Deming's Appeal,
77 U.S. 251 (1869)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Deming's Appeal, 77 U.S. 10 Wall. 251 251 (1869)

Deming's Appeal

77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 251


Motion to reinstate a supposed legal tender case denied on the ground chiefly of laches; notwithstanding consent of the other side, the United States.

Latham and Deming being entitled, each of them, to recover a certain sum of money from the United States for work done prior to the Act of February 25, 1862, known as the first of the "Legal Tender Acts," appealed, after the passage of the acts, to the Treasury for payment. They demanded coin, but were offered and accepted paper, "protesting," when receiving the paper, against such mode of payment. They then brought, each of them, a suit in the Court of Claims against the government to recover the difference in value between the coin which they had asked for and the paper which they accepted. The Court of Claims decided against them, and they both appealed to

Page 77 U. S. 252

this Court. The cases were supposed to involve the question of the constitutional validity of the paper circulation issued by the United States under the acts of Congress named, and known as legal tender notes. And as Mr. Hoar, then Attorney General, had asked for the argument of them in order expressly that the question adjudged against the notes in Hepburn v. Griswold * might be reconsidered, the argument of them both was a matter to which public and professional attention was largely directed.

On the 1st of April last, the argument was fixed for the 11th of that month. When the 11th came, the hearing, owing to the engagement elsewhere of the appellants' counsel, was adjourned till the 18th, and on the 18th, another case being then on, till the 20th. On the 20th, Wednesday, Mr. Chatfield, of New York, counsel for Latham, and Mr. Merryman, of Washington, D.C., counsel for Deming appeared, and "feeling no desire," as they stated in a paper filed and signed by them,

"to trouble this Court any further with the consideration of the cases, took the occasion to withdraw them from the docket, and respectfully asked that they might be dismissed."

Mr. Hoar, who stated that he had come to the Court all ready to argue the cases, opposed the dismissal. But the Court, after a short conference, decided unanimously that an appellant had the right to withdraw his own suit, and the appeals were accordingly dismissed. The Chief Justice immediately afterwards, on that Wednesday, 20th, announced that the Court would not hear arguments after the following Tuesday (the 26th); that motions for the only Friday (regular motion day) remaining would be heard on that Tuesday, and that the Court would adjourn on Saturday the 30th. All the proceedings were published under the ordinary head of "The Courts," in the Washington and some other newspapers of the next day. On Tuesday, the 26th, the Court adjourned till the 30th, and then it met on the 30th, delivered opinions and adjourned till Monday, October 31st.

Page 77 U. S. 253

On the 5th of May, the mandate issued to the Court of Claims to carry the judgment into execution.

The Court having met again on Monday, 31st of October, Mr. Lander, new counsel in the matter, now, Friday, the 4th November, stated his desire to appear as counsel for the purpose of moving to reinstate Deming's appeals, and asked leave to appear for that purpose. The Court held the motion under advisement until Monday, 7th. On that Monday it gave him leave to appear; and having appeared, he immediately moved the reinstatement. Mr. Merryman, the former counsel, by note to Mr. Deming filed in the case, expressing his unwillingness, "under the peculiar circumstances of the case, to remain counsel any longer in the matter," suggesting the employment of Mr. Lander, and withdrawing personally from the case.

The ground of the motion now made by Mr. Lander to reinstate was an affidavit ex parte by Deming to the effect that his former counsel, Mr. Merryman, had been ill for some time prior to the already mentioned 20th April; that he went to court on that day in order to argue the case, but was met by Latham and persuaded by him to sign the motion to dismiss; that Latham had a power of attorney from him, Deming, to sell and assign his (Deming's) claim, and informed Mr. Merryman that his own (Latham's) counsel had resolved to dismiss that claim, and desired Deming's to be also dismissed, "saying that he had made such arrangements as would secure a successful prosecution of the said two claims in Congress," and that Deming's claim would certainly be paid; that Mr. Merryman not being able to see him (Deming), and believing that Latham from his supposed relations with the said claim of Deming also represented his wishes in the matter, signed the motion for dismissal; that while it was true that a power had been given to Latham to sell and assign the claim, yet "that the purpose for which the same was given had failed," and that Latham had no right to "dictate" as to the appeal then pending, and that the order of dismissal was made without the knowledge or consent of the affiant.

Page 77 U. S. 254

The affidavit further stated that the affiant was informed of the dismissal "soon thereafter" by his attorney, who upon hearing the true state of facts and the wishes of the affiant to have a decision of this Court on the case, made application to the then Attorney General, Mr. Hoar, for his consent to an application to rescind the order of dismissal, which consent was obtained upon the proviso that the cause could then be argued, but that as that was not practicable, by reason of the close approach of the adjournment of the court for the summer, the motion had been necessarily postponed till now.

The consent of the now Attorney General, Mr. Akerman, to the restoration was given by him in person, and also by writing filed.

No depositions of Mr. Merryman, or of Latham, or of Deming, were taken, nor was the power of attorney from Deming to Latham produced, or evidence given that it had been inquired for.

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