Knowles v. Gaslight & Coke Company
86 U.S. 58 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Knowles v. Gaslight & Coke Company, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 58 58 (1873)

Knowles v. Gaslight & Coke Company

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 58

Syllabus

1. A return to a summons by the sheriff that he has served the defendant personally therewith is sufficient, without stating that the service was made in his county. This will be presumed.

Page 86 U. S. 59

2. But in an action on a judgment rendered in another state, the defendant, notwithstanding the record shows a return of the sheriff that he was personally served with process, may show the contrary -- namely that he was not served and that the court never acquired jurisdiction of his person. The case of Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457, affirmed and applied.

The Logansport Gaslight and Coke Company brought an action in the court below against Alfred Knowles on a judgment recovered by it against the said Knowles and one Thomas Harvey in the Circuit Court for Cass County, Indiana. The defense to the action now brought was that that court did not have jurisdiction of the person of the defendant. The record of the former judgment was produced on the trial and was somewhat anomalous. Three defendants were sued in the Cass County Court -- a certain J. W. Bain, Knowles, and Harvey -- none of whom resided in Indiana. Bain was served with process in New York, and after a long struggle to get the proceedings dismissed as to himself, removed the cause into the circuit court of the United States, under the Act of 1866, [Footnote 1] and obtained a judgment in his favor. The cause was then remanded to the Cass County Court, and judgment by default was rendered against Knowles and Harvey. In some respects the proceedings seemed to have been conducted as a suit on attachment, the property of the defendants (who resided in Minnesota) being attached, and other creditors being allowed to come in to participate in the proceeds. Nevertheless the record of the proceedings contained, amongst other things, the copy of a summons in the case, issued to the Sheriff of Cass County, against all the defendants, and a return thereto in the following words:

"I do hereby certify that I served the within writ, on the 14th day of September, 1865, upon Alfred Knowles and Thomas Harvey, personally, by reading the same to them. And I further certify that J. W. Bain cannot be found in my bailiwick

Page 86 U. S. 60

"

The return was signed by the sheriff's deputy. This was all that appeared in the record on the subject of service of process on Knowles and Harvey or in reference to their appearance or nonappearance to the action. The defendant, on the trial of the present action, contended that the return of the sheriff was insufficient to charge him personally in the former action inasmuch as it did not show that service had been made in the proper county or where it was made, and, being overruled on this point, he offered to prove by himself and Harvey that neither of them had in fact been served with process and that the return was false, the purpose of this proof being to show that the Cass County Court, which rendered the judgment on which this action was brought, never had jurisdiction of the person of either. The court below (the case of Thompson v. Whitman, [Footnote 2] in this Court, not having then been adjudged) excluded the testimony, on the ground that the record could not be contradicted in a collateral proceeding.

The case was brought here on a bill of exceptions.

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