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decided: February 20, 1905.



Author: Harlan

[ 196 U.S. Page 439]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

At the present term the appellant suggested that Judge

[ 196 U.S. Page 440]

     Baker had been succeeded in office by Judge Ira A. Abbott. And it moved that such order be made in the premises as would be conformable to the rules and practice of this court. Judge Abbott consents that the action may be revived against him as the successor of Judge Baker, and proceed to a hearing, without further summons or notice, upon the record as now presented to the court.

The first question to be considered is whether it is competent for this court, Judge Baker having ceased to be judge, to substitute the name of his successor, as the appellee.

In United States v. Boutwell, 17 Wall. 604, 607, which was a mandamus against Mr. Boutwell as Secretary of the Treasury, it appeared that after the case was brought to this court the defendant resigned his office. Thereupon a motion was made to substitute the name of his successor, Mr. Richardson. It did not appear that any previous application was made to the latter for leave to substitute his name, and he opposed the motion, which was denied.

Mr. Justice Strong delivered the opinion of the court, saying: "The office of a writ of mandamus is to compel the performance of a duty resting upon the person to whom the writ is sent. That duty may have originated in one way or in another. It may, as is alleged in the present case, have arisen from the acceptance of an office which has imposed the duty upon its incumbent. But no matter out of what facts or relations the duty has grown, what the law regards and what it seeks to enforce by a writ of mandamus, is the personal obligation of the individual to whom it addresses the writ. If he be an officer, and the duty be an official one, still the writ is aimed exclusively against him as a person, and he only can be punished for disobedience. The writ does not reach the office. It cannot be directed to it. It is, therefore, in substance a personal action, and it rests upon the averred and assumed fact that the defendant has neglected or refused to perform a personal duty, to the performance of which by him the relator has a clear right. Hence it is an imperative rule that previous

[ 196 U.S. Page 441]

     to making application for a writ to command the performance of any particular act, an express and distinct demand or request to perform it must have been made by the relator or prosecutor upon the defendant, and it must appear that he refused to comply with such demand, either in direct terms or by conduct from which a refusal can be conclusively inferred. Thus it is the personal default of the defendant that warrants impetration of the writ, and if a peremptory mandamus be awarded, the costs must fall upon the defendant." The court proceeded: "It necessarily follows from this, that on the death or retirement from office of the original defendant, the writ must abate in the absence of any statutory provision to the contrary. When the personal duty exists only so long as the office is held, the court cannot compel the defendant to perform it after his power to perform has ceased. And if a successor in office may be substituted, he may be mulcted in costs for the fault of his predecessor, without any delinquency of his own. Besides, were a demand made upon him, he might discharge the duty and render the interposition of the court unnecessary. At all events, he is not in privity with his predecessor, much less is he his predecessor's personal representative. As might be expected, therefore, we find no case in which such a substitution as is asked for now has ever been allowed in the absence of some statute authorizing it."

That case was followed by United States v. Chandler, 122 U.S. 643; United States v. Lochren, 164 U.S. 701; Warner Valley Stock Co. v. Smith, 165 U.S. 28, and United States ex rel. &c. v. Butterworth, 169 U.S. 600, 604, 605. In the latter case the court, after referring to prior cases, concluded its opinion in these words: "In view of the inconvenience, of which the present case is a striking instance, occasioned by this state of the law, it would seem desirable that Congress should provide for the difficulty by enacting that, in the case of suits against the heads of Departments abating by death or resignation, it should be lawful for the successor in office to be brought into the case by petition, or some other appropriate method."

[ 196 U.S. Page 442]

     Later, Congress, its attention being thus called to the matter, passed the act of February 8, 1899, c. 121, by which it was provided: "That no suit, action, or other proceeding lawfully commenced by or against the head of any Department or Bureau or other officer of the United States in his official capacity, or in relation to the discharge of his official duties, shall abate by reason of his death, or the expiration of his term of office, or his retirement, or resignation, or removal from office, but, in such event, the court, on motion or supplemental petition filed, at any time within twelve months thereafter, showing a necessity for the survival thereof to obtain a settlement of the ...

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