Taylor v. Taintor (1872) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Taylor v. Taintor (1872) 83 U.S. 366, the defendant was arrested in Connecticut for a criminal offense allegedly committed in that state. He was released on bail conditioned upon his appearance for subsequent court proceedings.

Defendant then returned to New York where he was arrested upon a requisition from the governor of Maine for a burglary alleged to have been committed before the Connecticut offense. He was delivered to officers of the State of Maine where he was convicted and sentenced to a fifteen-year prison term.

In refusing to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court of Connecticut that affirmed the trial court's order forfeiting the bail, the Court relied on the "well-settled" principle that "if the impossibility be created by the defendant or a stranger, the rights of the obligee will be in nowise affected." (Id. at 370.)

The Court found that the sureties were at "fault for the departure from Connecticut, and they must take the consequences." (Id. at 373.)

In that case, the defendant failed to appear in court in Connecticut because, while he was in New York upon a requisition from the Governor of Maine to the Governor of New York, the defendant was arrested in New York and taken to Maine where he was charged with burglary and imprisoned. The sureties alleged the defense of impossibility by law to secure the defendant's presence in Connecticut.

The United States Supreme Court defined the defenses available to a surety on a bond forfeiture as follows:

"It is the settled law of this class of cases that the bail will be exonerated where the performance of the condition is rendered impossible by the act of God, the act of the obligee, or the act of the law. Where the principal dies before the day of performance, the case is within the first category. Where the court before which the principal is bound to appear is abolished without qualification, the case is within the second. If the principal is arrested in the State where the obligation is given and sent out of the State by the governor, upon the requisition of the governor of another state, it is within the third." (Id. at 369-370.)

The United States Supreme Court held the sureties liable for the defendant's nonappearance in Connecticut, stating that:

"If defendant had remained in Connecticut he would probably not have been delivered over to the authorities of Maine, and would not, therefore, have been disabled to fulfill the condition of his obligation. The plaintiffs in error are in fault for the departure from Connecticut, and they must take the consequences.

"The result is due, not to the Constitution and law of the United States, but to the sureties' own supineness and neglect. Under the circumstances they can have no standing in court to maintain this objection." (Id. at 372-373.)

In sum, in Taylor v. Taintor the decision against the sureties turned, however, on the proposition that it was not an act of the law which made it impossible for the principal to appear in the state where provided under the bond, but rather, the act of the principal in leaving the state where the bond was returnable and exposing himself to the control and action of the state in which he was incarcerated, and it was held that the sureties must accept the consequences of having allowed the principal to so remove himself.

These precepts apply to the cases on review. Appellant's inability to surrender Jordan was not due to an act of the law but to Jordan's act in exposing himself to the control of the federal authorities in South Carolina and thereby being prevented from appearing in the Criminal Court of Record in Duval County.

As in the cited case, Jordan's surety appellant must accept the consequences of its failure to keep him within the limits of this state and produce him under the bond.