Wright v. Tebbitts - 91 U.S. 252 (1875)
U.S. Supreme Court
Wright v. Tebbitts, 91 U.S. 252 (1875)
Wright v. Tebbitts
91 U.S. 252
A commission called together, in pursuance of treaty stipulations or otherwise, to settle and adjust disputed claims with a view to their ultimate payment and satisfaction is, for that purpose, a quasi-court, and there is nothing illegal, immoral, or against public policy in an agreement by an attorney-at-law to present and prosecute a claim before it, either at a fixed compensation or for a reasonable percentage upon the amount recovered.
Wright, the defendant below, a licensed trader in the Choctaw country at the commencement of the rebellion, claimed that he had sustained large losses by the use of his property by the Choctaw nation and that large sums were due to him for goods taken by or sold to members of the nation, and for money advanced to it. By a treaty concluded April 28, 1866, between the United States and the Choctaws and Chickasaws, it was stipulated and agreed that this claim, with others, should be investigated and examined by a commission to be appointed by the President, and that such sum as might be found due should be paid by the United States out of any money belonging to that nation in the possession of the United States. 14 Stat. 781.
Tebbitts, the plaintiff below, an attorney-at-law, was employed by Wright to present and prosecute his claim before this commission, and he accordingly, in August, 1866, appeared before the commissioners and presented an argument in its support. Afterwards, on the 9th August, 1866, Wright executed to Tebbitts a memorandum in writing, as follows:
"Jonas M. Tebbitts having rendered valuable services to me in securing my claims under the fiftieth article of the treaty of April 28 with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, I hereby bind myself to pay him one-tenth of whatever I may realize from the Choctaw Indians under said article whenever the money comes into my hands, which payment, when made, will be in full compliance with my verbal contract, made in April last, with John B. Luce."
Wright subsequently realized on his claim $20,541.28, the last payment having been made to him in June, 1869. This suit was brought by Tebbitts to recover compensation for his services, which Wright refused to pay. He claimed $2,054,
being ten percent on the sum paid to Wright, and for this amount he obtained judgment upon the verdict of a jury.
To reverse this judgment, the present writ of error has been prosecuted.