« PreviousContinue »
debt, but not conclusive. Lord Kenyon, indeed, in the case ef Gulbraith v. Neville (i), which was an action of debt on a judgment in the supreme court of Jamaica, said he entertained serious doubts concerning the doctrine laid down in the case of Walker v. Witter (2), that foreign judgments are not binding upon the parties here; and after referring to a case, which might seem to point against his opinion, he added, " that is not an authority for saying that we can revise the judgments of the lowest courts in foreign countries, where they have competent jurisdiction." However, Mr. Just. Buller, in the same case, said, " The doctrine which was laid down in the case of Sinclair v. Fraser has always been considered the true line ever since, namely, that the foreign judgment shall be prima facie evidence of the debt, and conclusive, till it be impeached by the other party." "As to actions of this sort," he continued, "see how far the court would go, if what was said in the case of Walker v. Witter were departed from. It was there held, that the foreign judgment was only taken to be prima facie evidence, that is, we will allow the same force to a foreign judgment, that we do to those of our own courts not of record (3): but if the matter were carried farther, we should give them more credit; we should give them equal force with those of courts of record here. Now a foreign judgment has never been considered as a record: it cannot be declared on, as such, and a plea of nul tiel record, in such a case, is a mere nullity. How then can it have the same obligatory force? In short, the result is this; that it is prima facie evidence of the justice of the demand in an action of assumpsit, having no more credit than is given to every species of written agreements, namely, that it shall be considered as good, till it is impeached." And, in the case of Philips v. Hunter ^4), Eyre C. J. said, "It is in one way only that the sentence or judgment of the court of a foreign state is examinable in our courts,
(1) 1 Doug- Rep. 5. H. (i).; and (3) Acc. Ld. Mansfield in Herbert S Em:, 475. n. (i). S. C. r. Cook, Witles Rep. 37. n. (v).
(1) I Doug. I. (4) a H, Black 410., io error.
and and that is, when the party who claims the benefit of it applies to our courts to enforce it. When it is thus voluntarily submitted to our jurisdiction, we treat it not as obligatory to the extent, to which it would be obligatory perhaps in the country in which it was pronounced, nor as obligatory to the extent, to which by our law sentences and judgments are obligatory, not as conclusive, but as matter in pais, as a consideration prima facie sufficient to raise a promise. We examine it, as we do all other considerations of promises, and for that purpose we receive evidence of what the law of the foreign state is, and whether the judgment is warranted by the law."
On Judgments in rem in the Exchequer, and by
A Judgment of condemnation in the court of Exchequer, where proceedings in rem have been instituted, is conclusive evidence in any other court, as to all the world, that the goods were liable to be seized (1). The jurisdiction of the court of Exchequer in this case is not only competent, but sole and exclusive: and though no formal or express notice is given to the owner of the goods in person, yet he has sufficient notice to try the point of forfeiture, by the seizure of his property, by the proclamations according to the course of the court, and by the writ of appraisement.
Whether a condemnation by the commissioners of excise ought to have the same conclusive operation, as a judgment of condemnation in the court of Exchequer, has not been clearly settled. In the case of Henshaw v. Pleasance, which was an action of trespass, brought against a revenue
(1) Scott v. Shearman, a Black. Rep. v. AguilUr, 7 T. R. 696. Bull. N. P. 979. Per Li. Kcnyon C. J. in Gtja 144.
officer, officer, for seizing goods supposed to have been irregularly lodged and concealed, a sentence of condemnation by commissioners of excise was offered as conclusive evidence against the plaintiff; but Mr. Just. Blackstone, who tried the cause (1), refused to admit it to that extent, directing the jury that such a sentence was evidence, but not, like a condemnation in the Exchequer, conclusive. On a motion afterwards for a new trial, upon this supposed misdirection, the court of Common Pleas confirmed the Judge's opinion. "The reasons and authorities, it was said, relied on in the case of Scott v. Shearman, and other cases of the same kind, extend only to condemnations in the Exchequer, which is the king's supreme court of revenue, but not to the inferior jurisdiction of the boards of excise and customs."
