Ammidon v. Smith - 14 U.S. 447 (1816)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ammidon v. Smith, 14 U.S. 1 Wheat. 447 447 (1816)
Ammidon v. Smith
14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 447
If an imprisoned debtor fraudulently obtains a judgment in his favor, in consequence of which he goes at large, the sheriff cannot retake him on suspicion that the judgment is fraudulent, nor be liable for an escape on the proof of such fraud.
A debtor who has departed from the prison rules under a judgment of discharge granted in due form by a competent tribunal has not committed an escape even to charge himself, much less will it impose on his security a liability for the debt.
This was an action of debt brought by the plaintiff against the defendant, in the Circuit Court of
Rhode Island on a bond dated 31 August, 1810, with a condition that if Simon Smith, a prisoner in jail, at the suit of the said Philip Ammidon, shall
"continue and be a true prisoner in the custody, guard, and safekeeping of Roger Allenton, keeper of the said prison, &c., within the limits of the said prison until he shall be lawfully discharged, without committing any manner of escape or escapes during the term of his restraint, then this obligation to be void. . . ."
The defendants pleaded, severally, two several pleas:
First. That said Simon did remain a true prisoner until lawfully discharged, and made no escape.
Second. That after notifying his creditors, he did take the oath provided by the law of the State of Rhode Island for the relief of poor prisoners confined for debt before proper authority, which oath is as follows:
"That he had not any estate, real or personal, in possession, remainder, or reversion over ten dollars, and that he had not, since the commencement of the said suits against him or at any other time, directly or indirectly sold, leased, or otherwise conveyed or disposed of to or entrusted any person or persons whomsoever with all or any part of the estate, real or personal, whereof he hath been the lawful owner or possessor with any intent or design to secure the same or to receive or to expect any profit or advantage therefrom for himself or any of his family, nor had he caused or suffered to be done anything whatsoever whereby any of his creditors may be defrauded. "
To the first plea the plaintiff replied that he did not remain a true prisoner until lawfully discharged, &c. To the second he replied that after the commencement of the action on which he was imprisoned, and after the contracting of the debt on which the action was brought, the said Simon was seized and possessed of real estate to the value of $40,000, and that, fraudulently contriving with his sons Darius and Simon, Jr., his sureties in said bond, to defraud him of his said debt, did lease, sell, and convey to said Darius and Simon, Jr., and his other children, all his said real estate, and did entrust them with it, for his and their benefit with intent to defraud the plaintiff, and that he might be admitted to the benefit of the oath mentioned in said plea; that said Simon did entrust with said Darius and Simon, Jr., and his other children, all his estate, both real and personal, of the value of $50,000, with the advice, counsel, and assistance, and under the direction of said Darius and Simon, Jr., and his other children, with an intent and design to secure the same to the said Darius and Simon, Jr., and his family, to defraud the plaintiff of his said debt, and he avers that the said Simon did falsely and fraudulently take said oath, with intent willfully, falsely, and fraudulently to hinder, delay, and defraud the plaintiff of his just debt aforesaid and avoid the payment thereof, and thereby hinder, delay, and defraud the other creditors of the said Simon of their just debts. And this he is ready to verify, wherefore he prays judgment, &c. In his replication to
the pleas of the two sureties, the plaintiff adds an averment that the said Simon took the said oath, they, the defendants, well knowing that the same was false and fraudulent, and that the said Simon did willfully, falsely, and fraudulently take the said oath with intent thereby to hinder, delay, and defraud the plaintiff of his just debt aforesaid and avoid the payment thereof, and thereby hinder and defraud the other creditors of the said Simon of their just debts.
To this replication the defendants demurred, and the plaintiff joined.
On the argument of this demurrer, the judges of the circuit court were divided in opinion whether the replication was sufficient to avoid the plea, which division of opinion was certified to this Court.