Taylor v. Taintor, Treasurer

Decision Date01 December 1872
Citation83 U.S. 366,16 Wall. 366,21 L.Ed. 287
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

IN error to the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut; in which court William Taylor, Barnabas Allen, and one Edward McGuire were plaintiffs in error, and Taintor, Treasurer of the State of Connecticut, was defendant in error. The case arose under that clause of the Federal Constitution1 which ordains that

'A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice and be found in another State, shall, on demand of the executive authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the crime,'

and under the act of Congress passed February 12th, 1793, to carry into effect this provision, and which makes it the duty of the executive of the State or Territory to which a person charged with one of the crimes mentioned has filed, upon proper demand to cause the fugitive to be arrested and the crimes mentioned has fled,

Mr. M. W. Seymour, for the plaintiff in error; Messrs. S. B. Beardsley and N. L. White, contra.

Mr. Justice SWAYNE stated the facts of the case and delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a writ of error, issued under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, to the Supreme Court of Errors of the State of Connecticut.

The attorney of the State for the county of Fairfield presented to the Superior Court for that county, at the August term, 1866, an information charging Edward McGuire with the crime of grand larceny. A bench warrant, returnable to the same term, was thereupon issued. McGuire was arrested and held in custody. The court fixed the amount of bail to be given at $8000. On the 24th of September, 1866, McGuire and the other plaintiffs in error entered into a recognizance to the defendant in error in that sum, conditioned that McGuire should appear before the Superior Court, to be held at Danbury, in Fairfield County, on the third Tuesday of October, 1866, to answer to the information before mentioned, and abide the order and judgment of the court. McGuire was thereupon released from custody. He failed to appear according to the condition of the recognizance, and it was duly forfeited on the 16th of October, 1866.

This suit was thereupon instituted in the Superior Court of Fairfield County to recover the amount of the obligation. The facts developed at the trial, and relied upon by the defendants to defeat the action were, according to the practice in that State, found and certified by the court, and became a part of the record. So far as it is necessary to state them, they are as follows:

After the recognizance was entered into McGuire went into the State of New York, where he belonged. While there, upon a requisition from the governor of Maine upon the governor of New York, he was seized by the legal officers of New York, and was by them forthwith, on the 19th of October, 1866, delivered over to the proper officers of the State of Maine, by whom he was immediately and against his will removed to that State. The requisition charged a burglary alleged to have been committed by McGuire in Maine before the recognizance in question in this case was taken. At the time of the forfeiture of the recognizance McGuire was, and he has been ever since, legally imprisoned in Maine. In June, 1867, he was tried there for the burglary charged in the requisition, and convicted and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary for fifteen years and was, at the time of the trial of this case in the court below, serving out his time under that sentence. Neither of the sureties knew, when they entered into the recognizance, that there was any charge of crime against McGuire other than the one alleged in the information in Connecticut. If the testimony were admissible, the plaintiff proved that the sum of $8000 was placed in the hands of the sureties to indemnify them against the liability they assumed, and if the testimony were admissible, the sureties proved that the money was not placed in their hands by McGuire nor by any one in his behalf; and that, so far as the sureties knew, it was done without his knowledge.

The Superior Court gave judgment for the plaintiff. The defendants thereupon removed the case to the Supreme Court of Errors for Fairfield County. That court affirmed the judgment, and the defendants thereupon brought this writ of error.

The fact that the sureties were indemnified was proper to be considered by the Superior Court upon an application for time to produce the body of McGuire.2 But it could have no effect upon the rights of the parties in this action, and may therefore be laid out of view.

It is the settled law of this class of cases that the bail will be exonerated where the performance of the condition is rendered impossible by the act of God, the act of the obligee, or the act of the law.3 Where the principal dies before the day of performance, the case is within the first category. Where the court before which the principal is bound to appear is abolished without qualification, the case is within the second. If the principal is arrested in the State where the obligation is given and sent out of the State by the governor, upon the requisition of the governor of another State, it is within the third.4 In such cases the governor acts in his official character, and represents the sovereignty of the State in giving efficacy to the Constitution of the United States and the law of Congress. If he refuse, there is no means of compulsion.5 But if he act, and the fugitive is surrendered, the State whence he is removed can no longer require his appearance before her tribunals, and all obligations which she has taken to secure that result thereupon at once, ipso facto, lose their binding effect. The authorities last referred to proceed upon this principle.

It is equally well settled that if the impossibility be created by the obligor or a stranger, the rights of the obligee will be in nowise affected.6 And there is 'a distinction between the act of the law proper and the act of the obligor, which exposes him to the control and action of the law.'7 While the former exonerates, the latter gives no immunity. It is the willing act of the obligor which creates the obstacle, and the legal effect is the same as of any other act of his, which puts performance out of his power. This applies only where the accused has been convicted and sentenced. Before judgment—non constat—but that he may be innocent.

Where a State court and a court of the United States may each take jurisdiction, the tribunal which first gets it holds it to the exclusion of the other, until its duty is fully performed and the jurisdiction invoked is exhausted: and this rule applies alike in both civil and criminal cases.8 It is indeed a principle of universal jurisprudence that where jurisdiction has attached to person or thing, it is—unless there is some provision to the contrary—exclusive in effect until it has wrought its function.

Where a demand is properly made by the governor of one State upon the governor of another, the duty to surrender is not absolute and unqualified. It depends upon the circumstances of the case. If the laws of the latter State have been put in force against the fugitive, and he is imprisoned there, the demands of those laws may first be satisfied. The duty of obedience then arises, and not before. In the case of Troutman, cited supra, the accused was imprisoned in a civil case. It was held that he ought not to be delivered up until the imprisonment had legally come to an end. It was said that the Constitution and law refer to fugitives at large, in relation to whom there is no conflict of jurisdiction.

The law which renders the performance impossible, and therefore excuses failure, must be a law operative in the State where the obligation was assumed, and obligatory in its effect upon her authorities. If, after the instrument is executed, the principal is imprisoned in another State for the violation of a criminal law of that State, it will not avail to protect him or his sureties. Such is now the settled rule.9

When bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their dominion is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up in their discharge; and if that cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another State; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and, if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of new process. None is needed. It is likened to the rearrest by the sheriff of an escaping prisoner.10 In 6 Modern11 it is said: 'The bail have their principal on a string, and may pull the string whenever they please, and render him in their discharge.' The rights of the bail in civil and criminal cases are the same.12 They may doubtless permit him to go beyond the limits of the State within which he is to answer, but it is unwise and imprudent to do so; and if any evil ensue, they must bear the burden of the consequences, and cannot cast them upon the obligee.13

In the case of Devine v. The State,14 the court, speaking of the principal, say, 'The sureties had the control of his person; they were bound at their peril to keep him within their jurisdiction, and to have his person ready to surrender when demanded. . . . In the case before us, the failure of the sureties to surrender their principal, was, in the view of the law, the result of their own negligence or connivance, in suffering their principal to go beyond the jurisdiction of the court and from under their control.' The court authorities cited are to the same effect.

The plaintiffs in error were not entitled to be exonerated for several reasons:

When the recognizance was...

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