U.S. Supreme Court United States v. Denvir, 106 U.S. 536 (1883)
United States v. Denvir
Decided January 8, 1883
106 U.S. 536
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
An officer charged with the disbursement of public moneys is not liable for interest thereon if he has not converted them to his own use, nor neglected to disburse them pursuant to law, nor, when thereunto required, failed to account for or transfer them.
MR. JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The United States recovered a judgment in the Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts against Denvir on his bond, given as surety for the faithful performance by David F. Power of all his duties as acting assistant paymaster in the Navy of the United States. No service on Power or appearance for him and no defense by Denvir being made, judgment was rendered for the sum of money found to be in the hands of the paymaster, with interest from the service of the original writ in this suit, in March, 1875. The United States asserted a right to interest from the date of the last receipt of money by the paymaster, namely August, 1865, and excepted because the court overruled this proposition.
No evidence was given of any demand on the paymaster, or any refusal to pay or transfer the fund in his hands, or to comply with any lawful order on the subject.
Though the condition of the bond is not exactly the same as in the case of United States v. Curtis, 100 U. S. 119 , the principle of that case must control this.
That principle is that where an officer of the government has money committed to his charge, with the duty of disbursing or paying it out as occasion may arise, he cannot be charged with interest on such money until it is shown that he has failed to pay when such occasion required him to do so, or has failed to account when required by the government, or to pay over or transfer the money on some lawful order.
The mere proof that the money was received by him raises no obligation to pay interest in the absence of some evidence of conversion or some refusal to respond to a lawful requirement. The obvious reason for this is that the government places the money in the hands of this class of officers and all others who are disbursing officers that it may remain there until needed for use in the line of that officer's duty, and until that duty requires such payment, or a return of the money to the proper department of the government, he is in no default, and cannot be required to pay interest.