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Opinion of the Court.
more than 60 per cent, and such payment was made, after Vietor & Achelis had refused to take 60 per cent, by agreement between the attorneys of Cleaveland, Cummings & Woodruff, and of Vietor & Achelis, that the latter should receive 80 per cent.
We are of opinion that the facts set forth in the tenth finding fail to show that the payment of the 20 per cent to Vietor & Achelis was a voluntary payment. They had brought a suit by attachment on their claim, against their debtors, and the suit was about to be tried. There was evidently no defence to it, and a judgment for the full amount of it would be recovered, and it was secured by attachment. A settlement of the entire claim for 80 per cent would be a saving of 20 per cent, and would, to that extent, increase the assets of the firm, which were not quite sufficient to pay the 60 cents on the dollar which the firm proposed to pay on the mercantile debts, and which they had paid, by April, 1884, and prior to the transaction with Vietor & Achelis, on debts amounting to $373,000. Under these circumstances, the payment of the 20 per cent to Vietor & Achelis was not voluntary.
It appears by the bill of exceptions that the defendants objected to the evidence tending to show that Vietor & Achelis were paid more than 60 per cent, on the ground that such payment was not made voluntarily, but that the court held that, under the paper of December 29, 1883, signed by Cleaveland, Cummings & Woodruff, any payment over 60 per cent was made voluntarily, unless the claim had gone to judgment. If the claim had gone to judgment, the payment over 60 per cent would have been 40 per cent; and we do not see that the payment of the 20 per cent, at the time it was made, was any the less involuntary than would have been the payment of the 40 per cent after judgment had been obtained.
In Carey v. Barrett, 4 C. P. Div. 379, certain creditors of the defendant signed an agreement, to which the plaintiff assented, setting forth that they, in consideration of ten shillings in the pound on their respective debts, agreed to accept the same in discharge of those debts, “ the whole of the creditors receiving not exceeding a like sum in discharge of their
Opinion of the Court.
debts.” At the time the agreement was entered into, it was known that the debtor was being sued by a creditor for a sum
money which was afterwards paid in full the day before the cause was ripe for trial. In consequence of this, the plaintiff sued the defendant to recover a part of his unpaid debt. The court (Lord Coleridge, C. J., and Lindley, J.) held that the agreement of compromise was limited to the creditors who signed it, and that, even if that were not so, the payment to the creditor who was paid in full, being made under pressure, and not in pursuance of a prior arrangement to give him a preference, did not render the transaction void. Lord Coleridge said that the payment in full “ was not the less a payment under process of law, because the debtor did not wait to incur the expense of a judgment and execution.”
In Radich v: Hutchins, 95 U. S. 210, 213, it is laid down that where there is an actual or threatened exercise of power possessed over the property of another by the party exacting or receiving a payment, there is coercion or duress, which will render a payment involuntary; and the case of Mayor of Baltimore v. Lefferman, 4 Gill, 425, is cited, which holds, that when a payment is made to emancipate property from an actual and existing duress imposed upon it by the party to whom the money is paid, the payment is to be regarded as compulsory. The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded to the
Circuit Court with a direction to enter judgment for the defendants on the findings of fact.
MR. JUSTICE MILLER dissented.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE Fuller, having been of counsel in this case, did not sit in it or take any part in its decision.
Opinion of the Court.
UNITED STATES v. DAVIS.
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR
THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND.
No. 1033. Submitted November 4, 1889. – Decided December 9, 1889.
A regulation by the President to fix the length of service and compensation
of special deputy marshals, or supervisors of elections, appointed in pursuance of the provisions in Rev. Stat. $$ 2012, 2016 and 2021, if it has any validity, cannot have a retroactive effect.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Cotton for appellants.
