Good v. Martin

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United States Supreme Court

95 U.S. 90

Good  v.  Martin

ERROR to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Colorado.

This action was brought by Ida Martin, the defendant in error, in the District Court of Arapahoe County, Colorado Territory, against Parker B. Cheeney, William N. Shepard, and John Good, as joint makers of a certain promissory note executed there June 29, 1866, and payable sixty days thereafter to the order of Alexander Davidson, by whom it was, before maturity, indorsed to the plaintiff. The note was signed by the first two defendants, and, before its delivery to the payee thereof, indorsed in blank by Good.

Judgment by default was rendered against Cheeney and Shepard. Good appeared, and pleaded the general issue.

There was a judgment against all the defendants, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the Territory. Good sued out this writ of error.

As the other facts in the case, as well as the assignments of error, are fully set out in the opinion of the court, they are omitted here.

Mr. Richard T. Merrick and Mr. M. F. Morris for the plaintiff in error.

1. The rule of law is, that a party whose name appears on the back of a negotiable instrument, under circumstances like those connected with this note, is prima facie an indorser; that parol testimony is admissible to show in what character he signed, whether as surety, guarantor, or indorser; that the presumption of law does not arise to charge the party as surety, but favors his being regarded as an indorser; and that it is incumbent on the plaintiff who seeks to make him liable as a maker to rebut that presumption. The instruction of the court on this point was, therefore, erroneous. Rey v. Simpson, 22 How. 341; Story, Pr., sect. 133.

2. The exclusion of the defendants Good and Shepard as witnesses, because of their interest, was also erroneous.

The sixteenth section of the act of Congress of Feb. 28, 1861, 12 Stat. 176, organizing the Territory of Colorado, provides that all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within that Territory as elsewhere within the United States. The act of July 2, 1864, 13 id. 351, declaring that in the courts of the United States no witness shall be excluded in any civil action because he is a party to or interested in the issue tried, is not locally inapplicable; and the territorial court, though but a legislative court, is still a court of the United States, entirely liable to be controlled in all things by the laws of Congress. There is, therefore, no reason why the latter act should not have been applied to this case.

Again, it does not appear very plainly why the territorial act of 1870, rendering parties to suits competent witnesses, though passed after issue was joined in this case but before the trial took p ace, should not have governed. The legislative power may modify or change existing remedies without thereby impairing the rights of parties, and questions of practice are to be determined in accordance with the forms in force at the time of trial. Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386; Baltimore, &c. Railroad Co. v. Nesbit, 10 How. 395.

Mr. H. C. Alleman, contra.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD 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).