Thompson v. Whitman

Decision Date01 October 1873
Citation21 L.Ed. 897,85 U.S. 457,18 Wall. 457
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York; the case being thus:

A statute of New Jersey, approved April 16th, 1846, and commonly known there as the Oyster Law, thus enacts:

'SECTION 7. It shall not be lawful for any person who is not at the time an actual inhabitant and resident of this State, . . . to rake or gather claims, oysters, or shell-fish, . . . in any of the rivers, bays, or waters of this State, on board of any . . . boat or other vessel; and every person who shall offend herein shall forfeit and pay $20; . . . and the said . . . boat or other vessel, used and employed in the commission of such offence, with all the clams, oysters, clam-rakes, tongs, tackle, furniture, and apparel, shall be forfeited, and the same seized, secured, and disposed of, in the manner prescribed in the ninth and tenth sections of this act.

'SECTION 9. It shall be the duty of all sheriffs . . . to seize and secure any such . . . boat or other vessel as aforesaid, and immediately thereupon give information thereof to two justices of the peace of the county where such seizure shall have been made, who are hereby empowered and required to meet at such time and place as they shall appoint for the trial thereof, and hear and determine the same; and in case the same shall be condemned, it shall be sold by the order and under the direction of the said justices, who, after deducting all legal costs and charges, shall pay one-half of the proceeds of said sale to the collector of the county in which such offence shall have been committed, and the other half to the person who shall have seized and prosecuted the same.'

This statute being in force, Whitman, a citizen of New York, sued Thompson, sheriff of Monmouth County, New Jersey, in the court below in an action of trespass, for taking and carrying away a certain sloop of his, named the Anna Whitman, her cargo, furniture, and apparel.

The declaration charged that on the 26th of September, 1862, the defendant, with force and arms, on the high seas, in the outward vicinity of the Narrows of the port of New York, and within the Southern District of New York, seized and took the said sloop, with her tackle, furniture, &c., the property of the plaintiff, and carried away and converted the same. The defendant pleaded not guilty, and a special plea in bar. The latter plea justified the trespass by setting up that the plaintiff, a resident of New York, on the day of seizure, was raking and gathering clams with said sloop in the waters of the State of New Jersey, to wit, within the limits of the county of Monmouth, contrary to a law of that State, and that by virtue of the said law the defendant, who was sheriff of said county, seized the sloop within the limits thereof, and informed against her before two justices of the peace of said county, by whom she was condemned and ordered to be sold. In answer to this plea the plaintiff took issue as to the place of seizure, denying that it was within the State of New Jersey, or the county of Monmouth, thus challenging the jurisdiction of the justices, as well as the right of the defendant to make the seizure. On the trial conflicting testimony was given upon this point, but the defendant produced a record of the proceedings before the justices, which stated the offence as having been committed, and the seizure as made, within the county of Monmouth, with a history of the proceedings to the condemnation and order of sale. The defendant, relying on the provision of the Constitution1 which says that——

'Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the . . . judicial proceedings of every other State; and that Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such . . . proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof:'

and on the act of Congress of May 26th, 1790,2 which, after prescribing a mode in which the records and judicial proceedings of the courts of any State shall be authenticated, enacts that——

'The said records and proceedings, authenticated as aforesaid, shall have such faith and credit given to them, in every court within the United States, as they have by law or usage in the courts of the State from whence the said records are or may be taken:'

asserted that this record was conclusive both as to the jurisdiction of the court and the merits of the case, and that it was a bar to the action, and requested the court so to charge the jury. But the court refused so to charge, and charged that the said record was only prim a facie evidence of the facts therein stated, and threw upon the plaintiff the burden of proving the contrary. The defendant excepted and the jury, under the direction of the court, found for the plaintiff generally, and, in answer to certain questions framed by the court, found specially, first, that the seizure was made within the State of New Jersey; secondly, that it was not made in the county of Monmouth; thirdly, that the plaintiff was not engaged on the day of the seizure in taking clams within the limits of the county of Monmouth. Judgment being rendered for the plaintiff, the case was brought here for review.

The chief error assigned was the charge of the court, abovementioned, that the record from New Jersey was only prim a facie evidence of the facts which it stated; though the counsel for the plaintiff in error also argued that if the record was not conclusive of the facts stated in it, and if the seizure was first made outside of the limits of Monmouth County, yet that confessedly the vessel was brought right into Monmouth County, so that the seizure, being continuous, might properly enough be held to have been made there; and that this was particularly true, if it was assumed, as it was on the other side, that the vessel, when first seized, though seized within the State, was not seized within the limits of any county.

