Carpenter v. Winn
221 U.S. 533 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Carpenter v. Winn, 221 U.S. 533 (1911)

Carpenter v. Winn

No. 135

Argued April 20, 21, 1911

Decided May 29, 1911

221 U.S. 533

Syllabus

Section 724, Rev.Stat., has never been construed by this Court, and the decisions of the inferior courts have not had such uniformity as to exert any controlling influence.

The word "trial," as used in § 724, Rev.Stat., refers to the final examination and decision of matter of law as well as facts, for which every antecedent step is a preparation.

A court of equity does not lose its jurisdiction to entertain a bill for the discovery of evidence or to enjoin the trial at law until obtained, because the powers of the courts of law have been enlarged so as to make the equitable remedy unnecessary in some circumstances.

Page 221 U. S. 534

Under § 724, Rev.Stat., a court of law cannot compel one party to an action to produce, in advance of the trial, book and papers for examination and inspection of the other party.

165 F. 636 reversed.

In an action wherein David J. Winn was plaintiff and Joseph N. Carpenter and others defendants, the plaintiff, Winn, obtained an order from the court requiring the defendants to produce certain books and papers said to contain evidence material to make out the plaintiff's case. The order required the defendants to produce

"all of their books, papers, writings, account books, day books, blotters, journals, registers, cash books, check books, contracts, contract slips, and memoranda made or received by them, their agents, and employees, which contain any memoranda or any business transactions"

relating to the plaintiff during the years 1905 and 1906, and particularly pertaining to a certain brokerage transaction in cotton. The order required such production before the trial, and that the plaintiff and his attorneys should be allowed at the office of the defendants, within a time named, access to such books and papers with leave to "examine and investigate the same, and to make copies and extracts from such books, documents, and writings." The order concluded thus: "In the event the defendants fail to comply with this order, judgment against them shall be entered by default."

The defendants, conceiving that the court had no authority to require the production of their business books and correspondence before the trial of the cause for the investigation of the plaintiff, declined to obey the order. Thereupon judgment by default was entered and a jury impaneled to assess the plaintiff's damages, which being done, there was judgment for the plaintiff for the amount so assessed. This judgment was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals, and the case has come here upon a writ of certiorari.

Page 221 U. S. 537

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