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BAKER v. CUMMINGS.

decided: April 15, 1901.

BAKER
v.
CUMMINGS.



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

Author: PECKHAM

[ 181 U.S. Page 122]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the above statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

A perusal of the record in this case demonstrates at least how conservative Congress has heretofore been in relation to the adoption of any amendment of the law relating to pleading

[ 181 U.S. Page 123]

     and procedure in the District of Columbia. The last of the series of pleadings herein by which the question of the validity of the defence of res adjudicata was finally brought before the court is denominated "defendant's joinder of issue on plaintiff's second sur-rejoinder to defendant's fourth rejoinder to plaintiff's third replication." Replications, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders, rebutters, sur-rebutters and demurrers abound, and they all seem to have been regarded as properly filed for the purpose of presenting the question whether the decree in the equity case was res adjudicata or not. In reading these pleadings we seem to be transported back to the days when the practice of the special pleader had become a science by itself. In spite of the pleadings, however, the question before us is a simple one.

The plaintiff brought this action to recover from the defendant a certain amount of money alleged to be due on an account stated between the parties. The defendant, before pleading in the action, commenced a suit in equity for an accounting between himself as complainant and the defendant in the equity suit in relation to all partnership matters, and, as a part of the relief, prayed the cancellation of a written assignment made by complainant of his interest in the inspector cases of the partnership to the defendant, procured, as complainant alleged, by fraud. It was alleged that the items of the claim of Baker, the plaintiff this action, arose out of the partnership transactions, and they were included in the issue made in the equity suit. There was a full hearing in that suit in regard to all the matters between the parties, including those arising in this action. At the end of the hearing the trial court entered a decree in favor of the complainant for over $30,000, after deducting the amount claimed against him by the plaintiff herein. That decree was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, but upon appeal here both decrees were reversed and the cause remanded to the lower court with instructions to dismiss the bill. The court, upon the receipt of the mandate, did dismiss the bill with costs. The plaintiff in this action then proceeded with his case and set up, by leave of the court, the decree in the equity suit as an adjudication of all the matters relating to the validity of the defendant's set-off to his demand, and the question is, Shall

[ 181 U.S. Page 124]

     the adjudication be treated as conclusive upon those matters, or shall the inquiry be again entered upon as to the facts upon which the set-off rests?

Stated generally and without detail, the theory of the law is that matters which have once been fully investigated between the parties and determined by the court shall not be again contested, and that the judgment of the court upon matters thus determined shall be conclusive on the parties and never subject to further inquiry. The whole doctrine has been lately gone over in this court in Southern Pacific Railroad Company v. United States, 168 U.S. 1, and the law in regard to it is so well settled that other citations are not required. The question is not what the doctrine is, but does it apply to the particular case?

We have to inquire, therefore, whether the decree in the equity suit did cover and conclude the matters in difference, regarding the defendant's set-off in this action? If it did, that decree must be treated as conclusive, and the judgment of the court below refusing to give that character to it must be reversed.

It appears by the stipulation between the parties that the several items of account set forth in the defendant's plea of set-off in this action are respectively the identical items set up, referred to and claimed by complainant in the equity cause. The record in the equity cause is made a part of the record herein, and the facts upon which the complainant proceeded are set forth in the report of that case in this court, already referred to. The mandate from this court in that case, which by stipulation of counsel has been included in the record herein, sets forth our decree, which reversed the decree of the Court of Appeals with costs, and ordered that the cause be remanded to that court with directions to set aside the decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, and to remand the cause to that court with instructions to dismiss the bill. There was added the usual formula directing that such further proceedings be had in the cause in conformity with the opinion and decree of this court as ought to be had, etc. The proceedings, however, which were thus directed to be taken were simply to reverse the judgment of the lower court and to dismiss the

[ 181 U.S. Page 125]

     bill. It was not a conditional dismissal, without prejudice, or words to that effect, but a general one. A dismissal of the bill under such directions is presumed to be upon the merits, unless it be otherwise stated in the decree of dismissal. Walden v. Bodley, 14 Pet. 156, 161; Hughes v. United States, 4 Wall. 232, 237; Durant v. Essex Company, 7 Wall. 107; Bigelow v. Winsor, ...


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