United States v. Clark - 96 U.S. 37 (1887)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Clark, 96 U.S. 37 (1887)
United States v. Clark
96 U.S. 37
1. When the Court of Claims sends here as part of its finding all the evidence on which a fact essential to the judgment there rendered was found, from which it appears that there was no legal evidence to establish such fact, this Court must, on appeal, reverse the judgment.
2. At common law, a party to a suit is a competent witness to prove the contents of a trunk or package, which, by other testimony, is shown to have been lost or destroyed under circumstances that render some one liable for the loss.
3. Sec. 1079 of the Revised Statutes was intended to do no more than to restore in the Court of Claims the common law rule excluding parties as witnesses, which had been abolished by the Act of July 2, 1864, 13 Stat. 351, and hence the petitioner in this case is a competent witness to prove the contents of a package of government money taken from his official safe by robbers.
4. The petitioner being competent, neither his testimony before the court-martial which convicted the robbers nor his report of the loss to his superior officer is admissible as independent or original evidence, though it might be proper as corroborative of his own testimony.
5. The statute of limitation of suits in the Court of Claims, Rev.Stat., sec. 1069, is not applicable to a suit under secs. 1059 1062, because such a suit is brought to establish, not a claim in the just sense of that word, but a peculiar defense to a cause of action of the United States against the petitioner, and so long as the United States neglects to bring suit to establish that cause of action, so long must he be allowed to set up any defense thereto not in itself a separate demand.
6. The petitioner's right to sue in the Court of Claims did not accrue until the accounting officers held him liable for the sum lost, by refusing to credit his account therewith, and their final action was within six years before this suit was brought.
This case was, on the appeal of the United States, before this Court at the last term, and is reported in 94 U. S. 94 U.S. 73, where the finding of the Court of Claims is stated.
The judgment below was then reversed, on account of an insufficient finding, and the cause remanded for further proceedings. Upon a subsequent trial, the Court of Claims made a further finding, and rendered judgment for Clark. The United States then brought the case here. As the additional finding is set forth in the opinion of this Court, it is not necessary to insert it here.