Hecklers v. Fowler,
69 U.S. 123 (1864)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hecklers v. Fowler, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 123 123 (1864)

Hecklers v. Fowler

69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 123


1. A declaration in covenant by a patentee, setting out a sealed contract by defendant to pay him a certain tariff in consideration of an exclusive right to use the patent within a certain district is good.

2. The practice of referring pending actions under a rule of court to arbitrators appointed by the court with the consent of both parties is a mode of prosecuting a suit to judgment as well established and as fully warranted as a trial by jury.

3. A reference to hear and determine all the issues in a case does not require the referee to report his finding in all. It is answered by his hearing and determining all and reporting the result.

4. A judgment in the circuit court, entered by the clerk without objection upon the report of the referee and pursuant to order of court and the agreement of parties, is valid and can be enforced.

John Fowler brought suit in the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York against John and George Heckers to recover damages for a breach of covenant. The declaration alleged that the plaintiff, who was the patentee of an improvement in making flour, had granted to the Heckers the right to supply a particular district with such flour &c., paying so much per barrel. Defense, that the patent was worthless, and that the plaintiff had failed to maintain its validity at his own cost, as he had agreed to do. Replication, issue, and joinder. While the case was thus pending, the attorneys of the parties agreed to refer it to a

"referee to hear and determine the same and all issues therein, with the same powers as the court, and that an order be entered making such reference, and that the report of said referee have the same force and effect as a judgment of said court."

One of the judges accordingly

"Ordered that the cause be referred to H. Cramm, Esq., to hear and determine all the issues herein, with the fullest powers ordinarily given to referees, and that on filing the report of the said referee with the clerk of the court, judgment be entered in conformity therewith the same as if the cause had been tried before the court."

The referee heard the case, and without stating what his findings were upon any of the several issues presented in the pleadings, made

Page 69 U. S. 124

the finding, simply and generally, that there was due to plaintiff, John Fowler, from the defendants, John and George Heckers, the sum of $9,500, besides costs, all which he "reported" to the court. On this, the attorneys of Fowler drew up the form of a judgment, and without the presence or action of the court except the order of reference already alluded to, filed it with the clerk, who thereon entered judgment as a judgment of the court for the amount reported, with costs. The defendant took this writ of error.

It is necessary here to state that, by the Code of New York, [Footnote 1] a referee is clothed with the attributes of a judge. A trial by him is to be conducted in the same manner as a trial by the court; he may grant adjournments, allow amendments, compel the attendance of witnesses. His decisions may be excepted to and revised as in cases of appeal from courts of record. It is also enacted, that

"the report of the referees upon the whole issue shall stand as the decision of the court, and judgment may be entered thereon in the same manner as if the action had been tried by the court. "

Page 69 U. S. 126

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