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PARKER v. ORMSBY.

decided: May, 1891.

PARKER
v.
ORMSBY.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEBRASKA.

Author: Harlan

[ 141 U.S. Page 82]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

By an act of Congress approved February 25th, 1889, it was provided that in all cases where a final judgment or decree shall be rendered in a Circuit Court of the United States in which there shall have been a question involving the jurisdiction of that court, the party against whom the judgment or decree is rendered shall be entitled to an appeal or writ of error to the Supreme Court of the United States to review the judgment or decree without reference to its amount; but in cases where the decree or judgment does not exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, this court is not to review any question raised upon the record except such question of jurisdiction. 25 Stat. 693, c. 236.

This case comes here under that act. The question of the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, in which this suit was brought, arises out of the following facts: C. M. Parker executed at Lincoln Nebraska, September 7th, 1886, his promissory note for $2000, payable on the 7th day of September, 1891, with semiannual interest from date at the rate of eight per cent per annum, the interest coupons and the note being payable to Walter J. Lamb or order, at the Lancaster County Bank, in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was provided in the note that any interest coupon not paid when due should bear interest at the rate of eight per cent per annum from maturity; and if any interest remained unpaid for thirty days after it matured the holder could elect to consider the whole debt due and collectible at once; also, that in case an action was brought for the collection of the note, the maker was to pay, as attorney's fees, a sum equal to ten per cent of the amount due. The note and interest coupons were secured by a mortgage given by Parker and wife upon real estate in the city of Lincoln.

[ 141 U.S. Page 83]

     Upon the back of the note and coupons were the following endorsements: "Pay L. L. Ormsby or order. Lancaster County Bank, Lincoln, Neb. F. O. Metcalf, cashier. Pay Lancaster County Bank or order. I waive demand, notice, protest and notice of protest, and guarantee the payment of the within note. W. J. Lamb."

The whole debt having become due by reason of default in meeting the interest, this suit was brought, December 13th, 1889, by Lucinda L. Ormsby against the appellants, Charles M. Parker and Emma Parker, his wife, and Martha L. Courtney, the relief sought being a decree for the sale of the mortgaged premises to pay the amount due, and for a personal judgment against Charles M. Parker for any deficiency remaining after the sale.

The bill avers that the plaintiff is a citizen of Illinois, and that the defendants are citizens of Nebraska. It contains, however, no averment as to the citizenship of Lamb, the original payee in the note and coupons as well as the mortgagee.

A decree was rendered finding due the plaintiff the sum of $2520.80, the aggregate of the principal and interest of the note and coupons and costs, including attorney's fees. The mortgaged premises were ordered to be sold to raise that sum.

Did the court below have jurisdiction of this case? If jurisdiction did not affirmatively appear, upon the record, it was error to have rendered a decree, whether the question of jurisdiction was raised or not in the court below. In the exercise of its power, this court, of its own motion, must deny the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, in all cases coming before it, upon writ of error or appeal, where such jurisdiction does not affirmatively appear in the record on which it is called to act. Mansfield &c. Railway Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382; King Bridge Co. v. Otoe County, 120 U.S. 225, 226; Cameron v. Hodges, 127 U.S. 322, 325.

The judiciary act of 1789 provided that the District and Circuit Courts of the United States should not "have cognizance of any suit to recover the contents of any promissory note or other chose in action in favor of an assignee, unless a

[ 141 U.S. Page 84]

     suit might have been prosecuted in such court to recover the said contents if no assignment had been made, except in cases of foreign bills of exchange." 1 Stat. 78, c. 20, § 11. The act of March 3, 1875, provided that no Circuit or District Court should "have cognizance of any suit founded on contract in favor of an assignee, unless a suit might have been prosecuted in such court to recover thereon if no assignment had been made, except in cases of promissory notes negotiable by the law merchant and bills of exchange." 18 Stat. 470, c. 137, § 1. The provision in the act of March 3, 1887, determining the jurisdiction of the Circuit Courts of the United States and for other purposes, as amended by that of August 13, 1888, is in these words: "Nor shall any Circuit or District Court have cognizance of any suit, except upon foreign bills of exchange, to recover the contents of any promissory note or other chose in action in favor of any assignee, or of any ...


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