« ForrigeFortsett »
solely upon a state law, the courts of the United States would follow the construction given by the highest courts of the State to the state law, we do not deem it necessary now to say, for, without reference to the doctrine announced in the previous cases and without regard to the import of the case of Cramer v. Wilson, the contention as to the want of jurisdiction is without merit. It is to be observed that the matter certified by the Supreme Court of Ohio was made by that court a part of the record, and, if it be considered as having the force of an opinion of that court, would clearly establish the fact that the court had considered and decided a Federal question, which, apart from other considerations, would obviously give jurisdiction. But even if the action of the court be treated as not an opinion, but a mere certificate, the same result would follow. It is elementary that the certificate of a court of last resort of a State may not import a Federal question into a record where otherwise such question does not arise, it is equally elementary that such a certificate may serve to elucidate the determination whether a Federal question exists. Applying this principle, we think as the suit was brought by a trustee in bankruptcy in virtue of the power and authority conferred upon him by a law of the United States, the certificate makes clear the fact, if it were otherwise doubtful, that rights under the bankrupt law were relied upon and passed upon below. And as, this being true, the right of the trustee in bankruptcy to recover thus depended upon a law of the United States, there was clearly jurisiliction within the purview of section 709 of the Revised Statutes. Nutt v. Knut, 200 U. S. 12.
Coming to the merits, we premise that if the court below had found the facts we should be bound thereby. Here, however, as we have seen, the court below did not find the facts, but instructed a verdict for the defendant, being of the opinion that upon no view of the evidence was there a case made which would have justified a verdict for the plaintiff. This raises a question of law, which is this: Was the evidence such as would have justified the jury, under any reasonable view thereof, to
find for the plaintiff; in other words, was there sufficient evidence to warrant the submission of the case to the jury? This brings us to consider the evidence, in order to ascertain what inferences, one way or the other, might reasonably have been drawn by the jury therefrom.
Outside the testimony of the trustee, as to the insolvency of the bankrupt estate, the only evidence introduced was the testimony of John Field, manager of the Columbus Clearing House Association. By that testimony the following facts were disclosed:
Prior to the bankruptcy of Reinhard & Company that firm carried on a banking business in the city of Columbus, Ohio, and the firm, as well as the City Deposit Bank Company, were members of the clearing house association. In order to accomplish the purpose of its existence the clearing house association was an agent, for a limited purpose, of the banks composing the association, that is, its duty was to clear or balance daily the claims of the respective banks, one against the other, resulting from the checks drawn upon and held by the different members. The only source from which the association derived the means to carry on its operations was from assessments upon the members, which were made solely for the purpose of paying rent, salaries, and similar expenditures. To effect the clearings each member of the association, on banking days, sent to the clearing house, at a specified hour, the checks held by it against other banks. The checks sent by each member were considered as remaining the property of the member, the association being simply an agent for collection. Where the sum of the checks presented by one bank exceeded the sum of the checks against it presented by other members of the association, that bank had, of course, a credit balance. Where the checks presented by a particular bank against other banks were less than the sum of the checks against it presented by other banks, that bank had a debit balance. Where a bank was entitled to a credit or payment corresponding to the excess which the sum of the checks presented by it exceeded the sum
of the checks against it, the clearing house paid that bank the difference by drawing its check upon one or more of the debtor banks; and each member constituted the manager of the association its agent to draw a check or checks upon such member for any balance found to be due by that member.
