Douglas v. Wallace,
161 U.S. 346 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Douglas v. Wallace, 161 U.S. 346 (1896)

Douglas v. Wallace

No. 611

Submitted January 27, 1896

Decided March 2, 1896

161 U.S. 346


When there is color for a motion to dismiss on the ground of want of jurisdiction, and the claim is not so clearly frivolous as to authorize the dismissal, the court may consider and pass upon the question raised. Claims of deputy marshals against a marshal for services stand upon the same footing as those of an ordinary employee against his employer.

This was a motion to dismiss a writ of error for want of jurisdiction, or to affirm the judgment of the Supreme Court of North Carolina upon the ground that the writ of error was sued out for delay merely, and the question upon which jurisdiction depended was so frivolous as not to need further argument.

The action was brought in the Superior Court of Iredell County, North Carolina by the defendants in error, the firm of Wallace Bros., to recover of Douglas, the plaintiff in error, the amount of certain drafts drawn upon him by certain persons, and accepted by writing across said drafts "Accepted. Payable when I receive funds to the use of" the drawer of the drafts. Signed, "R. M. Douglas, U.S. Marshal." The matters involved in the action were referred to a referee, who found that the defendant Douglas was marshal of the United States for the Western District of North Carolina for the years 1878 to 1881, and that during this time he had in his employment, as deputy marshals, J. T. Patterson, Jr., in whose favor he accepted a draft for $200; W. J. Patterson, in whose favor he accepted a draft for $325, and S. P. Graham, who had a claim against the marshal for $98.82 for official services rendered to the marshal -- all of which were assigned to the plaintiffs. The referee further reported that there had been placed to the credit of Douglas in the Treasury Department of the United States the sum of $460.76, upon claims due him for the services of J. T. Patterson, Jr., performed prior to the

Page 161 U. S. 347

acceptance of his draft for $200, not subject to any previous order, and that the same was placed to his credit since the acceptance of the draft; that there had also been placed to his credit the sum of $2,274.55, due him for the services of W. J. Patterson, rendered prior to the acceptance of his draft for $325, and that the same was subject only to two drafts for the aggregate sum of $600; that of the claim of $98.82, due to S. P. Graham for services rendered as deputy, $95.62 had been placed to the credit of the defendant in the Treasury Department since the acceptance of the claim by the defendant, the remainder of said claim having been allowed by the government; that the vouchers so traded to the plaintiffs were for services rendered prior to the said acceptance, and before the same was transferred to the plaintiffs, and that the further sum of $2,858.76 was placed to the defendant's credit and control in the Treasury Department, for services rendered by Graham, out of which sum defendant received $900, leaving $1,958.76 to the credit of the defendant since the acceptance. The referee accordingly reported that the plaintiffs were entitled to payment for the full amount of their claim.

Before the judgment of the court was rendered, the defendant moved that the action be dismissed upon the ground that the evidence disclosed that the drafts and accounts declared upon were drawn upon claims, or an interest in claims, against the United States, before their allowance, and were therefore null and void, under Rev.Stat. § 3477, inhibiting the assignment of claims against the United States. This motion was overruled, the court proceeded to consider the case upon the report of the referee, and exceptions thereto, and entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, from which the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, which affirmed the judgment of the court below. Whereupon defendant sued out this writ of error.

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