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decided: March 4, 1895.



Author: Brown

[ 156 U.S. Page 683]

 MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

Motion was made to dismiss the appeal in this case, upon the ground (1) that the appearance of Mr. Henry A. Root, as counsel for the appellant herein, which was entered at the time the case was docketed, was unauthorized by him, and

[ 156 U.S. Page 684]

     made without his knowledge; and (2) that the appeal bond is defective in failing to state the term at which the decree of the Circuit Court was rendered.

1. So far as the first ground is concerned, it appears that Mr. Root, then residing in the city of New York, was solicitor for the defendant in the court below; that he had taken no steps to sever his connection with the case, by substituting other counsel; and that his appearance in this court was entered at the time the case was docketed, by other counsel, in good faith, and by virtue of a supposed authority from him. Under these circumstances, and, inasmuch as other counsel have appeared and taken charge of the case, the appellant should not lose his right to a review of the case by this court through a mistake which not only appears to have been purely accidental, but one which could not possibly have prejudiced the appellee. It was held by this court in the case of United States v. Curry, 6 How. 106, 111, and Tripp v. Santa Rosa Street Railroad, 144 U.S. 126, that service of a citation on appeal upon the solicitor in the court below was good, upon the ground that no attorney or solicitor can withdraw his name after he has once entered it without the leave of the court; and while his name continues on the record the adverse party has the right to treat him as the authorized attorney or solicitor, and service of notice upon him is as valid as upon the party himself. That even after the case is finally decided the court will not permit an attorney who has appeared at the trial to withdraw his name, and thus to embarrass and impede the administration of justice. While it does not follow that the attorney or solicitor in the court below is presumed to continue as such, after the docketing of the case in this court, the fact that Mr. Root had charge of the case in the Circuit Court might have induced the counsel, who entered his appearance in this court, to believe that it was authorized by him. As the petition was signed and sworn to by the appellant in person, there can be no claim that the appeal was taken without authority.

2. The second ground is that the appeal bond is defective, in failing to mention the term at which the decree was rendered.

[ 156 U.S. Page 685]

     This ground is also insufficient. To a person reading the bond, there could be no mistaking the identity of the decree appealed from. The bond is properly entitled in the cause, the name of the court is correctly given, and there is nothing to indicate that a decree had been rendered in any other cause between the same parties in that court. Of a similar mistake it was said by the Chief Justice in New Orleans Insurance Co. v. Albro Co., 112 U.S. 506, 507: "The better practice undoubtedly is to specify the term in describing the judgment, but the omission of such a means of identification is not necessarily fatal, and certainly, before dismissing a case on that account, opportunity should be given to furnish new security."

3. The facts of this case are not complicated, nor its merits difficult to understand. Henry P. Wakelee held six promissory notes, executed by Davis, in August and September, 1869. On September 30, 1869, Davis was adjudicated a bankrupt upon his own petition, in the District Court of California, and in July, 1873, Wakelee applied for and was granted leave to reduce his claim to judgment in the state court. On July 19, 1873, Wakelee brought suit in the District Court of the Fifteenth Judicial District of California, and obtained a judgment in the following November, upon a service by publication only, in the sum of $22,760.26 in gold. As Davis, who then lived in New York, was never served with process, and never appeared in the action, such judgment was undoubtedly void. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714.

Subsequently, and in December, 1875, Davis filed his petition for discharge, and Wakelee filed specifications of opposition thereto, which Davis moved to dismiss upon the ground that Wakelee had reduced his claim to judgment, since the commencement of the bankruptcy proceedings; that such judgment was in full force, and (argumentatively) would be unaffected by the discharge. The court took this view, cancelled the proofs of debt, and dismissed the specifications of opposition to his discharge. Wakelee did not appeal. The question before us is, whether Davis is now estopped to claim that the judgment is void for want of jurisdiction.

[ 156 U.S. Page 686]

     Defendant's principal contention is that a court of equity has no jurisdiction of this case, not only because a bill will not lie to enjoin a person from setting up a defence in an action which may never be brought, but that the plaintiff may avail herself of the alleged estoppel in pais in any action at law she may choose to bring upon the California judgment. Bills in equity to enjoin actions at law are not infrequently brought by defendants in such actions to enable them to avail themselves of defences which would not be valid at law. Examples of such bills are found in the case of Drexel v. Berney, 122 U.S. 241, wherein a bill was sustained by a defendant in an action at law, to enjoin the plaintiff in such action from setting up certain facts, of which it was claimed she was equitably estopped to avail herself in such action; and in the recent case of Wehrman v. Conklin, 155 U.S. 314, decided at the present term, in which a bill was sustained by a defendant in ejectment, to enjoin the plaintiff from availing himself of a deed, against the use of which he was held to be equitably estopped. Analogous cases are ...

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