial before the court without a jury; and the finding and judgment were for the plaintiffs, in the sum of $11,517.63. Exceptions were filed by the defendants; and they sued out a writ of error, and removed the case into the Circuit Court.

Due settlement of the collector's accounts had been made by the accounting officers of the treasury; and the plaintiffs, to support the issue on their part, introduced the certified transcript of the same, to which the defendants objected: but the court overruled the objection, and admitted the evidence; and the defendants excepted. Said transcript included the statement of differences, and showed that the sum of $20,120 was the balance due from the collector.

Collections, it seems, had been made by the officer, for the preceding year, amounting to $77,702.08; and it did not appear that he had been paid during that period any extra allowance above his salary and commissions, nor that any of the charges claimed as set-off had been credited in the settlement of his accounts. Apart from that, it was admitted by the plaintiffs that the defendants had paid into court the sum of $11,435.17, which is to be deducted from the balance found due from the defendants by the accounting officers of the treasury.

Set-offs were claimed by the defendants, as follows: (1.) $5,010 paid by the collector, during the summer and fall of 1866, to sixteen deputy-collectors employed by him during that period in his district. (2.) $648 paid for the hire of clerks in his office during the quarter ending Sept. 30 of the same year. (3.) $1,100 paid for hire of clerks in making out his accounts and returns during that and the succeeding year.

Nothing being alleged to the contrary, it will be assumed that those several claims had been duly presented to the proper officers of the treasury, and that they had been finally disallowed. They were separately offered in evidence at the trial; and the ruling of the court in each instance was, that the same was properly rejected by the accounting officers of the treasury. Seasonable exception to the ruling of the court was taken by the defendants. Appearance was entered by each party in the Circuit Court, and they were both there heard; and the Circuit Court affirmed the judgment of the District Court, and the defendants sued out the present writ of error.

Errors have not been assigned, as required by the rules of the court; but...

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