Conway v. Stannard, 84 U.S. 398 (1873)
U.S. Supreme CourtConway v. Stannard, 84 U.S. 17 Wall. 398 398 (1873)
Conway v. Stannard
84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 398
Under the fifteenth section of the Act of July 18, 1866, 14 Stat. at Large 180, providing for the sale of unclaimed perishable property or property the expense of keeping which would reduce the proceeds of sale (as ex. gr., horses), of less value than $500, used in smuggling goods into the United States, the collector need not give the twenty days allowed by previous sections in the case of like property, nonperishable, for the
claimant to prefer his claim to it, and allow fifteen days' notice of sale, but may publicly advertise it for sale at once, on seizure, and proper certificate by appraisers of its value and character, and, after not less than one week's notice, may sell it.
Before the Act of July 18, 1866, was passed it was necessary, in all cases of seizure of property for violation of the revenue laws, to institute proceedings in court for its condemnation.
The statute referred to effected a change in the mode of proceeding where the property in question did not exceed in value $500, and provided a way in which the title of the owner could be divested without enforcing the forfeiture in court.
By the eleventh section, the seizing officer was required, after having caused the property to be appraised, to give notice for three successive weeks, describing the property, stating the time, place, and cause of seizure and requiring any person claiming it to appear and file his claim with the collector within twenty days from the first publication of such notice.
By the twelfth section, if a claimant appeared within the time prescribed, i.e., within twenty days from the first publication of this notice, filed his claim with the collector and gave proper bond, the forfeiture had to be enforced in the proper court as in cases exceeding $500 in value. But if no claimant appeared within that time, the officer was directed to advertise the property for sale, giving not less than fifteen days' notice of sale, and to deposit the proceeds of sale in the Treasury. By the thirteenth section, it was enacted that if it should happen that the owner, notwithstanding the publicity given to the transaction, did not know of the seizure and sale, and was not guilty of any intentional fraud on the revenue, the Secretary of the Treasury, on satisfactory proof of these facts, within three months from the deposit of the
money, might remit the forfeiture and restore the proceeds of sale.
The fifteenth section of the act -- the section on which the dispute in this case turned -- requires the officer, if the property, being of less value than $500, shall be certified on oath by the appraisers, in their belief, to be liable to perish or deteriorate by keeping, or cannot be kept without disproportionate expense, "and when no claim shall have been interposed therefor as hereinbefore provided," to advertise that he had seized and would sell it, giving not less then one week's notice of such seizure and intended sale.
This act of 1866 being in force, Stannard, as an officer of the customs for the District of Vermont, on the 14th of January, 1868, seized the horses harness, and sleigh of one Conway as being engaged in smuggling goods from Canada. He caused the property to be appraised immediately, and the appraisers finding it worth $191, and no claim being interposed, and the appraisers certifying their belief on oath that it was liable to speedy deterioration by keeping, and that the expense of keeping it would largely reduce the net proceeds of the sale of it, the collector gave public notice on the 15th that he would sell it on the 29th following, and accordingly did sell it on the said 29th of January -- that is to say, without allowing Conway twenty days from the notice of seizure within which to prefer his claim. The proceeds were paid into the Treasury.
Hereupon Conway brought trespass de bonis asportatis, in the court below, for taking and carrying away the horses &c.
The collector pleaded the facts as above given.
The plaintiff demurred to the plea, and the opinion of the judges being opposed upon the question whether the plea was a bar to the action, the question was certified for decision here.