ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The act of 1869 has been heretofore presented to this court for consideration, and the effect of a judgment of a county judge determined. Orleans v. Platt, 99 U.S. 676; Lyons v. Munson, 99 U.S. 684. In the former case it was said:
"The county judge was the officer charged by law with the duty to decide whether the bonds could be legally issued, and his judgment was conclusive until reversed by a higher court."
"The county judge unquestionably had jurisdiction to decide upon the application made by the taxpayers. His judgment until reversed was final. If there were errors the proceedings should have been brought before a higher court for review by a writ of certiorari, and, if need be, the issuing and circulation of the bonds should have been enjoined, subject to the final result of the litigation. The judgment rendered can no more be collaterally attacked in this case than could any other judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction rendered with the parties, as in this case, properly before it."
It is objected that since those decisions the Court of Appeals of the State of New York has pronounced the very judgment on the strength of which these bonds were issued invalid. Craig v. Town of Andes, 93 N.Y. 405. In that case the Court of Appeals, by a bare majority, held that the petition was fatally defective because it was, as to some of the petitioners, conditional, and that, by reason thereof, it warranted no action by the county judge. But in the subsequent case of Calhoun v. Millard, 121 N.Y. 69, it was developed that Craig
v. Town of Andes was a collusive action, the town owning the coupons sued on and paying for the services of counsel on both sides. And it was held that the decision so obtained could not be considered as an adjudication binding the bondholders in any subsequent controversy between them and the town, the court saying: "We fully assent to the claim of the counsel for the bondholders, that an adjudication obtained under such circumstances ought not to stand in the way of a reexamination by the court of the grounds upon which it proceeded."
It is true that the court did not re-examine the proposition affirmed in the former opinion, but, after thus indicating that the question was open for further consideration, disposed of the case upon other grounds. The question must, therefore, be considered an open one in the courts of New York, and there is nothing in the decisions of those courts to compel a reexamination by us of our prior rulings.
Several objections, however, to the validity of this judgment are called to our attention, and require notice. The first and principal one arises out of the fact, considered vital by the Court of Appeals in the case of Craig v. The Town of Andes, supra, that the petition was, as to some of the petitioners, conditional. It is admitted that if the names of the conditional petitioners were stricken from the list, the remainder would not constitute a majority of the taxpayers, or represent a majority of the taxable property.The argument is that a conditional petition amounts to nothing. The unconditional petitioners were neither a majority of the taxpayers nor representing a majority of the taxable property. The statutory petition was never filed. The condition upon which action by the county judge could legally be had did not exist. He, therefore, never acquired any jurisdiction, and his judgment was coram non judice and void.
We are unable to assent to this contention. The petition as presented alleged that the petitioners were a majority of the taxpayers, and represented a majority of the taxable property. It thus stated the facts necessary to invoke the ...