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Statement of the Case.
court was applied for to compel the Louisville and Nashville to pay the amount of the judgment. The court considered the suggestion which had been made, in the opinion of the Court of Appeals, as not binding on it, and hence declined to allow the rule on the ground that the Louisville and Nashville not having been named as a defendant in the proceeding could not be by rule condemned to pay the judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the trial court and directed the rule to issue as prayed for. The court in effect held that as the affidavit by which the rule was supported in substance charged that the Louisville and Nashville prior to and during the entire suit had operated the roads from which the revenues accrued which were in controversy, and that that corporation had in substance volunteered in the cause to defend the same in the name of the technical defendant; had carried on the defence through its own counsel, had paid all the expenses of the litigation; the officers of the corporation which was technically a defendant being the officers of the Louisville and Nashville, therefore, the Louisville and Nashville had had under the laws of Kentucky due notice of the suit, and ample opportunity to defend, in fact had actually carried on the defence, and could bence be condemned by rule to pay the judgment. The trial court thereupon entertained and issued the rule, which was served on the Louisville and Nashville. That corporation for answer to the rule said, among other things:
First. “That it is not a party to this suit. It has not been named in any pleading in the case as a party, and there is no averment made in any pleading in the case against this respondent, or that is applicable to this respondent, and no judgment or order has ever been entered in this case against this respondent, and no process has ever issued against or ever been served on this respondent.”
Second. “There has never been a time from the institution of this suit up to this time when this respondent could, with propriety, have filed an answer setting up its defences against the alleged claim of the plaintiff, and to require it now to pay into court upon this rule the amount stated in the rule, or any other amount, would be to deprive this respondent of its prop
Opinion of the Court.
erty without due process of law, contrary to the Constitution of the United States in such cases made and provided."
The answer then pleaded a set-off to the amount of $16,524.37, which it was claimed the Louisville and Nashville should be allowed if it was held bound to pay the judgment. The conclusion of the answer was as follows: “Wherefore having fully responded, this respondent prays that the rule herein be discharged.” The court, having expressed in a careful opinion its view that the Louisville and Nashville could not be condemned, by rule, because it had not been a technical party to the record, nevertheless, considering itself bound by the action of the Court of Appeals, made the rule absolute, and entered a decree against the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, condemning it to pay the judgment, subject to the set-off which had been pleaded in the answer to the rule, and this judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the State of Kentucky as a delay case. By an allowance of a writ of error the cause is now here for review.
Mr. Helm Bruce and Mr. James P. IIelm for plaintiff in
Mr. H. W. Bruce was on their brief.
Mr. John G. Simrall and Mr. Edmund F. Trabue for defendant in error. Mr. Temple Bodley, Mr. John C. Doolan, Mr. Benjamin F. Washer and Mr. James S. Pirtle were on their brief.
Mr. JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.
It is no longer open to contention that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States does not control mere forms of procedure in state courts or regulate practice therein. All its requirements are complied with, provided in the proceedings which are claimed not to have been due process of law the person condemned has had sufficient notice and adequate opportunity has been afforded him to defend. Iowa Central Railway v. Iowa, 160 U. S. 389; Wilson v. North Carolina, 169 U. S. 586.
Opinion of the Court.
