Thompson v. Selden
Annotate this Case
61 U.S. 194 (1857)
U.S. Supreme Court
Thompson v. Selden, 61 U.S. 20 How. 194 194 (1857)
Thompson v. Selden
61 U.S. (20 How.) 194
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The fifteenth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorizes the circuit court, upon motion and the notice thereof, to require a party to produce books or writings &c., and if a plaintiff shall fail to comply with such order, it shall be lawful for
the court, on motion, to give the like judgment for the defendant as in cases of nonsuit.
It is not enough for a defendant to give notice, and then move for a judgment of nonsuit. There must be a motion for an order to produce the books and papers.
This Court again decides that it rests in the sound discretion of the court below to grant or refuse a motion to continue a case, and a writ of error from such a judgment will not lie.
The facts of the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a writ of error to the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, upon a judgment rendered in that court in favor of the defendants in error, in a suit brought by them upon certain promissory notes set forth in the pleadings.
Sometime before the trial, a notice was served on Selden Withers & Co., the defendants in error, to produce certain books and papers mentioned in the notice, and that, unless they were produced at the trial, the plaintiff in error would move the court for a nonsuit, or for a like judgment as in cases of nonsuit; and an affidavit was made by the plaintiff in error, that the books and papers specified were necessary for his defense. Those applications and motions were afterwards repeated before the trial and at the trial, upon further affidavits and notices to the same effect, which it is not necessary here to set forth.
They were opposed by Selden Withers & Co., who were the plaintiffs in that court, and the motions were all overruled by the court. The exception does not state on what ground they were opposed, nor upon what ground they were overruled, and as far as the case is disclosed in the record, we see nothing in the rulings of the court to impeach its judgment.
The fifteenth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, under which these proceedings were had, authorizes the court, upon motion and due notice thereof, to require a party to produce books or writings in his possession or power, which contain evidence
pertinent to the issue, in cases and under circumstances where they might be compelled to produce the same by the ordinary rules of proceeding in chancery, and if a plaintiff shall fail to comply with such order, it shall be lawful for the court, on motion, to give the like judgment for the defendant as in cases of nonsuit.
The transcript does not show that any motion was made for an order upon the plaintiff to produce the books and papers mentioned in the notice. It shows that a motion was made to render a judgment of nonsuit for not complying with the notice, and also a motion for a continuance of the case. But the court is not authorized by the act of Congress to enter a judgment of nonsuit upon the failure of the party to comply with the notice. The notice is merely a preliminary proceeding to enable the party to bring before the court the motion for the order to produce, and when that motion is made, the party called on has a right to be heard, and he is not bound to produce the books and papers called for until the court shall order him to produce them, and is in no default unless he refuses or neglects to obey the order. The court were therefore right in refusing to enter the judgment, when no order had been moved for or granted.
And as regards the motion to continue the case, it has often been decided by this Court, that the refusal of an inferior court to continue a case to another term cannot be assigned for error here. justice requires that the granting or refusal of a continuance should be left to the sound judicial discretion of the court where the motion is made, and where all of the circumstances connected with it, and proper to be considered, can readily be brought before the court.
We think, therefore, that neither of the objections taken here can be sustained, and that the judgment of the circuit court must be