Wolfe v. Lewis - 60 U.S. 280 (1856)
U.S. Supreme Court
Wolfe v. Lewis, 60 U.S. 19 How. 280 280 (1856)
Wolfe v. Lewis
60 U.S. (19 How.) 280
Where a fund is brought into court upon proceedings under a bill to foreclose a mortgage, it is altogether irregular for the court to order an investigation into the general accounts between the attorney and his client during past years and to order that the attorney shall be paid, out of the fund in court, the balance which the master may report to be due. The persons interested in this decree were not properly before the court as parties.
The present appeal was from a collateral decree of the district court under the following circumstances:
Lewis had been for many years the attorney of Thomas A. Ronalds, the deceased testator of the present appellants. In the course of his practice, he had filed a bill in chancery to foreclose a mortgage and thus obtain payment of a debt which was due to his client. The money was voluntarily paid without a sale, and brought into court. Lewis then claimed a lien upon that fund not only for his professional services in that particular case, but also for a general balance which he alleged to be due to him from his client, upon a general settlement of accounts between them. At November term, 1848, the court passed the following order:
"Order referring matters of account between Lewis and his clients to the Standing master, to report &c., at November, 1848, and Order to continue."
"Come the parties by their solicitors, and, by their consent, it is ordered by the court that all matters of account between John H. Lewis, Esq., and his late client, the said Thomas A. Ronalds, deceased, and between the said John H. Lewis and the said John D. Wolfe, executor, and Maria D. L. Ronalds, executrix, of the last will and testament of the said Thomas A. Ronalds, deceased, be referred to the standing master in chancery, and it is further ordered that said master report a statement thereof and of all his proceedings relative thereto to the next term of this court. And it is further ordered, that this cause be continued."
Under this order, the master went into a detailed examination of all the transactions between Lewis and his client for many preceding years, and made the report which is mentioned
in the opinion of the court. From this report, when confirmed by the court, the present appellants appealed.