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U.S. Supreme Court

United States ex Rel. Crawford v. Addison, 63 U.S. 22 How. 174 174 (1859)

United States ex Rel. Crawford v. Addison

63 U.S. (22 How.) 174


Where the matter in controversy was the right to the mayoralty in Georgetown, the salary of which office was $1,000 per annum, payable monthly, and the duration of which office was two years, this Court has jurisdiction of a case coming up by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia.

The fact that the salary is payable monthly makes no difference, the appropriation, when made, being made for the whole sum.

A judgment of ouster being rendered in the circuit court, and the defendant having filed the necessary bond and sued out a writ of error to this Court, this amounts to a supersedeas upon the judgment.

The case is not a proper one for a mandamus from this Court to the judges below or for a rule upon them to show cause why they should not carry out the judgment of ouster.

The fact that the term of office will be about to expire when the writ of error is returnable, viz., December term, 1860, is not a sufficient reason for the interposition of this Court at the present stage of the proceedings.

This was an application for a peremptory mandamus or for a rule to show cause why the judges of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia should not execute a judgment in that court by which Henry Addison had been directed to be chanrobles.com-red

Page 63 U. S. 175

ousted of the mayoralty of Georgetown. Addison had sued out a writ of error, returnable to December term, 1860, and filed the usual bond, which the circuit court decided to amount to a supersedeas, and accordingly suspended the judgment of ouster. chanrobles.com-red

Page 63 U. S. 181

MR. JUSTICE McLEAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

"Richard R. Crawford, of the City of Georgetown, in the District of Columbia, states that on the fourth Monday of February, 1857, in pursuance of an act of Congress to amend the charter of Georgetown, approved the 31st May, 1830, and an act to amend the same charter, approved the 11th August, 1856, by ballot to elect some fit and proper person, having the qualifications required by law, to be mayor of the corporation of Georgetown, to continue in office two years, and until a successor shall be duly elected, said Crawford, being duly qualified, received the greatest number of legal votes, and was elected mayor of the said corporation, and took the oath as mayor, and continued to discharge the duties for two years."

"On the fourth Monday of February, 1859, another election was held for mayor, at which he received the greatest number of legal votes, and was by the judges declared to be duly elected, on which he presented himself in the presence of the two boards of the common council of the said corporation, and claimed that the oath should be administered, but the said two boards, alleging that there was a mistake in the returns, and that there was in fact a majority of one vote in favor of Henry Addison, who was the opposing candidate, and to whom the oath of office was administered, and who took possession of the office, and continues to exercise the duties of the same."

"And your petitioner represents that at the ensuing term of

Page 63 U. S. 182

the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, being the court then and still having jurisdiction in the premises, an information, in nature of quo warranto, upon the relation of your petitioner was filed in the said court by Robert Ould, Esq., the attorney of the United States for the District of Columbia, on which due process was issued against the said Henry Addison, requiring him to answer before the said court by what warrant he claimed to exercise the said office of mayor of the corporation of Georgetown."

"And the said Addison having pleaded to the said information, and certain replications having been made to said plea by the said attorney of the United States, certain issues were joined thereon at the October term, 1859, of the said court, and amongst others the issue to try whether the said Henry Addison had, as alleged by him in his plea, received the greatest number of legal votes for mayor at the said last-mentioned election; and upon the issue it was found by the jury, duly empanelled and sworn to try the same, that the said Henry Addison did not receive the greatest number of legal votes for mayor at the said election; and thereupon the said court rendered judgment of ouster against the said defendant, and for the costs of your petitioner, as relator in the said proceeding, to-wit, on the ___ day of December instant."

