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Opinion of the Court.
the objection in the present case to the deposition of Johnson, taken in 1860, does not rest upon the ground that it is hearsay testimony, or that it does not come within the general principle which admits declarations of persons made during their lifetime of matters important to the location of surveys and objects showing the line of those surveys. Johnson's deposition of 1860, if it stood alone and was introduced upon the trial of this case for the first time as independent testimony in favor of plaintiffs, might be admissible. It is not necessary to decide that question, because such is not the character of the circumstances under which the testimony was admitted. As we have already said, there had been three trials of this action, during which Johnson was alive and was a competent witness for either party. All his testimony was given by way of deposition. This only renders the manner of taking it more deliberate, and if it was to be contradicted by anything he had said on former occasions, made it the more easy and reasonable that plaintiff should have called his attention to the former statements which they proposed to use. It will be observed that the plaintiffs did not introduce, or offer to introduce, this deposition of Johnson of 1860 as a part of their case, when it was their duty to introduce their testimony. They, therefore, did not rely on it as independent testimony in their favor. But after Johnson's deposition had been given in the case itself, and he had been cross-examined by the plaintiffs in that deposition in regard to his testimony, and after he was dead and could give no explanation of his previous testimony of 1860, which might show a mistake in that deposition, or give some satisfactory account of it consistent with his testimony in the principal case, this old deposition is for the first time brought forward to contradict the most important part of his testimony given on the present trial. The importance of this matter as it was presented to the jury will be readily understood when we revert to the fact that the two southern corners of the survey are established without question and are found on the San Andres River, and the controversy concerns the question whether the east line and the west line of that survey, which are straight lines almost due north, extend so far north that
Opinion of the Court.
the northern line between these lines is so far north as to include the survey of Daws under which plaintiff claims. In the principal deposition of Johnson, as we have seen by the bill of exceptions, he states that this survey commenced at the southwestern corner on the San Andres River and was run northward the distance called for in the grant, and actually measured by the chain. The northwest or second corner called for in the grant was established by him, the distance giving out in the prairie. From the northwest corner thus established, the second, the line was run for the course and distance called for in the grant, and the northeast corner established on two small hackberries on Cow Creek bottom. From the northeast or third corner thus established, the course was run to the San Andres River. This last line was marked but not measured, because it was not necessary to measure the closing line. In answer to questions on cross-examination, he said he did not begin at the southeast corner but he began at the southwest corner, and actually traced the lines in the order set forth in the field-notes. He said the field-book containing these notes ** I kept and examined, which I do not remember to have examined till a month ago, as herein before stated.” The deposition offered by plaintiff states distinctly that he began the Moreno survey at the southeast corner, and ran thence northerly. The north line was then run westwardly, and the third, if run at all, was run southward to the river. And he further says: “I am of the opinion that no western line was run but was left
but the eastern and northern lines were run and measured. It was not usual to measure the closing line.” It was admitted that the distance as measured on the ground from the northeast corner to a creek called for in the grant was some four thousand varas more than the distance called for, and the witness on cross-examinations in the principal depositions read by the defendant in this case, being asked to account for this discrepancy, said: “ The distances called on that line were not measured but guessed at. No part of the east line was measured.” The discrepancy between these two depositions is manifest, and that discrepancy is in a matter which relates directly to the question whether the Moreno grant as it
Opinion of the Court.
was surveyed included the land embraced within the Daws grant, under which plaintiff asserts claim. If the jury believed in the truth of the depositions of Johnson taken by the defendant in this case, at which he was cross-examined by the plaintiff, it affords the strongest evidence that the Daws claim was included in the lines of the Moreno survey. This deposition is supported by the field-notes and by the reference of Johnson himself to those field-notes a very little while before he gave his deposition. If, on the contrary, the eastern line was the one which was actually run and measured, beginning at the southeast corner of the survey on the San Andres River, then the fact that that line was actually run and measured would probably have a very great influence in the mind of the jury on the question in issue. And whether this was so or not, the contradictory statements of Johnson under oath might destroy the value of his testimony before the jury.