In making the clearings on April 9, 1900, the day before the assignment of Reinhard & Company, the checks presented against that firm in the clearings exceeded the checks presented by it against other banks by $1,161.74, that is, Reinhard & Company, as a result of the clearing, was inclebted in that amount. On the same day the City Deposit Bank presented in the clearings checks drawn upon other banks which exceeded by $10,245.63 the amount of the checks presented against that bank; in other words, as a result of the clearings it was entitled to receive the amount of money just stated. In payment of the balance the clearing house gave to the City Deposit Bank a check on Reinhard & Company for the sum due by that firm, viz., $1,161.74, and a check upon the Capital City Bank for $9,083.89. There was nothing in the evidence to show upon what bank the checks were drawn which were held by the City Deposit Bank on April 9, and which it presented for clearing on that day, nor was there anything in the evidence to show upon what banks the checks were drawn which were presented by Reinhard & Company for clearing on the same day. The check of the clearing house on Reinhard & Company for the balance due by that firm in the clearings, and which, as we have said, was given to the City Deposit Bank, was not on that day presented by the City Deposit Bank to Reinhard & Company for payment. On the contrary, the City Deposit Bank held the clearing house check until the next day. When on the morning of the tenth of April the City Deposit Bank presented its checks for clearing, it treatel the clearing house check on Reinhard & Company as being entitled to participate in the clearing and included it in the checks presented for that purpose.
On the morning of April 10 the checks as presented to the
clearing house by the City Deposit Bank, including the clearing house check, exceeded the amount of the checks presented against it by other banks in the sum of $4,875.98; and the clearing house gave to the City Deposit Bank its check on the Deshler National Bank for that sum. On that day the checks presented by Reinhard & Company against other banks aggregated $2,132.19, whilst the checks against it presented by other banks amounted to $6,369.30, leaving a balance due by Reinhard & Company in the clearing of $4,237.11. Shortly after the clearing was made it developed that Reinhard & Company had made a general assignment for the benefit of their creditors and had suspended payment, and as a result, of course, it was certain that the firm of Reinhard & Company would not meet its obligations. The rules of the clearing house had provided for such a contingency as follows:
“In case of failure to respond promptly to the checks of the manager, on the part of any member of the association, they shall be immediately returned to the manager, who shall call upon the other banks or bankers to make up the sum for which payment has been refused in proportion to the amount of checks upon the defaulting member sent into the clearing house at the preceding settlement, which sums so furnished or contributed shall constitute claims in the hands of the responding members respectively against the defaulting members, and it is hereby agreed that the checks received from the clearing house by the defaulting members shall be delivered, if required, to the member owning the same without mutilation; the agency of the clearing house in the matter, it is understood, is only as a trustee, and in no case is the association to be held responsible for any loss that may occur."
All the checks drawn against Reinhard & Company and which figured in the morning settlement were returned to the clearing house with the information that Reinhard & Company had failed. The clearing house thereupon revised the previous settlements by deducting, wherever appearing, the credits which had been given for checks drawn on Reinhard & Com
pany, which had been presented by other banks, and changed the balances to correspond with such deductions, and the dishonored checks were returned to the respective banks. Having thus returned all the checks which had been presented against Reinhard & Company on that morning, the entire sum which had been collected on the checks sent to the clearing house by Reinhard & Company on the same morning for the purpose of the clearing, viz., $2,132.19, remained in the hands of the clearing house without any debit against it. Being thus in possession of the sum referred to, the manager testified that he paid $970.45 thereof to the Commercial Bank and the balance of $1,161.74 to the City Deposit Bank. With a view of making the payment to the last named bank, the manager went to the office of the City Deposit Bank. Conflicting versions were given of what took place at the interview, which was had with an officer of the City Deposit Bank named Jennings. The manager at first testified:
"I told him that the Reinhards had failed, and that his check had been returned, and that I had a balance due Reinhard & Company, and that I would substitute a check on the Capital City Bank for this check on Reinhard, which had been returned. Mr. Jennings said that he would—I think he said he would telephone Mr. Outhwaite, and if it was all right he would return my check, the Reinhard check.
Subsequently, referring to checks which the witness had carried to the City Deposit Bank to give to that bank in exchange for the prior check of $4,875.98, he said: “It runs in ту mind
that I told him that I wanted to substitute those, and that he asked me what for, and I told him not to ask any questions-I am not sure about thatthat I wanted to substitute those checks."
Certain it is, however, that the manager took up the checks for $4,875.98 drawn on the Deshler Bank, which has been given to the City Deposit Bank in clischarge of the crcilit balance in its favor as the result of the previous clearing of that (lay, and substituted for it a check for $3,714.24, drawn on the Deshler