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United States Supreme Court

53 U.S. 39

Parks  v.  Turner

THIS case was brought up, by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The plaintiffs, Turner & Renshaw, sued the defendant, Parks, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District, at New Orleans, to recover $5,969.22, due by promissory note executed by Parks to the plaintiffs. After exceptions overruled, the case was submitted to a jury, who returned the following verdict:--

'We, the jury, find for the plaintiff.

'New Orleans, May 14th, 1849.

'H. R. WOOD, Foreman;'

which, on motion, was set aside, and the case submitted to another jury, who returned the following verdict:

'We, the jury, find for the plaintiff.

'GEO. M. PINCKARD, Foreman;

'New Orleans, 15th May, 1849.

On which verdict the following judgment was entered:

'In conformity with the prayer of the petition and the verdict of the jury, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the plaintiffs, Turner & Renshaw, recover from the defendant, George W. Parks, the sum of five thousand nine hundred and sixty-nine dollars and twenty-two cents, with interest thereon, at the rate of six per cent. per annum, from the first day of January, A. D., 1848, until final payment, and costs of every nature.'

'Judgment signed 19th May, 1848.

(Signed,) THEO. H. McCALEB, U.S. Judge.'

Parks sued out a writ of error and brought the case up to this court.

It was argued by Mr. Henderson, for the plaintiff in error, and Mr. Mayer, with whom was Mr. Strawbridge, for the defendants in error.

Mr. Henderson, for plaintiff in error.

There are two most manifest errors in this case. First, in the verdict of the jury, which is found thus: 'We, the jury, find for the plaintiff.'

But the verdict specifies nothing which the jury find for the plaintiff, and is in direct opposition to Art. 522, Code of Practice; and is adjudged error by the Supreme Court of Louisiana. 13 La., 109; 14 Id., 344.

The second error is, that the court gave no reason for its judgment. This is fatal. It was the requirement of the Constitution of Louisiana of 1811, and is readopted in the new Constitution of 1845, wherein article 70 provides: 'The judges of all the courts within this state shall, as often as it may be possible so to do, in every definite judgment, refer to the particular law in virtue of which such judgment may be rendered; and in all cases, adduce the reasons on which their judgment is founded.' The cases in 4 Mart. (La.), 453, 4, 5, and in 12 La., 143, pronounce the judgment unconstitutional which furnishes no reasons for its decree. And the cases are numerous where this omission is adjudged error. 4 Mart. (La.), 463; 12 La., 143; 2d La. Ann., 59; 10 Mart. (La.), 56; 5 Id., 687-689; 11 La., 162; 13 Id., 13 and 108.

This court will of course take no notice that the rules of practice in the state courts furnish the rules of practice on the law side of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana. And we admit, that were these exceptions before the Supreme Court of Louisiana, that the court, after reversing the judgment, would substitute themselves for the jury, and give a new and correct judgment, without a verdict.

But this court has repeatedly decided that it cannot, in a law case, re-try the facts, as the Supreme Court in Louisiana may de. Therefore, on reversal for the errors above shown, this court will award a venire de novo.

The counsel for the defendants in error contended that there certainly was a verdict-and a legal and valid one-rendered by the jury, fully authorizing the judgment pronounced. If it be meant that the verdict is for no particular sum, we answer, simply, that this does not vitiate either verdict or judgment; although, in strictness of form, the sum should perhaps be specified. But 'the finding of a jury must be construed with reference to the pleadings. Trepagnier v. Durnford, 5 Mart. (La.), 452; Harrison v. Faulk, 3 La., 70. Thus, where a defendant, assuming the attitude of plaintiff in reconvention, had pleaded that the plaintiff owed him a larger specific sum than he owed plaintiff, and the jury found for defendant generally, without stating any amount, the court gave judgment in his favor for the difference or surplus. Orleans Nav. Co. v. Bingey, 6 Mart. (La.), N. S., 689; Irwin v. Ware, 1 Id., 645. So, in case of a judgment by the court for no specific amount, it must be construed with reference to the pleadings. Melancon's Heirs v. Duhamel, 3 Mart. (La.), N. S., 7; Rochelle's Heirs v. Cox, 5 La., 287.

In the present case, the prayer of the petition distinctly claims a specific amount, with interest and costs; and the verdict and judgment must of course be construed with reference thereto.

As to the last cause of error assigned-'That the judgment contains no reasons,' it is enough to reply, that the court could not decide otherwise than the jury found; and all reasons for judgment were therefore superfluous. Parks, although under section 23 of the State Act of 1839, p. 172, not really entitled to a trial by jury, had made them his judges, and they decided against him. The power of the court became thus limited to sanctioning their verdict. 'A judgment, which gives as the only reason why it was rendered-that the jury has found a verdict for plaintiff-will be held valid and sufficient.' McDonough v. Thompson, 11 La., 565.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the court.


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).