The circumstances under which the former statements of a witness in regard to the subject matter of his testimony when examined in the principal case can be introduced to contradict or impeach his testimony, are well settled, and are the same whether his testimony in the principal case is given orally in court before the jury or is taken by deposition afterwards read to them. In all such cases, even where the matter occurs on the spur of the moment in a trial before a jury, and where the objectionable testimony may then come for the first time to the knowledge of the opposite party, it is the rule that before those former declarations can be used to impeach or contradict the witness, his attention must be called to what may be brought forward for that purpose, and this must be done with great particularity as to time and place and circumstances, so that he can deny it, or make any explanation, intended to reconcile what he formerly said with what he is now testifying: While the courts have been somewhat liberal in giving the opposing party an opportunity to present to the witness the matter in which they propose to contradict him, even going so far as to permit him to be recalled and cross-examined on that subject after he has left the stand, it is believed that in no case has any court deliberately held that after the witness's
Opinion of the Court.
testimony has been taken, committed to writing and used in the court, and by his death he is placed beyond the reach of any power of explanation, then in another trial such contradictory declarations, whether by deposition or otherwise, can be used to impeach his testimony. Least of all would this seem to be admissible in the present case, where three trials had been had before a jury, in each of which the same testimony of the witness Johnson had been introduced and relied on, and in each of which he had been cross-examined, and no reference made to his former deposition nor any attempt to call his attention to it. This principle of the rule of evidence is so well understood that authorities are not necessary to be cited. It is so well stated, with its qualifications and the reasons for it, by Mr. Greenleaf in his work on Evidence, vol. 1, in SS 462 and 464 inclusive, that nothing need be added to it here except a reference to the decisions cited in his notes to those sections. See also Weir v. McGee, 25 Texas, Supplement, 20, 32.
It will thus be seen that the principle on which counsel for plaintiff in error objected to this deposition of Johnson is not in conflict with the case of Morton v. Folger, in 15 California, 275, nor with any case to which we are cited, decided by the Supreme Court of Texas. That ground, as stated in the bill of exceptions, is “that the deposition had been taken in another and different cause, between other parties, before the institution of this suit; and the same witness having testified in answer to interrogatories and cross-interrogatories propounded herein in 1877 and 1880, respectively, it was not competent as original evidence, nor admissible to contradict or impeach the testimony of the witness Johnson, as given in his deposition read by the defendant, notwithstanding the death of Johnson.”
We are very clear that the deposition of 1860 was improperly admitted, and its important relation to the issue tried by the jury was such that the judgment rendered on it must be reversed, and the verdict set aside and a new trial granted. There are other assignments of error, the consideration of which is not necessary in the decision of the case before us,
Statement of the Case.
which, with due attention to what we decided when the case was here before, to which we still adhere, may not arise in another trial.
HUME v. UNITED STATES.
UNITED STATES v. HUME.
APPEALS FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.
Nos. 102, 103. Submitted November 13, 1889. - Decided December 16, 1889.
When a contract is so extortionate and unconscionable on its face as to
raise a presumption of fraud or to require but slight additional evidence to justify such presumption, fraud may be set up as a defence in an action at law with the same effect with which it could be set up in equity as a ground for affirmative relief; and if articles delivered in performance of such an unconscionable contract have been accepted in ignorance, and under circumstances excusing their non-return, and they have some value, the amount sued for will be reduced to that value in the
judgment. Persons dealing with public officers are bound to inquire about their author
ity to bind the government, and are held to a recognition of the fact that government agents are bound to fairness and good faith as between
themselves and their principals. The plaintiff contracted in writing to sell to the government a quantity of
shucks at 60 cents a pound at a time when the market value of that article was 1 cents a pound. He delivered them and they were consumed in the government service. He then claimed to be paid at the contract price, which, being refused, he sued therefor in the Court of Claims : Held, that he could only recover the market value of the shucks.
The court in its opinion stated the case as follows:
Claimant filed his petition against the United States in the Court of Claims, averring that on the 9th day of August, 1883, he entered into a contract in writing with the Acting Secretary of the Interior Department for the furnishing of certain articles, constituting items in his proposal numbered 2, 9, 19, 32, 42, 56, 71, 77, 78, 79, 89, 90, 91, 97, 102 and 103, to the Government Hospital for the Insane near Washington, at rates