Coffey v. United States
117 U.S. 233 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Coffey v. United States, 117 U.S. 233 (1886)

Coffey v. United States

Petition received March 1, 1886

Decided March 15, 1886

117 U.S. 233




The pleadings in a suit in rem brought by the United States in a circuit court of the United States in Kentucky for the forfeiture of property after its seizure for the violation of the internal revenue laws, are not required by section 914 of the Revised Statutes, to be governed by the statute of Kentucky in regard to pleadings in civil actions, but are to be, as before the enactment of section 914, according to the course in Admiralty.

This was a petition for a rehearing of the cause reported 116 U. S. 116 U.S. 427. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE BLATCHFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

On the 18th of January last, a decision was made in this case, 116 U. S. 116 U.S. 427, affirming the judgment below, rendered on an information in rem, filed for the forfeiture to the United States of certain personal property seized for a violation of the internal revenue laws. There was a trial by jury and a verdict for the United States. The claimant, in his answer, had set up in bar that a criminal information had been filed against him in the same court alleging as offenses the same matters averred in the information in the civil suit, and that he had pleaded guilty and been adjudged to pay a fine. There was no demurrer or reply to this answer. After verdict, the claimant moved in arrest of judgment, alleging as cause the judgment in the criminal proceeding, but the motion was overruled. There was no bill of exceptions and no exception to the overruling of the motion.

On the hearing in this Court, the claimant contended that as there was no traverse of the answer, it must be taken to be true. But this Court held that no reply or replication to the answer was necessary to raise an issue of fact on the matters averred in it; that the proceedings, so far as the pleadings were concerned,

Page 117 U. S. 234

were kindred to those in a suit in admiralty in rem; that the general rules of pleading in regard to admiralty suits in rem apply to suits in rem for a forfeiture brought by the United States, after a seizure on land, as laid down in the cases of The Sarah, 8 Wheat. 391, Union Ins. Co. v. United States, 6 Wall. 759, 73 U. S. 765, Armstrong's Foundry, 6 Wall. 766, 73 U. S. 769, and Morris' Cotton, 8 Wall. 507, 75 U. S. 511; that Rule 22 of the Rules in Admiralty prescribes regulations for the form of informations and libels of information on seizures for the breach of the laws of the United States on land or water; that by Rule 51 in Admiralty, new matter in an answer is considered as denied by the libellant; that the issue of fact as to the former conviction must be held to have been found against the claimant, by the general verdict, and that no question in regard to the defense set up could be raised.

An application is now made by the claimant for a rehearing on the ground that, as to the pleadings, the case must be governed by section 914 of the Revised Statutes, which is a reenactment of

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