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United States Supreme Court

68 U.S. 66

Ryan  v.  Bindley

THE Judiciary Act provides [1] that final judgments and decrees in civil actions and suits in equity in a Circuit Court, when the matter in dispute exceeds the sum or value of two thousand dollars, exclusive of costs, may by re-examined and reversed or approved in the Supreme Court. With this law in force, Bindley had sued Ryan in assumpsit in the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Ohio, and laid his damages at one thousand dollars. Ryan, however, put in a plea, insisting that Ryan owed him four thousand dollars, which sum he claimed a right to set off against Bindley's demand, and to have judgment against Bindley for the excess: a sort of defence and judgment allowed by the laws of Ohio and the practice of the Circuit Court of the United States for its districts, which herein by rule of court had adopted the practice of the State tribunals. The verdict found $575.85 for the plaintiff.

In the course of the trial the defendant offered himself as a witness; not being competent of course by the general laws of evidence which prevail in the Federal courts, and indeed being, by rule of the Circuit Court where the case was tried, made, as a party, specifically incompetent, but claiming to be competent by virtue of the Ohio code of civil procedure; one section of which [2] declares that 'No person shall be disqualified as a witness in any civil action or proceeding by reason of his interest in the event of the same, as a party or otherwise.'

The Circuit Court, holding to its own rule, rejected the witness; and on error here two questions were raised.

1. Did the sum involved exceed $2000 in such a sense as that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction?

2. Was the defendant in this suit rightly rejected as a witness?

Messrs. Lee and Fisher for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. Justice DAVIS delivered the opinion of the court:


^1  § 22.

^2  § 310.

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).