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Law School Case Brief

Parsons v. Bedford - 28 U.S. (3 Peters) 433 (1830)


There is no clause in the Act of Congress of the 26th of May 1824 pointing in the slightest manner to any intentional change of the mode in which the Supreme Court of the United States is to exercise its appellate power in causes tried by jury, and coming from the courts of the United States in Louisiana; or giving it authority to revise the judgments thereof in any matters of fact, beyond what the existing laws of the United States authorized.


Sellers filed an action for damages against the buyers claiming that the buyer's agent had purchased tobacco from them for the buyer's account and had failed to make payment. The Court focused on the second bill of exceptions, in which the buyer asserted that the federal court in Louisiana was governed by the practice of the courts of the state of Louisiana. The buyer had moved the trial court to direct the clerk of the court to take down in writing the testimony of the witnesses in the record. The trial court refused. 


Should the clerk of the court take down the testimony of the witnesses in the record?




The Court affirmed the judgment of the lower court and ruled that even if the buyer was entitled to have testimony taken down, the error could not be redressed upon a writ of error. It was competent for the original defendant to have raised any points of law growing out of the evidence at the trial by a proper application to the trial court and to have brought any error of the trial court in its instruction or refusal, by a bill of exceptions, before the Court for revision. Nothing of this kind was done. The Court held that it could not reverse the judgment for any error in the verdict of the jury at the trial; the refusal to allow that evidence to be entered on the record was not a matter of error for which the judgment could be reversed. Appellate courts had no different powers to review a jury's findings from the federal courts of Louisiana than elsewhere.

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