Stuart v. Laird

5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 299 (1803)



Members of Congress have constitutional authority to establish from time to time such inferior tribunals as they may think proper; and to transfer a cause from one such tribunal to another. In this last particular, there are no words in the constitution to prohibit or restrain the exercise of legislative power.


On an action instituted by John Laird against Hugh Stuart, a judgment was entered in a court for the fourth circuit in the eastern district of Virginia, in December term 1801. On this judgment, an execution was issued, returnable to April term 1802, in the same court. In the term of December 1802, John Laird obtained judgment at a court for the fifth circuit in the Virginia district, against Hugh Stuart and Charles L. Carter, upon their bond for the forthcoming and delivery of certain property therein mentioned, which had been levied upon by virtue of the above execution against the said Hugh Stuart. The case was appealed on the ground that as the bond was given for the delivery of property levied on by virtue of an execution issuing out of, and returnable to a court for the fourth circuit, no other court could legally proceed upon the said bond. Thus, reversal of a judgment rendered by the lower court  was sought on the ground that the lower court had exceeded its power by proceeding upon a bond ordered by a prior court.


Did the lower court exceed its power?




The Supreme Court held that the lower court had been fully authorized to proceed upon the bond resulting from the prior proceedings. The Court also clarified that justices of the Supreme Court need not have distinct commissions to sit as judges. The Supreme Court rejected defendants' assignments of error and affirmed the judgment of the lower court. Specifically, the Court held that the lower court was fully authorized to carry out the judgment of the court from which the suit was removed.

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