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RIO GRANDE DAM AND IRRIGATION COMPANY v. UNITED STATES.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES


decided: December 13, 1909.

RIO GRANDE DAM AND IRRIGATION COMPANY
v.
UNITED STATES.

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF NEW MEXICO.

Author: Harlan

[ 215 U.S. Page 274]

 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

We perceive no error in the judgment now under review.

[ 215 U.S. Page 275]

     The main contention of the defendants is that it was error to permit the United States to file its supplemental bill. We do not accept this view of the trial court's duty. When the cause was last here the court expressed the conviction that if the case was finally disposed of on the record as it then was great wrong might be done to the United States and to all interested in preserving the navigability of the Rio Grande. Hence, the cause was sent back that each side might adduce further evidence, if they had any to adduce. When the Government asked to file its supplemental bill the suit was of course reinstated on the docket of the court of original jurisdiction for such action as might be proper or necessary. The case having been opened that further evidence might be produced, it was certainly open for an amendment of the original pleadings or for such additional pleadings as might be appropriate to the issues between the parties. The parties were not limited to the production merely of evidence. The defendants, in the discretion of the court, could have been allowed, upon a proper showing and before taking further proof, to amend their pleadings, and equally the Government, before taking further proof, could have been allowed to file a supplemental complaint. Marine Ins. Co. v. Hodgson, 6 Cranch, 206, 218. Besides, subsection 87 of the New Mexico Civil Code would seem to be broad enough to cover the question of power. It provides: "A party may be allowed, on motion, to make a supplemental complaint, answer or reply, alleging facts material to the cause, or praying for any other or different relief, order or judgment." The facts set forth in the supplemental complaint were manifestly not foreign to the Government's original cause of action. In every substantial sense those facts were material. Strictly speaking, they may have constituted new matter, but they did not present a new cause of action. Jenkins v. International Bank of Chicago, 127 U.S. 484. They grew out of and were connected with the same transaction from which this litigation arose, and were germane to the object of the suit. That object was to restrain the defendants

[ 215 U.S. Page 276]

     from constructing and maintaining dams, reservoirs, canals or ditches that would obstruct the navigable portion of the Rio Grande River. If all the grounds of relief set out in the supplemental complaint did not exist when the original complaint was filed, they were alleged to exist when the supplemental complaint was tendered, and being connected with the original cause of action it was right to bring them, in proper form, to the attention of the court when determining whether the Government was entitled to the relief it asked. So the Supreme Court of the Territory held, and so we hold. There was, plainly, no abuse of discretion or of the established rules of practice in permitting the supplemental complaint to be filed. The allowance of amendments of equity pleadings must "at every stage of the cause, rest in the discretion of the court; and that discretion must depend largely on the special circumstances of each case." Hardin v. Boyd, 113 U.S. 756, 761.

Upon the question of the diligence or want of diligence of the parties, it may be said that the supplemental complaint was tendered at a time when the court was open; the leave to file was given in open court; and the defendant's attorney was served with a copy of that complaint on the very day it was tendered and filed. On this part of the case the Supreme Court of the Territory said that attorneys of record are presumed to be present during terms of the court in which their causes are pending, and in contemplation of law were chargeable with notice of all proceedings transpiring in open court in respect of such causes; also, that "under the facts of this case, counsel are presumed to have been present, and to have such notice as the law requires of matters transpiring in open court on the day on which leave was granted to file the supplemental complaint, and the same was filed and served upon them. Younge v. Broxson, 23 Alabama, 684; Sanders v. Savage, 63 S.D. 218. The court was vested with discretion by the last clause of sec. 104, supra, [Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by c. 11 of Laws of 1901] which does not seem to have been abused, nor was there any abuse of the general discretion

[ 215 U.S. Page 277]

     to allow an amended or supplemental bill in equity conferred upon the courts of the United States, as may be seen by reference to the case of Berliner Gramophone Co. v. Seamon, 113 Fed. Rep. 750, in which it was held that, 'the granting of leave to file an amended and supplemental bill is a matter within the discretion of the court, and its action will not be reviewed in an appellate court unless there has been a gross abuse of this discretion.'"

The objection that the trial court erred in taking the supplemental complaint for confessed cannot be sustained. That objection was thus properly disposed of by the Supreme Court of the Territory: "There being no error or irregularity in the court's order allowing the supplemental complaint to be filed, the same having been done in open court, and a copy of the same having been served upon one of the attorneys of record on the same day on which it was filed, the statute required an answer or other proper pleading to be filed within twenty days from the date of such filing, and in the event of failure to plead, or secure additional time to plead, neither of which were done in this case, it was perfectly regular for the court to render decree. Gregory v. Pike, 29 Fed. Rep. 588. Appellants seek to be relieved from their own default by alleging neglect on the part of their attorneys. . . . There being service of a copy of the supplemental complaint upon one of the attorneys of record on the day on which it was filed it was entirely regular for the court to render the decree when applied for 44 days after such service, in the absence of any appearance or pleading by the appellants."

Some stress is laid on the fact that the Government obtained an injunction to prevent the defendants from constructing its reservoir and dam. That fact, it is contended, estops the Government from relying on the five-years' limitation prescribed by the above act of March 3d, 1891, c. 561. But this view is without merit. The preliminary injunction referred to was dissolved July 31st, 1897, and was never reinstated. The supplemental bill was taken as confessed on

[ 215 U.S. Page 278]

     May 21st, 1903, and a perpetual injunction was then awarded against the defendants. So that between the dissolution of the preliminary injunction and the granting of the perpetual injunction more than five years elapsed, during which the defendants were not impeded or hindered by any injunction against them. This is sufficient to show that the point just stated is without merit. We need not, therefore, consider the larger question, whether the five-years' limitation prescribed by Congress in the above act of March 3d, 1891, could have been disregarded or enlarged either by the action or non-action of the parties or by any order of injunction made by the court in the progress of the cause.

There are some minor questions in the case, but they are not of substance and need not be noticed. We perceive no error of law in the record, and the judgment is

Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE McKENNA did not participate in the consideration or determination of this case.

19091213

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