French v. Shoemaker
Annotate this Case
79 U.S. 86 (1870)
U.S. Supreme Court
French v. Shoemaker, 79 U.S. 12 Wall. 86 86 (1870)
French v. Shoemaker
79 U.S. (12 Wall.) 86
1. Where the whole law of a case before a circuit court is settled by a decree, and nothing remains to be done unless a new application shall be made at the foot of the decree, the decree is a final one so far as respects a right of appeal.
2. Where there is nothing on the record to show to the court that the indemnity given by an appeal bond is insufficient, the presumption is that it is sufficient.
3. Where a party is perpetually enjoined and restrained by a decree of a circuit court from any proceeding whatever not in accordance with certain contracts which a complainant had applied to that court to make him, by injunction, observe, that court -- though an appeal here has been taken within ten days and an appeal bond with sufficient indemnity given -- may yet properly order the defendant to desist from a second
suit in another court of the United States to set aside the contract, just as above mentioned, passed on. And this although in such second suit new parties are introduced whom the circuit court had held were not necessary parties to the proceeding there. Such an order is not a misconstruction by the circuit court of its own decree.
These were two motions by the opposite parties in an appeal from a decree of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Virginia.
1. A motion on behalf of the appellee to dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction on the ground of the decree's being interlocutory and not final.
2. A motion on behalf of the appellant for a supersedeas or for any suitable order prohibiting the court from proceedings on the decree while the appeal was pending.
The case was thus:
In the year 1854, two persons, James S. French and Walter Lenox, subscribed for the whole stock of the Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company, then recently incorporated by the State of Virginia. French taking three-fourths and Lenox one-fourth, and French being made president of the company. The road was built. French and Lenox, however, spent very little money of their own in its construction, but raised large sums by borrowing. When, therefore, the road was built, the company was seriously embarrassed. Two deeds of trust had been executed in 1855, and in 1857 another deed was made to Lenox, as trustee, to secure bonds issued to raise money for the purposes of the road.
The civil war broke out when the road was in this condition, and French and Lenox went south and were disabled by the condition of the country and by the government's taking military possession of the road from asserting their title to the property.
During their absence, a proceeding was instituted in the Alexandria County Court for the removal of Lenox as trustee in the deed of trust to him, and this resulted in an order for such removal and for the substitution of one Stewart as trustee in his place. The new trustee proceeded in alleged conformity to the deed of trust to sell the railroad.
Under the sale thus made, a new company was organized which assumed the name of the Washington, Alexandria & Georgetown Railroad Company, and the government having relinquished the road in 1865, this company took possession of it at once, and not long afterwards entered into a contract with the Adams Express Company in relation to the conveyance of express freight and the furnishing by the latter of means to work the road. This contract did not prove satisfactory, and by consent of both parties, a lease for ten years was made to two persons named Stevens and Phelps in May, 1866, and in the following June, another contract for means of operation and for the conveyance of express freight was made for ten years with the Adams Express Company.
Litigation soon arose upon this lease and upon these contracts. One Davison, asserting himself to be a stockholder of the Washington, Alexandria & Georgetown Railroad Company, filed his bill in the Alexandria County Court in November, 1866, alleging that the lease was made without authority, and in fraud of the rights of the stockholders, and praying that it might be set aside and annulled. The Adams Express Company filed its bill about the same time, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Virginia, praying for the enforcement of its contract with the company and with the lessees, and under that proceeding, an order was made by the circuit court for the appointment of receivers of the road, who took possession.
The Adams Express Company was not a party to the suit in the state court, nor was the Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company a party to the suit in the federal court.
The Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company describing itself as that company by James S. French, its president, had already in March, 1866 (the government having with the suppression of the rebellion, given up, as already said, its possession, and French and Lenox having returned from the South), filed its bill in the Alexandria County Court asserting its title to the road, charging fraud in the whole proceeding for the organization of the Washington, Alexandria
& Georgetown Railroad Company, and praying that it might be declared void and that a decree might be made establishing its own original title to the road as unimpaired by that proceeding.
In this condition of conflicting claims, and with these and other suits pending, two instruments were executed with a view to adjust things between all the parties at issue, and who were the said French and Lenox, Stevens and Phelps, and one Shoemaker, representing the Adams Express Company. Two other persons, viz., Brent and Smith, also had an interest.
The transaction vested in Shoemaker the interest of French in the Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company as security to himself and the Adams Express Company for the repayment of the $5,000 then advanced, and the sums to be thereafter advanced in payment of the liabilities of the company, and of the lessees incurred on account of the road, and as security to all the parties for the performance of the covenants contained in the agreement, and especially for the reorganization of the company upon the rendering of a decree by the said Alexandria County Court establishing its title to the road, and for the distribution of the stock of the company among the parties in the stipulated proportions. These instruments, which made what might be called a sort of settlement contract, were intended as an adjustment of controversies relating to the Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company so far as the parties to it were concerned and as an arrangement for means to liquidate its just liabilities and put it into successful and profitable operation. The decree, on the rendering of which the contract was to be carried into effect, was rendered in the said Alexandria County Court on the 28th of August, 1868. It declared the sale by the trustee, Stuart, and the organization of the new company fraudulent, null, and void, and ordered that on execution of a bond in a sum specified to account to creditors for the receipts of the road, it should be "restored" by the officers of the so-called new company "to the possession of the Alexandria & Washington Railroad Company, its
duly constituted officers and agents." At the time of this decree, the road was in possession of the receivers appointed by the federal court at the suit of Adams Express Company.