From the report of the case of Scott v. Shearman (2), it appears, that the ground of Mr. Just. Blackstone's opinion was, " that implicit credit ought to be given to any judgment in a court of record, which has competent jurisdiction of the subject-matter, and that the jurisdiction of the court of Exchequer was in such a case not only competent, but sole and exclusive." The opinions of C. J. De Grey and the other Judges are not reported. They agreed in thinking the judgment of condemnation in the court of Exchequer conclusive evidence of the right of seizure, but it does not appear, whether they thought it conclusive on the ground of its being a judgment of a court of record. Nor is this reason stated as the ground of determination in any of the authorities referred to by Mr. Just. Blackstone. A different principle was certainly established in the case of the Duchess of Kingston (3), where De Grey C. J. in an elaborate judgment delivered the unanimous opinion of the Judges; and it is observable, that he pronounced this judgment within a year after the determination of the court in
(1) Lond. Sitt. 1778, 1 Blac. Rep. (1) a Blac Rep.979. 1174. (3) See ante, p. 141.
the the case of Scott and Shearman. The principle there established is not confined to the judgments of courts of record, some of which are of a very inferior description, but extends equally to every court of competent or exclusive jurisdiction ; and the examples cited by C. J. De Grey, in illustration of this principle, arc all drawn from the proceedings in ecclesiastical courts, none of which are classed among courts of record. It seems therefore correct to infer, from the rule established in the Duchess of Kingston's case, as well as from analogy to several cases mentioned in the course of the present chapter, that a sentence of condemnation by commissioners of excise will be conclusive, on the right of seizure coming incidentally into question in any other court, in all cases where by act of parliament they have a sole or exclusive jurisdiction.
In support of this position, the following authorities may be cited. First, in an action of trover against commissioners of excise (1), for levying the plaintiff's goods by their warrant under statute 12 C. 2. c. 23., the point was, whether, after they had adjudged low wines to be strong wines perfectly made, their judgment could be drawn in question again, so as to make the officers chargeable. The Court gave judgment for the plaintiff, on the ground, that the defendants had exceeded their jurisdiction. Rainsford B. said, that the defendants might well enough have justified by virtue of an authority from the commissioners of excise, who are judges of the fact, and whose authority is not traversable by the plaintiff, and that the plaintiff here must have taken his remedy by appeal and no otherwise. But if the commissioners exceed their authority, and that appear to the Court, then their proceedings are coram norf judice, and an action of trespass lies. But if that does not appear, it must be otherw ise. Hale C. B., and the other judges present, argued to the same effect.
(1) Terry v. Huntington and Others, Grr-envclt v. Dr. Burwell, I Ld. Rayns. Hardr. 480., cited by Holt C. ). in Dr. 471.
In another case, which was an action of trespass against commissioners of excise (1) for taking the plaintiff's money, the defendants pleaded not guilty, and gave in evidence their warrant and a judgment against the plaintiffj on an information against him for an offence against an excise law. It was objected on behalf of the plaintiff that this judgment was not peremptory, and that the plaintiff in this, action was at liberty to disprove the truth of the matter of fact, upon which the defendants grounded their judgment. But this was denied by the Court, and a distinction was taken, namely, that if the commissioners had intermeddled with a thing which was not within their jurisdiction, then all is coram non judice, and that may be given in evidence upon this action; but it is otherwise, if they are only mistaken in their judgment in a matter within their cognizance, for that is not inquirable, otherwise than upon an appeal. >
A third case may be cited to the same effect. In an action of trover for a quantity of tea (2), it appeared in evidence that the plaintiff sent the tea for one Lloyd with a permit, but the porter in his way called at the house of one R., and set it down there, where the defendant, an excise officer, seized it as forfeited, for being brought to R.'s house for R.'s use, without a permit to that place, according to the statute 10 G. 1. c. 10. s. 16. Upon not guilty pleaded, the defendant, to shew that the property was out of the plaintiff, produced a condemnation by the commissioners of excise upon an information against R. for receiving this tea without a permit, which sentence, it was insisted, was conclusive evidence of that fact, being a judgment before a proper jurisdiction. On the other side it was insisted, that the plaintiff was no party to the suit; that R. had nothing to do with the tea; and that, if he made a feigned defence, or, as the case was, made default, yet the plaintiff ought not to be affected by that, but might
(1) Fuller v. Fotch, cor. Holt C. J., C J., sittings after E.,ster term 1742, Carth.346. Rep.temp.Holt,287,S.C. 1 Hargr. Law Tracts, p.468. u. from
(2) Roberts v. Formne, cor, Lee Ford's MS.