Lawler v. Walker,
55 U.S. 149 (1852)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lawler v. Walker, 55 U.S. 14 How. 149 149 (1852)

Lawler v. Walker

55 U.S. (14 How.) 149


Where the supreme court of a state certified that there was "drawn in question the validity of statutes of the State of Ohio," &c., without naming the statutes, this was not enough to give jurisdiction to this Court, under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act.

Nor, in this case, would the Court have had jurisdiction if the statutes had been named, because --

In 1816, the Legislature of Ohio passed an "act to prohibit the issuing and circulation of unauthorized bank paper," and in 1839 an act amendatory thereof, and the question was whether or not a canal company, incorporated in 1837, was subject to these acts. In deciding that it was, the Supreme Court of Ohio only gave a construction to an act of Ohio which neither of itself nor by its application involved in any way a repugnancy to the Constitution of the United States by impairing the obligation of a contract.

The case of Commercial Bank of Cincinnati v. Buckingham's Executors, 5 How. 317, examined and sustained.

As the case was decided upon the point of jurisdiction, it will be necessary to state only so much of it as to show what the question was which came before this Court. See 18 Ohio 151.

James H. Walker and John Walker, partners in trade under the name of J. H. and J. Walker, brought a writ against the plaintiffs in error in the Hamilton Court of Common Pleas in Ohio. The action was brought to recover $2,000 from the plaintiffs in error, as directors, stockholders or otherwise interested in an association known as the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal Company. The evidence upon the trial was that the plaintiffs had become the holders of a large amount of such notes as the following:

"No. 18667 D"

" 1 1"

"The Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal Co. promise to pay one dollar to R. McCurdy, or order, twelve months after date, for value received, at their office, Cincinnati, 9 Nov. 1840."

"SAM. E. FOOTE, Sec'y J. BONSALL Pres't"

"No. 1. Indorsed ''R. McCurdy'"

The court charged the jury as follows:

"That if the paper was issued under the directions or orders of the defendants and intended to circulate as currency, they would be liable in this action whether issued for the individual benefit of the defendants or for the benefit of the Cincinnati

Page 55 U. S. 150

& Whitewater Canal Company; that if the company had issued notes not intended to circulate as a currency, as bank paper generally does, in the ordinary form, but merely to pay off their creditors, the defendants would not be liable; that if the defendants, in issuing said notes, acted merely as directors of the Cincinnati & Whitewater Canal Company, and within the limits of their corporate powers, they would not be personally liable; but that said charter of said company did not authorize the issuing of notes designed or calculated to circulate as money, and therefore would not protect the defendants if the jury should be satisfied that they issued such notes; that although, in ordinary cases where notes are made payable to order, it may be necessary for a plaintiff to prove the endorsement, yet if the jury find in this case that these notes were issued and intended to circulate as a currency, it is not necessary to prove the handwriting of the endorser, and the mere fact of the plaintiffs having the notes in their possession is prima facie evidence of ownership."

The jury found a verdict for the plaintiffs for $3,452.10.

The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the judgment of the Court of Hamilton County and gave the following certificate:

"In this cause, the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas having been affirmed, it is now certified that this is the highest court of law in the State of Ohio in which a decision of this suit could be had, and that there is drawn in question the validity of statutes of the State of Ohio in which it is claimed by plaintiffs in error those statutes are in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and which statutes have been held valid and binding by this court notwithstanding such objections. And this certificate is ordered to be made part of the record."

The defendants brought the case up to this Court.

Page 55 U. S. 152

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