Bailey v. United States
109 U.S. 432 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bailey v. United States, 109 U.S. 432 (1883)

Bailey v. United States

Submitted October 29, 1883

Decided December 3, 1883

109 U.S. 432

Syllabus

Payment to an attorney in fact, constituted such by power of attorney executed by the claimants before the allowance of their claim by Congress or by the proper department, is good as between the government and such claimants, where the power of attorney has not been revoked at the time payment is made, notwithstanding the provisions of the Act of July 29th, 1846, entitled "An Act in relation to the payment of claims," and the Act of February 26th, 1853, entitled "An Act to prevent frauds upon the Treasury of the United States." 9 Stat. 41, and 10 Stat. 170.

Suit to recover $200,070.34 from the United States, the same having been previously paid to a person holding the duly executed power of attorney of the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs claiming that the power was absolutely void under the provisions of the acts contained in 9 Stat. 41, and 10 Stat. 170.

By a decree passed March 25, 1868, in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, certain sums of money were ascertained to be due on account of the illegal capture of the British steamer Labuan and her cargo by a cruiser of the United States.

On the 6th day of February, 1869, William Bailey, William Leetham, James Leetham, and Elizabeth Leetham, British subjects, executed and delivered a power of attorney -- in which they described themselves as then or late owners of said steamer -- constituting one A. E. Godeffroy, of New York, their attorney, with authority to receive from the government of the United States, and from all and every person or persons whom it might concern to pay or satisfy the same, all moneys then or which might thereafter become due and payable to them with reference to said vessel Labuan; upon receipt thereof, to execute acquittances, releases, and discharges for the same; and, upon nonpayment thereof, to collect said moneys by such necessary actions, suits, or expedients as their attorney deemed proper.

Page 109 U. S. 433

By an Act of Congress approved July 7, 1870, it was, among other things, provided

"That there be paid, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to William Bailey, William Leetham, and John Leetham, of England, or their legal representatives, owners of the British steamer Labuan, $131,221.30, with interest from June 2, 1862, to the time of payment, and five thousand dollars without interest."

The act declares that such sums are due under the before-mentioned decree of March 25, 1868. At the date of this act, the owners, in different proportions, of the Labuan were William Bailey, William Leetham, and the executors and executrix of John Leetham, who were William Leetham, James Leetham, and Elizabeth Leetham.

An account between the United States and said owners, based upon the said Act of July 7, 1870, having been examined, adjusted, admitted, and certified by the proper officers of the Treasury, a warrant was made upon which a draft was issued on the Treasurer of the United States for the sum of $200,070.34, payable "to Wm. Bailey, Wm. Leetham, and John Leetham, of England, or their legal representatives, or order." This draft was delivered to Godeffroy, with this endorsement thereon: "Pay on the endorsement of A. E. Godeffroy, atty. in fact. R. W. TAYLOR, Comptroller." The draft having been endorsed in the names of the payees by himself as their attorney in fact, Godeffroy received the proceeds, but has never paid to the parties named in the act of Congress, or to anyone for them, any part of the sum collected by him from the United States. The Treasury Department refused, although requested by appellants or their agents, to make further payment. Thereupon this action was brought in the Court of Claims to recover the amount specified in the act of Congress. Judgment was rendered for the United States, and the present appeal questions the correctness of that judgment.

Page 109 U. S. 435

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