"Whereupon due process for the execution of the said judgment to remove the said defendant and for the recovery of the costs aforesaid was duly prayed of the said court, but the said Henry Addison, pretending that the proceedings upon the said information in matter of law may be reviewed by this Honorable Court upon writ of error, sued out such writ of error, filed a bond, and caused a citation to be issued and served upon your petitioner to appear and answer to the said writ of error on the return thereof, to-wit, at the December term, 1860. And thereupon the said circuit court, for the express and sole reason that such writ of error and bond operated as a supersedeas, which is expressed in their order in that behalf, refused to execute the said judgment, or to issue any process to remove the said defendant or for the recovery of the costs aforesaid. "

Page 63 U. S. 183

"Your petitioner is advised and humbly submits that this Honorable Court hath no jurisdiction of the matter of the said writ of error, and that the same must be dismissed on the return thereof. But as hereinbefore stated, the said writ is not returnable until December term, 1860, and the term of office for which your petitioner was elected as aforesaid will then be about to expire."

"Your petitioner is advised that his only adequate and proper remedy is by a mandamus from this Honorable Court, directed to the judges of the said Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, commanding them to issue process for the execution of the judgment aforesaid. And for that the transcript of record herewith filed plainly expresses on its face the sole cause for the refusal of such process, so as distinctly to present the whole matter of law for the consideration of the court, he prays that a peremptory mandamus may issue, or, in the alternative, that such interlocutory order may be passed to that end, as this Court may direct."

Under the thirteenth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Supreme Court has

"power to issue writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed or persons holding office under the United States."

The power of the circuit courts to issue the writ of mandamus is confined exclusively to those cases in which it may be necessary to the exercise of their jurisdiction. Kendall v. United States, Curtis, 12th vol., 851.

On a mandamus, a superior court will never direct in what manner the discretion of an inferior tribunal shall be exercised, but they will, in a proper case, require the inferior court to decide. @ 33 U. S. 13 Pet. 279.

A mandamus is a remedy where there is no other appropriate relief, and it is only resorted to on extraordinary occasions.

The writ of error is a common law writ, and is almost as old as the common law itself. This writ, to operate as a chanrobles.com-red

Page 63 U. S. 184

supersedeas, must be issued within ten days after the rendition of the judgment, and on security being given for a sum exceeding the amount of the judgment. Where no supersedeas is required, security for the costs of the supreme court must be entered. So that, in these respects, the writ of error is said to be a writ of right, though regulated by statute.

The condition on the supersedeas bond is:

"that the said Henry Addison shall prosecute the said writ of error to effect, and answer all damages and costs if he shall fail to make his plea good, then the above obligation to be void; otherwise to be and remain in full force and virtue."

In Columbus Insurance Company v. Wheelright, 7 Wheat. 534, it was held that a writ of error will lie from this Court upon the judgments of the circuit courts awarding a peremptory mandamus if the matter in controversy is of sufficient value. But in that case it did appear that the office of director of the insurance company, which was the matter in controversy, was of less value than one thousand dollars and that its value was to be ascertained by the salary paid; the Court held it had no jurisdiction.

The weight of this authority is not lessened by the fact on which the question of jurisdiction turned. The salary of the Mayor of Georgetown was established by law at one thousand dollars per annum, and if this be the matter of controversy, it settles the jurisdiction.

But it is contended that a year's salary cannot be regarded as the amount in controversy, as the salary is paid monthly or quarterly, as may be most convenient to the mayor. The law regulates the pay of all salaried officers by the year, and the estimates are so appropriated in the reported bills. Any departure from this annual allowance would derange more or less the fiscal action of a government or corporation.

But it is said that the remedy by writ of error is inappropriate and ineffectual, as the office of the relator will expire about the time the writ of error is made returnable. This may be a defect in the law, which the legislative power only can remove. A writ of error returnable instanter would give chanrobles.com-red

Page 63 U. S. 185

more speedy relief, and might be more satisfactory, but we must administer the law as we find it.

The bond and security given on the writ of error cannot be regarded as an idle ceremony. It was designed as an indemnity to the defendant in error, should the plaintiff fail to prosecute with effect his writ of error.

We can entertain no doubt that the writ of error is the legal mode of revising the judgment of the circuit court in this case, and that security having been given on the judgment, as the law requires, it is superseded.