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U.S. Supreme Court

Ex Parte Dubuque & Pacific Railroad, 68 U.S. 1 Wall. 69 69 (1863)

Ex Parte Dubuque & Pacific Railroad

68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 69




When this Court, under the 24th section of the Judiciary Act, reverses a judgment on a case stated and brought here on error, remanding the case, with a mandate to the court below to enter judgment for the defendant, the court below has no authority but to execute the mandate, and it is final in that court. Hence such court cannot, after entering the judgment, hear affidavits or testimony and grant a rule for a new trial, and if it does grant such rule, a mandamus will issue from this Court ordering it to vacate the rule.

Litchfield sued the Dubuque & Pacific Railroad Company in the District Court of the United States for the District of Iowa for a tract of land in that district. The cause of action was set forth by petition according to the mode of proceedings prescribed by the Code of Iowa. It alleged that the plaintiff had a title in fee and the right of possession, which land was withheld from him by the defendant, who was in possession. The answer of the defendant denied that the plaintiff had any title to the premises sued for. On this issue the parties went to trial before the district court at October Term 1859. The court found, and entered judgment, that the plaintiff had right to the land claimed and the right of possession thereof. The facts had been agreed on in writing and filed on stipulation in the district court, on which agreed statement the finding and judgment proceeded. On the facts thus presented to the court below, the cause was brought to this Court by writ of error, was reexamined, and after an elaborate opinion, reported among the decisions of December Term, 1859, the judgment below was reversed, and it was ordered that the district court enter judgment for the defendant below. [Footnote 1]

A mandate went down and was entered of record, and the district court entered judgment that the plaintiff Litchfield had no title, and that he pay costs. This was done at October Term 1861, and immediately thereafter (affidavits of ability to show new facts having been filed) a new trial was moved for on behalf of Litchfield, and granted by the court. To chanrobles.com-red

Page 68 U. S. 70

this step the railroad company excepted, and it now moved for a writ of mandamus commanding the court below to vacate the order granting the new trial. [Footnote 2] chanrobles.com-red

Page 68 U. S. 72

MR. JUSTICE CATRON, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the Court; MR. JUSTICE MILLER, who had been of counsel in the case, not sitting in it here. chanrobles.com-red

Page 68 U. S. 73

In granting the new trial, the district court seems to have been governed by two reasons: first because the statutes of Iowa prescribed that a second trial may be had of course in actions brought for the recovery of real estate, and secondly because the court below had the power, after the cause was presented there by a mandate from this Court and the judgment of reversal entered, to hold that the cause stood on the same footing that it would have done had the district court entered the judgment for the defendant before the cause was brought up to this Court. And in that case it is true the district court could have granted a new trial at its discretion.

The 24th section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 governs the practice in cases brought up and reviewed in this Court. It is bound to give such judgment as the court below ought to have given, and the law directs that a mandate shall be sent down to have the judgment entered as final in the lower courts, when it is for the defendant below, as here. The district court had no power to set aside the judgment of the Supreme Court, its authority extending only to executing the mandate. [Footnote 3]

We order that a writ of mandamus do issue to the Circuit Court of the District of Iowa commanding it to vacate and erase the order granting a new trial in the aforesaid cause, and that a judgment be entered in conformity to the mandate of this Court.

Order accordingly.

[Footnote 1]

See Dubuque & Pacific Railroad v. Litchfield, 23 How. 66.

[Footnote 2]

The parties had stipulated that no rule should be required on the circuit court where the cause now was by transfer, to show cause why a peremptory mandamus should not issue as prayed for in the petition, if this Court could rightfully order the writ.

[Footnote 3]

Ex Parte Sibbald, 12 Pet. 492.


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