Ex Parte Poultney v. City of La Fayette - 37 U.S. 472 (1838)
U.S. Supreme Court
Ex Parte Poultney v. City of La Fayette, 37 U.S. 12 Pet. 472 472 (1838)
Ex Parte Poultney v. City of La Fayette
37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 472
A subpoena in chancery was issued in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Louisiana District on 15 July, 1837, returnable to the next term of the court to be holden in November. Some of the defendants appeared, and an affidavit was filed stating that upwards of two hundred persons were named as defendants in the bill, and that owing to the epidemic in New Orleans and at LaFayette and the absence of many of the defendants, it had been impossible for the defendants to prepare for a defense to the bill; for this and for other reasons, an extension of the time for their appearance was essentially necessary for their proper defense, &c., and that the application was not made for delay. The circuit court, on this affidavit, laid a rule on the complainants to show cause why the defendants should not be allowed to the next term to make their appearance and defense, and that in the meantime no further proceeding should be had in the case. The solicitors for the complainants moved that the cause should be placed on the rule docket of the court, that the complainants might proceed in the cause according to the chancery practice. This motion was overruled by the circuit court. The complainants moved the Supreme Court for a rule on the circuit court to show cause why a mandamus in the nature of a procedendo should not issue commanding the court to send the case to the rule docket of the court. By the Court
"We can perceive nothing in the proceedings of the circuit court to warrant the rule to show cause, which has been asked for in behalf of the complainants; on the contrary, judging from the evidence contained in the record, the conduct of the court in relation to the cause in question appears to have been strictly conformable to the practice and principles of a court of equity."
The statements contained in a petition addressed to the Supreme Court asking for "a rule to show cause why a mandamus in the nature of a writ of procedendo should not be issued," not being verified by affidavit; they cannot, under the decisions and practice of the court, be considered.
Every court of equity possesses the power to mould its rules in relation to the time and manner of appearing and answering, so as to prevent the rule from working injustice. And it is not only in the power of the court but it is its duty to exercise a sound discretion upon this subject and to enlarge the time whenever it shall appear that the purposes of justice require it. The rules in chancery proceedings in the circuit courts prescribed by this Court do not and were not intended to deprive the courts of the United States of this well known and necessary power.