WAITE V. SANTA CRUZ, 184 U. S. 302 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Waite v. Santa Cruz, 184 U.S. 302 (1902)

Waite v. Santa Cruz

No. 39

Argued April 24-25, 1901

Decided February 24, 1902

184 U.S. 302


On the facts, as stated in the opinion of the Court, the City of Santa Cruz is estopped to dispute the truth of the recitals in the bonds in suit in this case, which stated that they were issued in pursuance of the act of California of 1893, as well as in conformity with the Constitution of California, authorizing it to incur indebtedness or liability with the assent of two-thirds of the qualified voters at an election held for that purpose, and that all acts, conditions and things required to be done precedent to issuing the bonds had been properly done and performed in due and lawful form as required by law.

The Circuit Court having correctly found that the parties who placed said bonds in the plaintiff's hands were bona fide purchasers, without notice

Page 184 U. S. 303

of anything affecting the truth of the recitals in them, the city cannot escape liability by reason of the fact, disclosed by its ordinances, that the eighty-nine first mortgage bonds of the water Company assumed by the city were included in its refunding scheme.

As to the question whether the person who signed said bonds was or was not, at the time of the signature, the rightful Mayor of Santa Cruz, this Court holds -- (1) that the acts of a de facto officer are valid as to the public and third persons, although it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the evidence is such as to warrant a finding that a particular act or acts, the legality of which may be in issue, were those of a de facto officer; (2) that a de facto officer may be defined as one whose title is not good in law, but who is in fact in the unobstructed possession of an office and discharging its duties in full view of the public in such manner and under such circumstances as not to present the appearance of being an intruder or usurper; (3) that in such a case, third persons, having occasion to deal with him in his capacity as such officer, are not required to investigate his title, but may safely deal with him upon the assumption that he is a rightful officer; (4) that if they see him publicly exercising such authority, and if they ascertain that it is generally acquiesced in, they are entitled to treat him as such officer, and if they employ him as such, they ought not to be subjected to the danger of having his acts collaterally called in question.

As the plaintiff does not own the bonds or coupons in suit in this case, but holds them for collection only, the circuit court was without jurisdiction to render judgment upon such of the claims in suit, whether bonds or coupons, owned by a single person, firm, or corporation, and which, considered apart from the claims of other owners, could not have been separately sued on by the real owner by reason of the insufficiency of the amount of such claim or claims.

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