United States v. Auffmordt - 122 U.S. 197 (1887)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Auffmordt, 122 U.S. 197 (1887)
United States v. Auffmordt
Argued April 26, 1887
Decided May 27, 1887
122 U.S. 197
Under § 2839 of the Revised Statutes, there can be no recovery by the United States for a forfeiture of the value of imported merchandise, the property of its foreign manufacturer, against the person to whom he had consigned it for sale on commission, and who entered it as such consignee, the forfeiture being claimed on the ground that the merchandise was entered at invoice prices lower than its actual market value at the time and place of exportation.
Section 2839 applies only to purchased goods.
Section 2839, so far as it provides for a forfeiture of the value of merchandise, is repealed by the provisions of § 12 of the Act of June 22, 1874, c. 391, 18 Stat. 188.
The amendment made to § 2864 by the Act of February 18, 1875, c. 80, 18 Stat. 319, by inserting the words "or the value thereof" did not have the effect of enacting that the value of merchandise is to be forfeited under § 2864 notwithstanding the Act of June 22, 1874, c. 391. The object and effect of the amendment were only to correct an error in the text of § 2864 and to make it read as it read when in force on the 1st of December, 1873, as part of § 1 of the Act of March 3, 1863, c. 76, 12 Stat. 738.
This is an action brought by the United States in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York against Clement A. Auffmordt, John F. Degener, William Degener, and Adolph William Von Kessler, composing the firm of C. A. Auffmordt & Co., to recover the sum of $321,519.29, with interest. The complaint alleges violations by the defendants of statutes of the United States in respect to entries of imported merchandise made by the defendants in 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882, the value of such merchandise being the above-named sum, and claims that, by reason of the acts of the defendants alleged in the complaint, the defendants have forfeited such value to the United States. The defendants put in an answer containing a general denial, and the case was tried in the district court before a jury.
After the case was opened to the jury on the part of the United States and before any testimony was offered, the defendants moved upon such opening that the court direct a verdict for the defendants on the ground that there was no statute of the United States whereby the value of the merchandise could be recovered by reason of the acts alleged to have been committed by the defendants as consignees of the goods, which was the capacity in which they received and entered the goods, the goods being the property of the manufacturers of them in Switzerland, and being consigned to the defendants for sale on commission. The facts sought to be proved against the defendants were that they, knowingly and with intent to defraud the revenue, entered the goods at invoice
prices lower than their actual market value at the time and place of exportation. The court ruled that there was no existing statute of the United States under which the plaintiff could recover upon any possible proof, and that a verdict must be directed for the defendants. 19 F. 893. The plaintiffs excepted to this ruling.