Withenbury v. United States
72 U.S. 819 (1866)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Withenbury v. United States, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 819 819 (1866)

Withenbury v. United States

72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 819

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS

Syllabus

A decree in a prize cause which disposes of the whole matter in controversy upon a claim filed by particular parties, which is final as to them and their rights and final also so far as the claimants and their rights are concerned as to the United States, which leaves nothing to be litigated between the parties and awards execution in favor of the libellants against the claimants, is final within the meaning of the Judiciary Acts, and this Court has jurisdiction of an appeal from it.

Several libels were filed in that court for the condemnation, as prize of war, of large quantities of cotton and other property captured on the interior navigable waters of the United States or on land adjacent thereto. On motion, these libels were consolidated, and various claims were interposed in the consolidated suit for portions of the property libeled. Among these claims was that of Withenbury & Doyle. They denied the validity of the capture and insisted on their own title to nine hundred and thirty-five bales of the cotton.

Upon hearing of the cause as to this claim, an order was made dismissing the claim with costs, for which execution was ordered.

From this decree the appeal now pending was taken, and a motion for dismissal was now made upon the ground that the decree was not final, and therefore was not within the jurisdiction of this Court.

A motion of a similar sort was made and argued at the same time in another and similar appeal, Le More v. United States.

Page 72 U. S. 821

THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.

It appears from the record that the decree disposed of the whole matter in controversy upon the claim of Withenbury & Doyle. It was final as to them and their rights, and it was final also so far as the claimants and their rights are concerned as to the United States. It left nothing to be litigated between these parties. It awarded execution in favor of the libellants against the claimants.

We think that such a decree in a prize cause must be regarded as final within the meaning of the Judiciary Acts, and that we have jurisdiction of the appeal from it.

The appeals in The Bermuda Case and in the case of The Alexander Cotton, were of the same character with that now before us. In neither of these cases had all matters arising upon the libel and the claims been finally disposed of. In the first the appeal was by claimants of part of the property libeled, whose claims has been dismissed and the property claimed by them condemned. In the other the appeal was by the United States from a decree of restitution in favor of a claimant of part of the property libeled, in the same consolidated cause from a decree in which, against another claimant, the appeal which we are now asked to dismiss was taken.

It is true that in the cases just referred to no question of jurisdiction was made at the bar, but it existed necessarily in each cause, and was practically determined in favor of the jurisdiction, and, as we still think, rightly determined.

The motion to dismiss is therefore denied.

The motion to dismiss the appeal in Le More v. United

Page 72 U. S. 822

States depends on like facts and the same principles with that just decided, and must also be denied.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD dissented.

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