Shields v. Barrow - 58 U.S. 130 (1854)
U.S. Supreme Court
Shields v. Barrow, 58 U.S. 17 How. 130 130 (1854)
Shields v. Barrow
58 U.S. (17 How.) 130
A vendor sold an estate in Louisiana for a large sum of money, and received payment, from time to time, for nearly one-half of the amount. Afterwards he agreed to take back the property upon the payment of an additional sum of money, which was secured to him by the promissory notes of six individuals, four of whom lived in Louisiana, and two in Mississippi.
Becoming dissatisfied with this arrangement, the vendor filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for Louisiana against the two citizens of Mississippi to set aside the agreement as having been improperly procured and to restore him to his rights under the original sale.
All the six persons with whom the second arrangement was made were endorsers upon the notes originally given by the vendee for the purchase money under the sale.
The four parties to the compromise, who resided in Louisiana, not being suable in the circuit court of that state, and their presence, as defendants, being necessary, the court could not rescind the contract as to two, and allow it to stand as to the other four. Consequently it could not pass a decree, as prayed.
Neither the act of Congress of 1839, 5 Stat. 321, § 1, nor the 47th rule for the equity practice of the circuit courts enables a circuit court to make a decree in equity in the absence of an indispensable party whose rights must necessarily be affected by such decree.
The cases upon this point, the statute, and the rule examined.
The bill should have been dismissed.
The two Mississippi defendants answered.
The bill insisted that the compromise was made in good faith, and one of them filed a cross-bill against the vendor to compel him to carry it out.
This cross-bill was also defective as to parties, the other sureties and the vendee having an interest in the subject, so that, without their presence, no decree could be made.
The vendor then filed a petition by way of amended bill stating his willingness to carry out the compromise upon certain conditions, which he prayed the court to enforce.
The court then passed an order that unless the two Mississippi defendants should, before a day named, file a cross-bill and make all the Louisiana parties defendants, the vendor might proceed upon his prayer to rescind the compromise as far as the two Mississippi parties were concerned.
This was entirely irregular. Parties cannot be forced into court in this way, nor can new parties be brought into a cause by a cross-bill.
The mode considered of making new parties when necessary.
The original and cross-bills must be ordered to be dismissed.
The history of the case is given in the opinion of the Court.