U.S. Supreme Court Sthreshley & Obannon v. United States, 8 U.S. 4 Cranch 169 169 (1807)
Sthreshley & Obannon v. United States
8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 169
ERROR TO THE DISTRICT
COURT OF KENTUCKY
A collector of the revenue of the United States, after removal from office, has no authority to collect the duties outstanding at the time of his removal and which had accrued while he remained in office, but this power and duty devolves upon his successor.
This was an action of debt brought by the United States in the District Court of Kentucky district for the penalty of an official bond given by Sthreshley, with Obannon as his surety, dated 13 September, 1796, the condition of which was
"That whereas the said Thomas Sthreshley is appointed, under the acts of Congress laying duties upon spirits distilled within the United States, and upon stills, a collector of the revenue which shall or may arise by virtue of the several acts of Congress, to be computed from the first day of July, 1796, and to continue until revoked by the supervisor within the Counties of Fayette and Clarke, being the first division of the first survey of the District of Ohio."
"Now if the said Thomas Sthreshley, his heirs, executors or administrators, shall well and truly superintend the several distilleries and stills and collect all other duties by law required of him as mentioned in his said commission in his division, shall do and perform all the several duties which by law is or shall be required to be done at or within the same, shall collect the duties arising thereon according to law and duly account for and pay the same to the supervisor of the said district or some other officer of the United States duly authorized, then this obligation to be void, or else to remain in full force and virtue."
The defendants pleaded 1st general performance, and 2d that the appointment of Sthreshley was revoked on 1 July, 1797, and that he faithfully executed and discharged all the duties of his said office according to law, accruing from the said 1 July, 1796, until 1 of July, 1797, inclusive, and all things relative thereto.
The breach assigned in the replication was that Sthreshley
"did not well and truly account for and pay
to the supervisor of the district in his said obligation mentioned, or to any other officer of the United States duly authorized to receive the same, the several duties arising and accruing within his said division during his continuance in office under the laws of the United States and his said commission, and which by virtue of the said obligation and commission the said laws of the United States did require him to account for and pay over, but hath failed therein and is in arrears to the said United States in the sum of $2,171.29 3/4,"
upon which breach an issue was tendered and joined, upon the trial whereof a bill of exceptions was taken by the defendants to the refusal of the court to admit evidence that at the time of the revocation of his commission there were outstanding and uncollected by him duties to the amount of $2,285.83, which had accrued during his continuance in office and which constituted part of the account charged against him and for the balance whereof the present suit was brought, and that the defendant had delivered over to his successor in office true accounts of the said outstanding duties for collection.
This evidence was rejected under the opinion that the defendant, although his commission was revoked, had authority and was in law bound to collect all the outstanding duties which had accrued during his continuance in office.
The verdict and judgment in the court below being in favor of the United States, the defendants brought their writ of error.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court that the power of the officer to collect the outstanding duties ceased upon his removal from office, and devolved upon his successor.
A contrary construction would be extremely injurious to the revenues of the United States, and could not have been intended by the legislature.
The officer can only be liable to pay over the money he has collected, unless he is charged with a neglect of duty in not collecting.
In the present case, the breach assigned is for not paying, and no breach is assigned in not collecting, the duties. The bill of exceptions shows that the defendant Sthreshley had paid over and accounted for all the duties he had collected.