EDMONSON V. BLOOMSHIRE, 74 U. S. 306 (1868)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Edmonson v. Bloomshire, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 306 306 (1868)

Edmonson v. Bloomshire

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 306




1. If it is apparent from the record that this Court has not acquired jurisdiction of a case for want of proper appeal or writ of error, it will be dismissed although neither party ask it.

2. An appeal or writ of error which does not bring to this Court a transcript of the record before the expiration of the term to which it is returnable is no longer a valid appeal or writ.

3. Although a prayer for an appeal, and its allowance by the court below, constitute a valid appeal though no bond be given (the bond being to be given with effect at any time while the appeal is in force), yet if no transcript is filed in this Court at the term next succeeding the allowance of the appeal, it has lost its vitality as an appeal.

4. Such vitality cannot be restored by an order of the circuit court made afterwards accepting a bond made to perfect that appeal. Nor does a recital in the citation, issued after such order, that the appeal was taken as of that date revive the defunct appeal or constitute a new one.

The Judiciary Act provides that final decrees in a circuit court may be reexamined, reversed, or affirmed here

"upon a writ of error whereto shall be annexed and returned therewith, at the day and place therein mentioned, an authenticated transcript of the record, and assignment of errors, and prayer for reversal, with a citation to the adverse party."

It further enacts that

"Writs of error shall not be brought but within five years after rendering or passing the judgment or decree complained of, or in case the person entitled to such writ of error be a feme covert &c., then within five years as aforesaid, exclusive of the time of such disability. "

Page 74 U. S. 307

By an amendatory act, appeals in cases of equity are allowed "subject to the same rules, regulations, and restrictions as are prescribed in law in case of writs of error."

With these provisions of law in force, John Edmonson, Littleton Waddell and Elizabeth, his wife, filed a bill in 1854 in the court below against Bloomshire and others to compel a release of title to certain lands, and on the 16th July, 1859, the bill was finally dismissed. On the 26th May, "an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was allowed," and the appellants ordered to give bond in $1,000. No further step was taken in the case till November 14, 1865, when a petition was filed in the circuit court reciting the decree and the allowance (May 26, 1860) of the appeal and setting forth the death of the plaintiff Edmonson intestate on the 30th June, 1862, leaving a part of the petitioners his only heirs-at-law, and that, on the 20th June, 1864, the plaintiff Elizabeth Waddell also died intestate leaving the other petitioners her only heirs-at-law, and that the interest of said intestates had descended to said petitioners as their respective heirs-at-law, and further setting forth that no appeal bond had been given under said order allowing the appeal. The prayer of the petition was that the petitioners be allowed "to become parties to the appeal and to perfect the same by now entering into bond for the appeal."

Thereupon, on the same 14 November, 1865, this entry was made by the court:


"v. 426 -- Petition to perfect appeal"


"And now come the said petitioners, and the court being satisfied that the facts set forth in said petition are true and that the prayer thereof ought to be granted, do order that said petitioners [naming the heirs of Edmonson], be admitted as parties plaintiff in the place of said John Edmonson, deceased, and that the said [naming the heirs of Mrs. Waddell], be admitted as parties plaintiff in the place of the said Elizabeth Waddell, deceased; and that said petitioners have leave to perfect said

Page 74 U. S. 308

appeal so allowed at the June Term, 1859, of this Court, by giving bond in the sum of $1,000, as therein provided."

An appeal bond was accordingly filed with and approved by the clerk November 22, 1865. A citation (duly served) was issued on the 8th December, 1865, reciting the allowance of an appeal at the October Term, 1865, of the court and citing the appellees to appear "at the next term of the Supreme Court, to be holden on the first Monday of December next." The transcript was filed here by the appellants for the first time on the 3d of January, 1866.

The case having been fully argued on the merits by Messrs. Stanbery and Baldwin for the appellants and by Mr. J. W. Robinson by brief, contra, it was suggested from the bench that doubts were entertained by it as to the jurisdiction of the Court over the case, the ground of the doubt, as the reporter understood it, being that while the record showed that the only appeal asked for or allowed was that of May 26, 1860, the transcript was not filed during the term next succeeding the allowance of the appeal, nor till January, 1866, and thus that while the appeal had been taken in time, the record had not been filed here in time to save it.

Page 74 U. S. 309

MR. JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the Court.

In the cases of Villabolos v. United States, and United States v. Curry, decided at the December Term 1847, and especially in the latter case, it was held, on full consideration, that whether a case was attempted to be brought to this Court by writ of error or appeal, the record must be filed before the end of the term next succeeding the issue of the writ or the allowance of the appeal, or the Court had no jurisdiction of

Page 74 U. S. 310

the case. This was repeated in The Steamer Virginia v. West, [Footnote 1] Mesa v. United States, [Footnote 2] and United States v. Gomez. [Footnote 3]

In Castro v. United States, [Footnote 4] the same question was raised. The importance of the case, together with other considerations, induced the Court to consider the matter again at some length. Accordingly, the present CHIEF JUSTICE delivered an opinion, in the course of which the former cases are considered and the ground of the rule distinctly stated.

