Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

77 U.S. 22

McKee  v.  Rains

ERROR to the Circuit Court for Louisiana.

Louise Rains brought trespass, November 26th, 1866, in one of the State courts of Louisiana against McKee (who was marshal of the United States), Cady, and others, sureties of McKee in his official bond. The petition and supplemental petition alleged a forcible entry into the dwelling-house of the petitioner by the defendants McKee and Cady; violent eviction and exclusion from a great part of it, and seizure of a large quantity of valuable furniture, with special circumstances of aggravation, all which unlawful acts were perpetrated by McKee under the pretence of lawful authority as United States marshal. The petitioner claimed damages against the defendants, McKee and Cady, and against the other defendants, sureties of the former, to the amount of $50,000.

The defendants answered, alleging that the seizure was lawful, and authorized by a writ of execution out of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana, directed to the defendant, McKee, as marshal, and commanding him to make out of the property of his codefendant, Cady, the sum of $3841, and upwards; and that the property seized was the property of Cady.

Upon these pleadings the case went to the jury, who found for the plaintiff $7500, and judgment was entered upon the verdict.

Afterwards a petition was filed by the defendants in the State court for the removal of the cause into the Circuit Court of the United States: the petition alleged among other things that the defendants could not enforce in the State tribunal the rights guaranteed to them by the act of Congress of April 9th, 1866. [1] The act thus referred to provides for the removal, before or after judgment, of any suit or prosecution commenced in a State court against any officer or other person for any arrest or imprisonment or other trespass or wrong, made or committed during the rebellion, by authority derived from any act of Congress, on application of the defendant at the time of entering his appearance.

A prior act (one, to wit, of 3d March, 1863), [2] not referred to in any way in the petition, provides that if any suit or prosecution, civil or criminal, has been or shall be commenced in any State court against any officer, civil or military, or against any other person, for any arrest or imprisonment made, or other trespass or wrongs done or committed at any time during the present rebellion, by virtue of any authority derived from any act of Congress, the defendant may (on certain conditions) remove the case to the next Circuit Court.

The petition for removal was granted and an order for removal made accordingly. Upon the filing, under this order, of the record from the State court in the National court, an order was made, upon a rule to show cause to the contrary, for remanding the case to the State court; and McKee and the other defendants now brought this order of remand by writ of error before this court; alleging that it ought not to have been made.

Mr. Durant, for the plaintiffs in error:

The suit was for a 'trespass' committed by the marshal. The marshal derives his authority from 'an act of Congress.' The case seems, therefore, to fall within the words alike of the act of March 3d, 1863, and that of April 9th, 1866: though the latter one being the only one referred to in the petition is the only one on which we chiefly insist.

Mr. P. Phillips, contra:

The case is not at all within the spirit of either of the acts of Congress relied on, nor even within their words. The taking of the writ of error is an effort on the part of executive officers to shield themselves from trespasses by invoking the authority of the United States, and thus transferring their cases of Federal jurisdiction; not a noval effort in this court, and denounced whenever made. [3]

The object of the removal to the Circuit Court, and its removal from the Circuit to this court, is so obviously to baffle and delay the plaintiff below in the collection of her judgment, that it justifies the application which we now make for an affirmance of the judgment, with damages at the rate of ten per cent. per annum, under the 23d Rule, which authorizes such damages wherever the writ 'shall delay the proceedings on the judgment of the inferior court, and shall appear to have been sued out merely for delay.' [4]

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  14 Stat. at Large, 28.

^2  12 Ib. 756-7.

^3  Day v. Gallup, 2 Wallace, 97; Buck v. Colbath, 3 Id. 334; Millingar v. Hartupee, 6 Id. 259.

^4  Prentice v. Pickersgill, 6 Wallace, 511.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).