GONZALES v. BUIST(1912)
[224 U.S. 126, 127] Messrs. H. H. Scoville and J. R. F. Savage for appellant.
Mr. Willis Sweet for appellees.
Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:
Gonzales, the appellant, sued in the court below to be declared the owner and entitled to the possession of a tract of land valued at $6,000, situated in the district of Porto Rico, from the possession of which he claimed to have been unlawfully ousted by the defendants in March, 1907. In addition to specifically denying the averments of the complaint, the defendants, by an amended answer, pleaded that, as the result of a controversy between them and the grantor of the plaintiff, concerning the land in dispute, the title and right of possession was adjudicated in their favor, and in virtue of the judgment they were put in possession of the property, which was the ouster complained of. Averments were also made which tended to show that the conveyance under which plaintiff asserted his ownership was made and received in bad faith, after the commencement of the action the judgment in which was pleaded as res judicata, in order to deprive the plaintiffs in that action of the benefit to result from a recovery therein.
On July 9, 1908, the case was called for trial, a jury was waived, and after the allowance of amendments to the pleadings, the following took place, according to recitals in the journal of the court:
On July 31, 1908, the court filed a written opinion sustaining the plea of res judicata, and ordering the complaint to be dismissed. An entry of dismissal was made on the same day. The next step in the litigation was the filing on October 12, 1909, of a petition for the allowance of an appeal to this court, and the granting of the same on October 26, 1909. Cotemporaneous with the allowance of the appeal there was filed with the papers in the cause a document styled, 'Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.' The opening paragraphs contained recitals of the taking of the appeal, and that the court, upon the application of the appellant, 'makes the following findings of fact upon which it based its final decree.' The written agreement of the parties to waive a trial by jury was next stated, as also that argument was heard 'as to the question whether or not the plea as to the matters in issue being res judicata should not be sustained,' and the statement contained in the excerpt heretofore made from the journal as to granting leave to file briefs, etc., was reiterated.
It was next recited, in the opening sentence of the paragraph of findings numbered III.: 'That thereupon counsel for defendants, on July 13, 1908, filed, without first submitting the same to the inspection of counsel for the plaintiff, the following brief and statement of facts, with annexed exhibit.' The remainder of paragraph III., found on pages 17 to 25 of the printed transcript of record, consists of a copy of the 'defendants' brief on res judicata and the translation of what purport to be findings made in the judgment in the action pleaded as res judicata.'
Paragraph IV. of the findings opens with the following statement:
Next follows a copy of a document entitled in the action, and styled, 'Statements and Brief on Plea of Res Judicata,' found on pages 25 to 38 to the printed transcript, subdivided into headings entitled 'Facts,' 'Documentary Proof No. 1,' 'Documentary Proof No. 2,' and 'Translation of Exhibit A,' an alleged cautionary notice of the institution of the prior suit.
The findings of fact thus concluded:
Declaring that it had sufficient evidence before it to pass upon the question of res judicata, the court, thereupon, as a conclusion of law, found that the prior judgment was res judicata of the claims set up in the complaint, and concluded as follows:
The assignments of error are eleven in number, and state in various forms of expression the contention that the judgment entered was erroneous because plaintiff was not accorded a proper hearing upon the issue of res judicata. The appellant did not, however, formally except to any ruling or decision of the court on the subject, and in consequence, even upon the assumption that the objection that want of regularity in the practice pursued might, under some circumstances, be available here (Salina Stock Co. v. Salina Creek Irrig. Co. 163 U.S. 109 , 41 L. ed. 90, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1036), it cannot on this record be availed of (Apache County v. Barth, 177 U.S. 538, 542 , 44 S. L. ed. 878, 879, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 718).
There is nothing shown by the record which we can review, since what is denominated findings of fact is not such in legal effect, and the record does not contain any rulings of the court, excepted to, upon the admission or rejection of evidence. By 35 of the Porto Rican act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. at L. 85, chap. 191, writs of error and appeals from final decisions of the supreme court for the district of Porto Rico shall be allowed and may be taken to this court 'in the same manner and under the same regulations . . . as from the supreme courts of the territories of the United States.' Now, as held in Young v. Amy, 171 U.S. 179, 183 , 43 S. L. ed. 127, 128, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 802:
But whether the court adopts an agreed statement of facts or itself finds the facts, the agreed statement or findings must be of the ultimate facts, and if they be merely a recital of testimony or evidentiary facts, it brings nothing before this court for consideration. Thompson v. Ferry, 180 U.S. 484 , 45 L. ed. 633, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 453; United States Trust Co. v. New Mexico, 183 U.S. 535, 540 , 46 S. L. ed. 315, 319, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 172. As said in Crowe v. Trickey, 204 U.S. 228, 235 , 51 S. L. ed. 454, 458, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 275, the statement of facts required by the statute should present clearly and precisely the ultimate facts, although, as further observed in the same case, a mere incorporation of unnecessary details may not be fatal if 'a sufficient statement finally emerges.' Under no possible view, however, of the findings we are considering, can they be held to constitute a compliance with the statute, since they merely embody conflicting statements of counsel concerning the facts as they suppose them to be, and their appreciation of the law which they deem applicable; there being, therefore, no attempt whatever to state the ultimate facts by a consideration of which we would be able to conclude whether or not the judgment was warranted. The case is analogous to that presented by the record in Glenn v. Fant, 134 U.S. 398 , 33 L. ed. 969, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 583, where it was held that an agreement that the parties might refer to and rely upon all the grounds of action or defense to be found in the voluminous records of two equity cases in other courts, including the pleadings and findings and orders and decrees therein, could not take the place of a special verdict of a jury or the special findings of fact by the court, so as to enable this court to determine the questions of law thereon arising.
No error being apparent on the record, the judgment of the District Court of Porto Rico must be and it is affirmed.