Other cases followed that, and in Mussina v. Cavazos, decided at the last term, the whole doctrine is again reviewed, and the rule placed distinctly on the ground that this Court has no jurisdiction of the case unless the transcript be filed during the term next succeeding the allowance of the appeal. The intelligible ground of this decision is that the writ of error and the appeal are the foundations of our jurisdiction, without which we have no right to revise the action of the inferior court; that the writ of error, like all other common law writs, becomes functus officio unless some return is made to it during the term of court to which it is returnable; that the act of 1803, which first allowed appeals to this Court, declared that they should be subject to the same rules, regulations, and restrictions as are prescribed in law in writs of error. These principles have received the unanimous approval of this Court, and have been acted upon in a large number of cases not reported, besides several reported cases not here mentioned. And the Court has never hesitated to act on this rule whenever it has appeared from the record that the case came within it, although no motion to dismiss was made by either party. In fact, treating it as a matter involving the jurisdiction of the Court, we cannot do otherwise.

In the case of United States v. Curry, Chief Justice Taney, answering the objection that the rule was extremely technical, replied that nothing could be treated by this Court as merely technical, and for that reason be disregarded, which

Page 74 U. S. 311

was prescribed by Congress as the mode of exercising the Court's appellate jurisdiction. We make the same observation now, and add that it is better, if the rule is deemed unwise or inconvenient, to resort to the legislature for its correction than that the court should depart from its settled course of action for a quarter of a century.

We are of opinion that the present case falls within the principle of these decisions. The only appeal that this record shows to have been either asked for or allowed was that of May 26, 1860. The transcript was not filed during the term next succeeding the allowance of this appeal, nor until January, 1866.

Two grounds are assigned as taking the case out of the rule we have stated.

1. It is said that the appeal of 1860 was not perfected until the bond was given under the order of November 14, 1865, and that until this was done there was in fact no appeal which required the transcript to be filed.

The answer to this is that the prayer for the appeal and the order allowing it constituted a valid appeal. The bond was not essential to it. It could have been given here, and cases have been brought here where no bond was approved by the court below, and the court has permitted the appellant to give bond in this Court. [Footnote 5] In the case of Seymour v. Freer, [Footnote 6] the Chief Justice says that if, through mistake or accident, no bond or a defective bond had been filed, this Court would not dismiss the appeal, but would permit a bond to be given here. And in all cases where the government is appellant, no bond is required. It is not, therefore, an indispensable part of an appeal that a bond should be filed, and the appeal in this case must be held as taken on the 26th day of May, 1860.

It is insisted that this view is in conflict with the case of The Dos Hermanos. [Footnote 7] We do not think so. While the argument of counsel on the merits in that case is fully reported,

Page 74 U. S. 312

we have nothing from them on the motion to dismiss. The opinion of the Court states that the question made was whether the appeal was in due time, and this is answered by saying it was prayed and allowed within five years from the date of the decree. The appeal was therefore taken in due time. It is further said that the fact that the bond was given after the expiration of the five years did not vitiate the appeal. This is in full accord with what we have just stated. The bond may be given with effect at any time while the appeal is alive. There is no question made in the present case about the appeal's being taken within time. It was taken in time. But the record was not filed in the Court in time to save the appeal, and that question was not made or thought of in the Dos Hermanos case. It is perfectly consistent with all that we know of that case, and indeed probable, that though the taking of the appeal was delayed until near the expiration of the five years and filing the bond until after that period, the transcript was filed at the next term after the appeal was taken.

2. It is next insisted that a new appeal was taken by the proceedings of the 14th November, 1865.

This, however, is in direct contradiction of the record. The petition of appellants, after reciting the former decree and the order allowing the appeal of May 26, 1860, and the death of some of the plaintiffs in the suit, and that no appeal bond had been given, concludes as follows:

"Your petitioners now appear, and pray your honors to allow them to become parties to said appeal and to perfect the same by now entering into a bond for the appeal."

And the order made is, "that said petitioners have leave to perfect said appeal, so allowed at the June Term 1859, of this Court, by giving bond &c." The only appeal referred to in the petition or the order of the court is the appeal allowed May, 1860, and no language is used in either which refers to a new appeal, or which is consistent with such an idea.

It is true that the citation speaks of the allowance of the appeal as obtained at the October Term 1865, but this recital does not prove that an appeal was then allowed, when it

Page 74 U. S. 313

stands unsupported by the record. Still less can it be permitted to contradict what the record states to have been done on that subject at that time.

In the case of United States v. Curry, the same facts almost precisely were relied on as constituting a second appeal that exist in this case, including the misrecital in the citation. But the Court said

"That after very carefully considering the order, no just construction of its language will authorize us to regard it as a second appeal. The citation, which afterwards issued in August, 1847, calls this order an appeal, and speaks of it as an appeal granted on the day it bears date. But this description in the citation cannot change the meaning of the language used in the order."

That is precisely the case before us, and we think the ruling a sound one.

The appeal must, for these reasons, be dismissed. But we may add that for anything we have been able to discover in this record, the appellants have the same right now, whatever that may be, to take a new appeal that they had in November, 1865, when the unsuccessful effort was made to revive the first one.

[Footnote 1]

60 U. S. 19 How. 182.

[Footnote 2]

67 U. S. 2 Black 721.

[Footnote 3]

68 U. S. 1 Wall. 690.

[Footnote 4]

70 U. S. 3 Wall. 46.

[Footnote 5]

Ex Parte Milwaukee Railroad Company, 5 Wall. 188.

[Footnote 6]

72 U. S. 5 Wall. 822.

[Footnote 7]

23 U. S. 10 Wheat. 306.

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