Heckers v. Fowler

Decision Date01 December 1864
Citation69 U.S. 123,2 Wall. 123,17 L.Ed. 759
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

JOHN FOWLER brought suit in the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, against John and George Hecker, to recover damages for a breach of covenant. The declaration alleged that the plaintiff, who was the patentee of an improvement in making flour, had granted to the Heckers the right to supply a particular district with such flour, &c., paying so much per barrel. Defence, that the patent was worthless, and that the plaintiff had failed to maintain its validity at his own cost, as he had agreed to do. Replication; issue, and joinder. While the case was thus pending, the attorneys of the parties agreed to refer it to a 'referee, to hear and determine the same, and all issues therein, with the same powers as the court, and that an order be entered, making such reference; and that the report of said referee have the same force and effect as a judgment of said court.' One of the judges accordingly 'ordered that the cause be referred to H. Cramm, Esq., to hear and determine all the issues herein, with the fullest powers ordinarily given to referees; and that on filing the report of the said referee with the clerk of the court, judgment be entered in conformity therewith, the same as if the cause had been tried before the court.' The referee heard the case, and without stating what his findings were upon any of the several issues presented in the pleadings, made the finding, simply and generally, that there was due to plaintiff, John Fowler, from the defendants, John and George Hecker, the sum of $9500, besides costs, all which he 'reported' to the court. On this, the attorneys of Fowler drew up the form of a judgment, and without the presence or action of the court, except the order of reference already alluded to, filed it with the clerk, who thereon entered judgment, as a judgment of the court, for the amount reported, with costs. The defendant took this writ of error.

It is necessary here to state that, by the code of New York,1 a referee is clothed with the attributes of a judge. A trial by him is to be conducted in the same manner as a trial by the court; he may grant adjournments, allow amendments, compel the attendance of witnesses. His decisions may be excepted to and revised, as in cases of appeal from courts of record. It is also enacted, that 'the report of the referees upon the whole issue shall stand as the decision of the court, and judgment may be entered thereon in the same manner as if the action had been tried by the court.'

Mr. Norton, for the plaintiff in error: No objection, we think, can properly be taken to the right of this court to entertain the matters here presented; although it might be suggested that the facts in this case not having been found either by a general or special verdict, nor agreed upon in a case stated, and there being no bill of exceptions, there are no questions open to revision here, and hence that this court will affirm the judgment of the court below, of course. We apprehend it to be clear, however, that while this court will not review the judgment of inferior courts made without the intervention of juries, or on a case stated, it will, at the same time, exercise its superintending care in preventing the judgments of State judicial officers from being interpolated into the records of the courts of the United States, and being enforced by the process of those courts.

Assuming, then, the jurisdiction to exist, we observe:

1. That the declaration, which relies on a contract in restraint of trade, does not set forth a sufficient cause of action. But,

2. The case presents to us a record of mixed proceedings, commenced before a judicial officer of the United States, conducted by a judicial officer unknown to the courts of the United States, whose judgment (or a paper purporting to be a judgment) is filed in the office of the United States Circuit Court, attached to the pleadings by its clerk, and made a part of the record in this case. Will such a proceeding be allowed? State courts are authorized by statutes to have such proceedings; but without statute the proceedings would be very irregular, and there is no statute of the United States which authorizes them in the Federal courts. This court has, indeed, decided, that if the parties agree to submit the trial both of fact and law to the judge, they constitute him an abitrator or referee, whose award must be final and conclusive between them; but no consent can constitute this court appellate arbitrators. But in this and in other cases which might be cited, the judgment was rendered by a judge created by the laws of the United States, whose function it is to pronounce judgments in the courts of the United States. In this record there is no such judgment. Whatever is rendered, is rendered by a person wholly unjudicial, and dehors the tribunal; or coming into it only pro hac vice. Even if it is a judgment in the Circuit Court, it is not a judgment of the court.

3. The referee did not decide the case in conformity with the order of court. He did not 'determine all the issues of the case;' but made a single and general finding that there was due such a sum.

4. But even the referee's judgment was not properly entered. In fact, though he made a report, he gave no judgment. The clerk gave the judgment. It is, therefore, invalid, and cannot be enforced.

Mr. Andrews, contra.

Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a writ of error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

Suit was brought in this case by the present defendant, and judgment was rendered in his favor in the court below. Action was referred, under a rule of court, by consent of the parties, and the judgment in the case was rendered upon the report of the referee, made in pursuance of the rule of reference. Original defendants sued out this writ of error, and now seek to reverse the judgment upon the several grounds hereinafter mentioned. Errors assigned at the argument were in substance and effect as follows:

1. That the declaration and the matters therein contained are not sufficient in law to enable the plaintiff to maintain the action.

2. That the Circuit Court erred in passing the order that the action should be referred, and that the matters in controversy should be heard and determined by a referee.

3. That the action of the referee was erroneous, because he did not determine all or any of the issues involved in the pleadings.