The claim of the plaintiff in error (the Louisville and Nashville) is that the decree rendered against it did not constitute due process of law, first, because it had no notice of the suit, it not having been summoned as a party defendant; and, second, that as it was not made a nominal party defendant and served with process as such, it had no adequate opportunity to make defence. In support of the second contention various provisions of the Kentucky law have been referred to in the argument, from which it is deduced that the Louisville and Nashville would have been without right in the proceeding brought, not against it, but against the Cincinnati and Lexington, to make defences which may have appertained and been relevant to the Louisville and Nashville, and might not have related to the Cincinnati and Lexington, the party defendant on the record. But the answer to these contentions is that the necessary effect of the opinion and decree of the court of last resort of Kentucky, is to hold, first, as a matter of fact, that, although not a technical defendant, the Louisville and Nashville became voluntarily, in the name of the Cincinnati and Lexington, the real, although not the nominal, defendant in the cause, and during the long years of this protracted litigation was in legal effect an actor in the courts of Kentucky seeking, by every possible means, to defeat the claim of the plaintiff. The conclusions of fact found by the court of last resort of Kentucky are not subject to reëxamination by this court. Clearly, also, the inevitable result of the conclusion of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky is that it was the duty of the Louisville and Nashville, having come in voluntarily in the cause to defend its interest, under the name of the technical defendant, if it had defences which were personal to itself, to have made such an appearance on its own behalf as to enable it to make them, and that the statutes of Kentucky not only authorized this course, but obliged the Louisville and Nashville to have followed it. Accepting as we do the interpretation placed by the courts of last resort of Kentucky on the law of that State, the contention of the plaintiff in error is at once demonstrated to be without merit. Besides the conclusiveness of what we have just said, there is another view which is equally decisive. The record shows no offer of any defence whatever, by
Opinion of the Court.
the Louisville and Nashville, which was refused by the courts below. On the contrary, every defence made is shown to have been entertained, fully considered and to have been ultimately decided. The argument then reduces itself to this : That one who has voluntarily appeared in a cause and actively conducted the defence is to be held to have been denied, by the courts of the State, the right to make a defence which was never presented. Moreover, even if we put out of view altogether all the proceedings had in the original cause during the many years when the suit was pending, and confine our attention solely to the events which took place after the application for the rule to show cause, on the Louisville and Nashville, the same conclusion is rendered necessary. It is undoubted that the Louisville and Nashville was made a party defendant to the rule in the most technical sense, and was actually served. It made answer and asserted its set-off. The mere fact that the proceeding to hold it liable was by rule does not conflict with due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, for, as we have seen, forms of procedure in the state courts are not controlled by the Fourteenth Amendment, provided the fundamental rights secured by the amendment are not denied. But it is argued whilst it is true the effort by rule to enforce responsibility for the judgment did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, and service of the rule was adequate notice, yet no opportunity to defend was afforded, because all right to defend had been cut off by the previous judgment. In effect it is asserted the rule summoned the corporation to show cause why it should not pay a judgment to which, under the previous decree, there was no right on its part to make any defence whatever. In other words, it is said the right to proceed by rule was upheld by the Kentucky court because the Louisville and Nashville was bound by the judgment and therefore the rule rested on an assumption which precluded the setting up of any defence to it. But the answer to this argument is plain. Although the Louisville and Nashville appeared in response to the rule, pleaded its set-off, and declared that its answer constituted a full response, no defence personal to itself of any other character, except the set-off, was pleaded or suggested in any form whatever. The argument, therefore,
Opinion of the Court.
asks us to say that the Louisville and Nashville in the proceeding in which it was duly served, and to which it responded and as to which it had its day in court, was deprived of defences which it never asserted, and that due process of law was not administered to it because it was unheard in respect to matters concerning which it made no claim. But this court cannot be called upon to conjecture that defences existed which were not made and to decide that proceedings in a state court have denied due process of law because defences were denied, when they were not presented. And especially must that be so where the court of last resort of the State, on review of all the proceedings, has held that full opportunity to make every defence was afforded. True it is that in Rees v. City of Watertown, 19 Wall. 107, 123, it was said: “Whether in fact the individual has a defence
is not important. To assume that he has none, and therefore that he is not entitled to a day in court, is to assume against him the very point he may wish to contest.” But this truism was stated with reference to a case where it was argued that a condemnation without notice could be justified on the assumption that if notice had been given no defence could have been made. Manifestly, the principle can have no application to a case where there was notice, and the presumption which we are asked to invoke is that although no defences were pressed they may have possibly existed.