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decided: November 4, 1889.



Author: Harlan

[ 132 U.S. Page 111]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court. After stating the case as above reported, he continued:

The question of power in the county court to subscribe to the stock of the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railway Company, without a previous vote of the people, and to issue bonds in payment of its subscription, was directly presented and determined, upon full consideration, in County of Scotland v. Thomas, 94 U.S. 682, decided in 1876. The coupons there in suit were of the same issue of bonds as those from which the coupons in the present suit were detached.It is true that that case was determined upon demurrer to the complaint. But that fact does not weaken the force of the decision, so far as it bears upon the question of legal authority in the county court to make the subscription. The record and opinion in that case show that it was stipulated between the parties that the question of subscribing to the stock of the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railway Company had never been submitted to a vote of the qualified voters of Scotland County, and that, in determining the demurrer, the court should consider that fact, as if it had been averred in the complaint. It was also agreed that the court should consider as facts admitted the articles of consolidation betwen the Iowa Southern Railway Company and the Alexandria and Nebraska City Railroad Company, and the above orders of the county court of Scotland County. It was held that the privilege given to the Alexandria and Bloomfield Railroad Company, by its charter of 1857, of receiving county subscriptions, was not extinguished by the subsequent consolidation in 1870 of that company with other companies, but passed with its other rights and privileges into the new condition of existence arising from such consolidation; that, in making the subscription in that case, which is the identical subscription here in question, the county court acted "as the representative authority of the county itself, officially invested with all the discretion necessary to be exercised under

[ 132 U.S. Page 112]

     the change of circumstances brought about by the consolidation;" that the subscription was binding upon the county; and that the bonds issued in payment were valid obligations. It was also distinctly ruled, in accordance with County of Callaway v. Foster, 93 U.S. 567, and with previous decisions of the Supreme Court of Missouri, that the prohibition in the state constitution of 1865, of municipal subscriptions to the stock of, or loans of credit to, companies, associations or corporations, without the previous assent of two-thirds of the qualified voters at a regular or special election, had the effect to limit the future exercise of legislative power, but did not take away any authority granted before that constitution went into operation. The doctrines of that case were reaffirmed in County of Henry v. Nicolay, 95 U.S. 619, 624, (1877); County of Schuyler v. Thomas, 98 U.S. 169, 173, (1878); County of Cass v. Gillett, 100 U.S. 585, 592, (1879); and County of Ralls v. Douglass, 105 U.S. 728, 731, (1881) -- all cases arising in the State of Missouri, and relating to municipal bonds, issued under legislative authority granted before the adoption of the constitution of 1865. See also Menasha v. Hazard, 102 U.S. 81; Green County v. Conness, 109 U.S. 104; and Livingston County v. Portsmouth Bank, 128 U.S. 102. In County of Ralls v. Douglass attention was called to State ex rel. Wilson v. Garroutte, 67 Missouri, 445, and State ex rel. Barlow v. Dallas County, 72 Missouri, 329, holding, views different as well from those announced by this court in the cases above cited, as those previously announced by the state court in State v. Macon County Court, 41 Missouri, 453, Kansas City &c. Railroad Co. v. Alderman, 47 Missouri, 349, Smith v. Clark County, 54 Missouri, 58, 70, and State v. County Court of Sullivan, 51 Missouri, 522. But this court declined to reconsider its former decisions to the prejudice of bona fide holders of bonds issued prior to the change of decision in the state court. The bonds, the coupons of which are here in suit, were all issued in 1871, at which time the highest court of Missouri held that the above constitutional provision, as to municipal subscriptions or the loaning of municipal credit to corporations without a previous vote of the people, was intended,

[ 132 U.S. Page 113]

     (to use the language of County of Ralls v. Douglass,) "as a limitation on future legislation only, and did not operate to repeal enabling acts in existence when the constitution took effect."

We pass to the consideration of the controlling question in the case, namely, whether Hill's rights, as a holder of these coupons for himself and others, are affected by the final decree in the suit instituted in the state court by Wagner and others.

At the first trial of the present, action, the county offered to read in evidence the record of the Wagner suit in support of its plea averring, among other things, that Hill, and each previous holder of these coupons, had full, actual notice of the institution and object of that suit. It also offered to read in evidence the indemnifying bond of September 21, 1871, and, also, to prove by Mety, the trustee of the county, that he had actual notice of the pendency of the Wagner suit, at the time he delivered the bonds to the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railway Company. There was also an offer to prove that the railway company "and each subsequent holder" received the bonds with actual notice of the pendency of that suit. The Circuit Court excluded all of this evidence. This court held that such exclusion was improper, and for that reason the judgment was reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. Scotland County v. Hill, 112 U.S. 183.

Chief Justice Waite, delivering the opinion of the court, said; "The suit was about the bonds, and the liability of the county thereon. The decree was in accordance with the prayer of the bill, and certainly concluded both Mety*fn1 and the railroad company. After the rendition of this decree, the company could not sue and recover on the bonds, because, as between the company and the county, it had been directly adjudicated that the bonds were void and of no binding effect on the county. But it is equally well settled that the decree binds not only Mety and the company, but all who bought the bonds after the suit was begun, and who were chargeable

[ 132 U.S. Page 114]

     with notice of its pendency, or of the decree which was rendered. The case of County of Warren v. Marcy, 97 U.S. 96, decides that purchasers of negotiable securities are not chargeable with constructive notice of the pendency of a suit affecting the title or validity of the securities; but it has never been doubted that those who buy such securities from litigating parties, with actual notice of the suit, do so at their peril, and must abide the result the same as the parties from whom they got their title. Here the offer was to prove actual notice, not only to the plaintiff when he bought, but to every other buyer and holder of the bonds from the time they left the hands of Mety, pending the suit, until they came to him. Certainly, if these facts had been established, the defence of the county, under its fourth plea, would have been sustained; and this whether an injunction had been granted at the time the bonds were delivered by Mety or not. The defence does not rest on the preliminary injunction, but on the final decree by which the rights of the parties were fixed and determined."

The court also said: "It is a matter of no importance whether the decision in the Wagner suit was in conflict with that of this court in Scotland County v. Thomas, supra, or not. The question here is not one of authority but of adjudication. If there has been an adjudication which binds the plaintiff, that adjudication, whether it was right or wrong, concludes him until it has been reversed or otherwise set aside in some direct proceeding ...

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