On the 2d day of December, 1887, the appellee, Tyler Davis, brought suit against the United States in the District Court of the United States for the District of Maryland, under the act of March 3, 1887, 24 Stat. 505, giving to the District Courts of the United States concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Claims in suits against the United States where the amount in dispute does not exceed $1000, (with a few exceptions not necessary to be considered in this case,) to recover the sum of $25, alleged to be a balance due him for services performed as a special deputy marshal at the Congressional election of 1886, in the city of Baltimore, in that State.
Issue having been joined upon a demurrer filed by the plaintiff to the answer of the United States, the court found the facts and the law in favor of the plaintiff, and rendered judgment in his favor for the amount demanded. The United States appealed.
At the last term of this court the case was before us on a motion to dismiss the appeal upon the ground that the United States were not entitled to appeal from a judgment of the District Court against them where the amount in dispute was less than $5000. The motion was denied, the court holding
Opinion of the Court.
that, under the act of March 3, 1887, supra, appeals from the District Court were governed by the same law as applied in the case of appeals from the Court of Claims in like cases. 131 U. S. 37. The case is now here on its merits.
There is no dispute as to the facts. As found by the court below, they are as follows:
“(1) The plaintiff was duly appointed and commissioned special deputy marshal of election for the 18th ward of Baltimore City, in the State of Maryland, by George H. Cairnes, Esq., United States marshal for the district of Maryland, on the 3d day of September, A.D. 1886, in pursuance of section 2021 of the United States Revised Statutes, and the supplements and amendments thereto, and he duly qualified and entered upon his duties.
“(2) The laws of Maryland governing registration for Congressional and other elections in the city of Baltimore require that the officers of registration, for the purpose of correcting the lists of qualified voters, shall sit with open doors in the several wards of the city, from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M., for fifteen successive days, commencing on the first Monday of September, and afterwards, for the purpose of revising the lists, for three (3) successive days, commencing on the — Monday of
" (3) The plaintiff, in pursuance of his said appointment, and of the provisions of section 2016 of the Revised Statutes, which authorized and required the supervisors of elections to attend at all times and places fixed for the registration of voters, who, being registered, would be entitled to vote for a representative or delegate in Congress, and to personally inspect and scrutinize such registration, and in pursuance of section 2021, which made it his duty, when required thereto, to aid and assist the supervisors of election in the verification of any lists of persons who may have registered, did attend to said registration in the said ward for which he was appointed for the purpose of aiding and assisting the supervisors of election, for fifteen days in September, A.D. 1886, and for three days in October, 1886, being October 4th, 5th and 6th
in said year.
Opinion of the Court.
“(4) The United States marshal for this district, on the 10th of October, 1886, received from the Attorney General of the United States a circular letter, in which he notified the marshal that “it is not expected that supervisors and deputy marshals will receive compensation for more than five days' services, and they should be so informed. Within this time all can be done, it is thought, that ought to be done.'
“(5) The plaintiff was on duty and had performed eighteen days of proper and necessary service as special marshal before the circular letter of the Attorney General, relied upon in the answer of the United States, had been received."
Section 2031 of the Revised Statutes provides, among other things, that “there shall be allowed and paid to . each special deputy marshal, who is appointed and performs his duty under the preceding provisions, compensation at the rate of five dollars per day for each day he is actually on duty, not exceeding ten days."
The defence relied upon by the United States is, that the President had authority to regulate the length of service and compensation of a special deputy marshal or a supervisor of election; and that, having such authority, and having undertaken, through the Attorney General, to make such regulations, by the circular letter aforesaid, those regulations are binding upon inferior officers. Upon the facts in this case, it is to be observed that the question of the authority of the President to make the regulations mentioned does not arise here; for, as shown by the findings of fact, the services for which compensation is demanded were performed prior to the date when the circular letter was issued from the Attorney General's office. They were performed under the statutes mentioned, and compensation must be made accordingly. Whether the President had the power to make the regulations prescribed by the above-mentioned circular or not, they manifestly cannot have a retroactive effect, so as to invalidate a claim for services performed before they were in existence. The judgment of the court below is