In this state of things thus far completed, Shoemaker filed a bill in the court below, the Circuit Court for Virginia, against French, and French then filed a cross-bill against him. The original bill, after stating the rendering of the decree contemplated by the settlement contract, as just above mentioned, stating also the alleged equities arising from the contract, and the action of the parties to it, except French, charged that notwithstanding French's conveyance, and notwithstanding that a meeting had been held of all the parties to the contract to reorganize the road under the contract (he having been present), French, under color of the order of restoration, had executed a pretended bond in the sum specified in the order, as the bond required by the decree, and that he had ordered the clerk of the circuit court to issue a writ of possession ordering the restoration of the road and property of the company, and under color of this fraudulent and illegal proceeding had attempted to take possession of the road notwithstanding that it was at the time in possession of the receivers of the circuit court at the suit of the Adams Express Company, represented by the complainant; charging further that French was so reckless of his obligation to him, the complainant, Shoemaker, and so determined to prevent the execution of the reorganization of the company that unless enjoined, he would damage the interest of the complainant and the others irreparably. The bill prayed that French be enjoined from attempting to do any act as president of the said Alexandria & Washington Railroad Company, and from intermeddling with the road and property of the company, or with the parties to the agreement, or with the complainant in carrying out its provisions, or from holding any meeting for the reorganization of the company, or from taking any proceedings at law or in equity for that purpose, except by proceedings in the suit in which the bill was filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for Virginia, or by attending the meetings for the
purpose of such reorganization, and voting or using the interest he may have under the settlement, if he have any, for the quiet and proper object of the said meetings, and that his said interest be sold by a commissioner of the court for the payment of said sum of $5,000, according to the practice of the court, and that the complainant, in his own behalf and as trustee of said parties to said agreement, have such other and further relief as his case and their interest might require.
The answer of French admitted the execution of the contract, and that he was then and for some time afterwards satisfied with it, but proceeded to allege circumstances of hardship and imposition under which he was induced to become a party to it and various other matters supposed to show a want of equity in the complainant.
The matters set up in the answer were again set up in the cross-bill of French, together with other matter of complaint, as grounds for his prayer that the settlement contract might be annulled, and the parties to it be restrained from all attempts to enforce any pretended rights under it. The point too was taken in the cross-bill that Stevens and Phelps were necessary parties to the original bill.
The answer of the original complainant to this bill denied every substantial allegation of fact on which relief against the contract was claimed.
The decree was thus made, Chase, C. J., presiding:
"This cause coming on to be heard upon the bill, answer, and replication, and upon the cross-bill, answer, and replication, and upon the proofs, and being maturely considered, the court is of opinion that the equity of the case is with the complainant in the original bill, and thereupon do order, adjudge, and decree that James S. French, the defendant in the original bill, be perpetually enjoined and restrained from any use of the name or title of the president of the Washington & Alexandria Railroad Company under any election to that office heretofore held, and from any action by himself or any attorney or agent to interfere with any proceeding for the reorganization of the said company under the contracts mentioned in said bill and dated on the 6th of December, 1867, and from any proceeding whatever not in accordance
with the said contracts, without prejudice, however, to the right of the said French to the stock assigned to him by said contract or to assert any claim he may have against said company reorganized under said contract or against the said Shoemaker, or against the Adams Express Company not in contravention of the said contract, or to pursue by proper proceedings in law or equity any claim he may have in respect to the distribution of stock made in and by said contract founded upon the failure of consideration or other cause."
"It is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the said defendant, French, pay the costs in this cause, and leave is given to either party to apply at the foot of this decree for such further order as may be necessary to its due execution or as may be required in relation to any matter not finally determined by it."
From this decree an appeal to this Court was immediately and within ten days asked for by French, and allowed by the Chief Justice, "upon the defendant's giving bond with good and sufficient security in the sum of $500." The bond, &c., was given.
In this state of things, the bill and cross-bill in the equity suit, on which the decree has just above been given, having been, as the reader will have observed, a proceeding between French and Shoemaker alone, and the objection to the bill for want of proper parties taken and overruled, French began a suit in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia against all the parties to the settlement contract except Shoemaker for the purpose of setting aside the agreement. His bill being demurred to because Shoemaker was not a party, and the demurrer being sustained, Shoemaker was added.
Hereupon, on the application of Shoemaker to the Circuit Court of Virginia, that court ordered French to dismiss his bill in the District and to stop proceedings under pain of imprisonment. He dismissed his bill.
It was in this state of things that the two motions mentioned at the opening of the report (on page <|79 U.S. 87|>87), came before this Court.