Mr. C. N. Black, for the plaintiff in error; Mr. R. Gilchrist, attorney-general of New Jersey, intervening and arguing in the same interest. Messrs. W. M. Evarts and J. L. Cadwalader, contra.

Mr. Justice BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

The main question in the cause is, whether the record produced by the defendant was conclusive of the jurisdictional facts therein contained. It stated, with due particularity, sufficient facts to give the justices jurisdiction under the law of New Jersey. Could that statement be questioned collaterally in another action brought in another State? If it could be, the ruling of the court was substantially correct. If not, there was error. It is true that the court charged generally that the record was only prim a facie evidence of the facts stated therein; but as the jurisdictional question was the principal question at issue, and as the jury was required to find specially thereon, the charge may be regarded as having reference to the question of jurisdiction. And if upon that question it was correct, no injury was done to the defendant.

Without that provision of the Constitution of the United States which declares that 'full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State,' and the act of Congress passed to carry it into effect, it is clear that the record in question would not be conclusive as to the facts necessary to give the justices of Monmouth County jurisdiction, whatever might be its effect in New Jersey. In any other State it would be regarded like any foreign judgment; and as to a foreign judgment it is perfectly well settled that the inquiry is always open, whether the court by which it was rendered had jurisdiction of the person or the thing. 'Upon principle,' says Chief Justice Marshall, 'it would seem that the operation of every judgment must depend on the power of the court to render that judgment; or, in other words, on its jurisdiction over the subject-matter which it has determined. In some cases, that jurisdiction unquestionably depends as well on the state of the thing as on the constitution of the court. If by any means whatever a prize court should be induced to condemn, as prize of war, a vessel which was never captured, it could not be contended that this condemnation operated a change of property. Upon principle, then, it would seem that, to a certain extent, the capacity of the court to act upon the thing condemned, arising from its being within, or without, their jurisdiction, as well as the constitution of the court, may be considered by that tribunal which is to decide on the effect of the sentence.'3

The act of Congress above referred to, which was passed 26th of May, 1790, after providing for the mode of authenticating the acts, records, and judicial proceedings of the States, declares, 'and the said records and judicial proceedings, authenticated as aforesaid, shall have such faith and credit given to them in every court within the United States, as they have by law or usage in the courts of the State from whence the said records are or shall be taken.' It has been supposed that this act, in connection with the constitutional provision which it was intended to carry out, had the effect of rendering the judgments of each State equivalent to domestic judgments in every other State, or at least of giving to them in every other State the same effect, in all respects, which they have in the State where they are rendered. And the language of this court in Mills v. Duryee,4 seemed to give countenance to this idea. The court in that case held that the act gave to the judgments of each State the same conclusive effect, as records, in all the States, as they had at home; and that nil debet could not be pleaded to an action brought thereon in another State. This decision has never been departed from in relation to the general effect of such judgments where the questions raised were not questions of jurisdiction. But...

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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • October 21, 2019]"). Cf. California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 625, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991), quoting Thompson v. Whitman, 85 U.S. 457, 471, 18 Wall. 457, 21 L.Ed. 897 (1873) ("A seizure is a single act, and not a continuous fact"). Cf. also Nieves v. McSweeney, 241 F.3d 46, 55 (2001......
  • Marin v. Augedahl
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    ...the order might be attacked collaterally by showing an absence of jurisdiction of person or subject-matter. The cases of Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457, 21 L. Ed. 897, and National Exchange Bank v. Wiley, 195 U. S. 257, 25 Sup. Ct. 70, 49 L. Ed. 184, hold nothing more. Neither gives any ......
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    • January 24, 1994 determine the proper place for condemnation trials, "seizure" traditionally had a time- and site-specific meaning. See Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457,471 (1874) ("seizure [of a sloop] is a single act"; "[p]ossession, which follows seizure, is 279A defendant incarcerated until trial no......
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    ...not submitted himself to the jurisdiction, it was under no obligation to recognize such judgment as valid. See, also, Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 460, 21 L. Ed. 897; Knowles v. Gaslight & Coke Co., 19 Wall. 61, 22 L. Ed. 70; Lafayette Ins. Co. v. French, 18 How. 404, 15 L. Ed. Long prior ......
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    ...Id. at 1221-22.125. California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 624 (1991). 126. Id. at 626.127. Id. at 625 (citing Thompson v. Whitman, 85 U.S. 457, 471 (1874) ("A seizure is a single act, and not a continuous fact[.]")). Courts applying this approach have held that an officer's use of physical......

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