U.S. Supreme Court
The Steamer Oregon v. Rocca, 59 U.S. 18 How. 570 570 (1855)
The Steamer Oregon v. Rocca
59 U.S. (18 How.) 570
Where a decree in admiralty was rendered in the circuit court upon an appeal from the district court, said decree being given pro forma because the presiding judge had been of counsel for one of the parties, this Court has jurisdiction to try and determine the case.
Where a collision took place in the Bay of Mobile between a schooner and a steamer, the latter was in fault.
The rule of this Court is when a steamer approaches a sailing vessel, the steamer is required to exercise the necessary precaution to avoid a collision, and if this be not done, prima facie the steamer is chargeable with fault.
Whether this rule be regarded or the weight of the testimony, the steamer must, in the present case, be considered in the wrong.
In the first case, a libel was filed in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of Alabama claiming damages resulting from a collision between the schooner William Ozman and the steamer Oregon in the Bay of Mobile on the 8th of September, 1849, whereby one hundred and forty bales of cotton on board said schooner were injured and in part destroyed.
In the second, a like libel was filed by Turner and Twiford as the owners of the schooner, claiming damages for injuries done to the vessel.
In January, 1851, the district judge decreed in favor of the libellants in the first-named case for $6,599.64 and in the second for $1,989.47.
From these decrees the owners of the steamer appealed to the circuit court.
On the 21st of April, 1855, the circuit court passed an order in each case reciting that
"the said cause being submitted to the court, a decree is rendered pro forma, the presiding judge having been of counsel for the defendants, affirming the judgment that was rendered in this case,"
An appeal from these decrees brought the cases up to this Court.
The attention of the Court having been called to this state of affairs, after consultation, the following order was passed in each case.
"It is now here considered by the Court that although it appears from the record that the decree of the circuit court in this cause
was entered pro forma, yet that this Court has jurisdiction to try and determine the case. Whereupon it is now here ordered by the Court that this cause be and the same is hereby set down for argument next after the case fixed for today."
Dissenting Justices, DANIEL and CATRON.