Bier v. McGehee
148 U.S. 137 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bier v. McGehee, 148 U.S. 137 (1893)

Bier v. McGehee

No. 1254

Submitted February 8, 1893

Decided March 13, 1893

148 U.S. 137

Syllabus

After the adoption of Article 233 of the Constitution of Louisiana, declaring certain designated state bonds void, the treasurer of that state fraudulently put them into circulation and absconded. Payment having been refused by the state to an innocent holder of such a bond which he had purchased for value, held, in a suit brought by him to recover back the purchase money, that such refusal by the state raised no federal question.

Page 148 U. S. 138

This was a motion to dismiss a writ of error upon the ground that no federal question was involved.

Suit was begun by a petition filed by McGehee in the Civil District Court of the Parish of Orleans, December 10, 1889, setting forth that in May, 1888, petitioner had purchased of defendant, Bier, a certain state bond numbered 788, "denominated and represented to be a consolidated bond of the State of Louisiana," for the sum of $1,000, issued January 1, 1874, under authority of Act No. 3 of the state legislature of 1874; that after the purchase of said bond and payment therefor, it was claimed by the State of Louisiana, through the attorney general, as its property, and that it had been stolen by one Burke from the state treasurer, and the return of said bond, with $60 received in payment of the coupons attached thereto, was demanded by the attorney general. The petitioner further averred that the bond was purchased by him under the full belief that Bier was the lawful owner thereof, but that he was not at the time of the sale by him, or since, the owner thereof, and that he had good reason to believe, and so charged, that the bond was then the lawful property of the State of Louisiana, and part of the Agricultural and Mechanical College fund held by the state; that said bond was worthless in his hands; that the defendant refused to repay the purchase price. He prayed for a judgment rescinding the sale of the bond, and that the defendant be condemned to take back the same, and return the amount paid therefor.

Defendant, in his supplemental answer, denied that he was ever the holder of the bond, or that he had ever sold the same to the plaintiff, and averred that he had never purchased or acquired any such bond that was not acquired in good faith, in open market, before maturity, in the due and regular course of trade, as commercial paper, and that any law of the State of Louisiana supposed to affect or alter the contract contained in the consolidated bonds of the state, issued under the act of 1874, was repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.

Upon the trial, it was proved, and not denied by Bier, that he had purchased the bond after the adoption of the constitution

Page 148 U. S. 139

of the state in 1879. The state treasurer's report of 1879 was put in evidence to show that the state was the owners of the bond at that time. The court decreed that the sale of the bond be rescinded, and that the defendant, Bier, be compelled to take back the bond, with the coupons attached, and the sum of $60, received for the coupons paid in error, etc. Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Parish of Orleans, which affirmed the judgment, and thereupon he sued out a writ of error from this Court which defendant in error, McGehee, moved to dismiss.

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