4. That the judgment set forth in the transcript is invalid, and not such a one as can be enforced in the Circuit Court of the United States.

1. First objection was not much pressed at the argument, and is entirely without merit, as will be obvious from a brief examination of the record. Plaintiff was assignor and patentee of a certain invention, described as a new and useful improvement in the preparation of flour for the making of bread; and the substance of the declaration was that the defendants, in consideration that the plaintiff had granted to them the exclusive right to supply a certain district with such prepared flour, and to manufacture and vend therein the patented ingredients used in the preparation of the same, promised to account with and pay over to the plaintiff a certain tariff for every barrel of flour so supplied, and for the patented ingredients, when manufactured and sold separately, to be used in its preparation. Agreement was in writing and under seal, and the action was, covenant broken to recover damages for the neglect and refusal to account and pay the tariff according to the terms of the contract. Pending the suit, the defendants appeared and pleaded to the merits. They made no objection to the declaration, and if they had, it must have been overruled, as it is in all aspects sufficient and well drawn.

2. Substance of the second objection is, that the Circuit Court erred in allowing the reference. Defence, among other things, was that the plaintiff agreed to maintain the validity of the patent at his own expense during the period the defendants should be engaged in the business, and that he neglected and refused so to do, and that the patent was invalid and worthless. Replication of the plaintiff reaffirmed the facts set forth in the declaration, and tendered an issue to the country, which was duly joined by the defendants. Pleadings being closed, the parties agreed in writing to refer the cause to a referee, 'to hear and determine the same and all the issues therein, with the same powers as the court, and that an order be entered making such reference, and that the report of the referee have the same force and effect as a judgment of the court.'

Following that agreement is the order of the court allowing the reference, which is the subject of complaint. Recital of the record is, that on reading and filing the agreement 'the court ordered that the cause be referred' to the referee therein named, to hear and determine all issues therein with the fullest powers ordinarily given to referees, and that on filing the report of the said referee with the clerk of the court, judgment be entered in conformity therewith the same as if said cause had been heard before the court, and the attorneys of the parties annexed their consent in writing to the order.

Intention of the court and of the parties was to refer the action; and the requirement of the referee was that he should hear and determine the matters in controversy, and make his report to the court in which the action was pending. Defendants insist that such a reference of a pending suit in the Circuit Court of the United States is invalid, because such courts have no power to authorize such a proceeding. Such is the substance of the several propositions submitted by the defendants on this branch of the case. They admit that the State courts have such powers, but insist that the power is...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 cases
  • Pacemaker Diagnostic Clinic of America, Inc. v. Instromedix, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • February 16, 1984
    ...in stock); Newcomb v. Wood, 97 U.S. (7 Otto) 581, 24 L.Ed. 1085 (1878) (restitution for goods sold to bankrupt); Heckers v. Fowler, 69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 123, 17 L.Ed. 759 (1864) (breach of a patent license and defense of invalidity of patent); Alexandria Canal Co. v. Swann, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 83......
  • City of Cleveland v. Walsh Const. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • February 7, 1922
    ... ... evidence ... [ 7 ] Dundee Co. v. Hughes, 124 U.S. 157, 160, 8 ... Sup.Ct. 377, 31 L.Ed. 357; Hecker v. Fowler, 2 Wall. (69 ... U.S.) 123, 131, 17 L.Ed. 759; Tiernan v. Chicago Co. (C.C.A ... 8) 214 F. 238, 242, 131 C.C.A. 284 ... [ 8 ] Boogher v. Ins ... ...
  • Samuels, Kramer & Co. v. C.I.R.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • April 2, 1991
    ...391 U.S. 145, 158, 88 S.Ct. 1444, 1452, 20 L.Ed.2d 491 (1968) (criminal defendant can waive jury trial); Heckers v. Fowler, 69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 123, 128-29, 17 L.Ed. 759 (1865) (appointment of arbitrator with consent of both parties is permissible); Fed.R.Civ.P. 38(d) (waiver of jury trial in......
  • Lummus Company v. Commonwealth Oil Refining Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • June 2, 1961
    ...courts. Cf. Red Cross Line v. Atlantic Fruit Co., 1924, 264 U.S. 109, 121-22, 44 S.Ct. 274, 68 L.Ed. 582; Heckers v. Fowler, 1864, 2 Wall. 123, 69 U.S. 123, 17 L.Ed. 759. 44 Application of Reconstruction Finance Corp., D.C.S.D.N.Y.1952, 106 F.Supp. 358, 361, R. F. C. v. Harrison & Crosfield......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 73 No. 1, September 2022
    • September 22, 2022
    ...contempt process are inherent powers, the latter of which is also recognized in British parliamentary practice); cf. Heckers v. Fowler, 69 U.S. 123, 128 (1864"Circuit Courts, as well as all other Federal courts, have authority to make and establish all necessary rules for the orderly conduc......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT