Can you help me find a copy of this court case?
August 15, 2012 11:20 PM   Subscribe

I found a link to an old court case involving a relative of mine. Google Books won't show me the whole thing - can anyone find it elsewhere or suggest how I can get a copy? I don't have access to legal databases. This is the link, and my relative referred to is Erno Scheiner.
posted by Joe in Australia to Law & Government (11 answers total)
This looks like the decision from the NY Supreme Court.
posted by morninj at 11:42 PM on August 15, 2012

This search actually shows two of the three snippets that contain his name, both as the care-of intermediary for delivery of a piece of mail. Not incredibly interesting stuff.
posted by grouse at 12:11 AM on August 16, 2012

Morninj, I don't think that's the case - it's just the name that Google Books gave the collection. But by using your link I'm pretty sure that the case itself is STERN v. PESTI MAGYAR KERESKEDELMI BANK - unfortunately although Google Books seems to have the actual case, Leagle only has the appellate rulings. Any suggestions?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:29 AM on August 16, 2012

303 N.Y. 881
Court of Appeals of New York.
George STERN, Respondent,

March 13, 1952.

Appeal from Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, 278 App.Div. 811, 105 N.Y.S.2d 352.

Action by George Stern against Pesti Magyar Kereskedelmi Bank, etc., to recover a balance of $111,723 in United States dollar credits payable by the defendant foreign banking corporation in the City of New York under an alleged express agreement.

The plaintiff contended that defendant's express agreement was to pay in United States dollars in New York City and to keep such dollars or dollar credits available for the purpose in the city at all times. The answer alleged that the account was subject to the laws of Hungary which prohibited payment in dollars except with consent of the National Bank of Hungary which was never obtained. It further alleged that plaintiff consented to the effect of such foreign laws and to the risk of force majeure by making no objection to the semi-annual statements of account which were regularly mailed to him, and that no license was secured from United States authorities under Executive Order 8389, as amended, 12 U.S.C.A. s 95 a note, permitting the suit or payment demanded therein, or licensing the assignment upon which the action was based. Defendant admitted that the contract of deposit was made in Hungary in 1931.

The Trial Term, New York County, entered an order which set aside a jury verdict for plaintiff and dismissed the complaint without prejudice, and defendant appealed from the judgment of dismissal. The Appellate Division, 278 App.Div. 811, 105 N.Y.S.2d 352, reversed the judgment and order, reinstated the verdict and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff. Defendant appealed, and argued that the account was governed by the foreign exchange laws of Hungary which forbad the Bank of Hungary to pay plaintiff in dollars, and that assuming for the sake of argument that the verdict established a contract as testified to by plaintiff, the contract could not be enforced by courts of New York since it would include an agreement to violate the laws of Hungary, the place of performance. Defendant also contended that the foreign exchange laws of Hungary which barred payment had been approved by the United States and should be enforced in New York. Defendant was of the opinion that the fact that plaintiff made his demand for payment in Hungary determined that the laws of Hungary governed, and that plaintiff was conclusively bound by his failure to make any objection to semi-annual statements of account containing defendant's business regulations and stating that the account was blocked by virtue of government order. The plaintiff argued that subsequent Hungarian blocking laws afforded defendant no excuse for nonperformance in New York, and contended that on the facts as found in plaintiff's favor by the jury and on the law, defendant's other contentions were without merit.

Attorneys and Law Firms

*883 **106 Weisman, Celler, Quinn, Allan & Spett, of New York City, (Milton C. Weisman, Lester Samuels, Abraham Shapiro, Richard L. Sapiro, all of New York City, of counsel), for plaintiff-respondent.
Katz & Sommerich, of New York City (Otto C. Sommerich, Benjamin Busch, of New York City, of counsel), for defendant-respondent.

Judgment affirmed, with costs.
All concur.

Parallel Citations

105 N.E.2d 106
posted by lockestockbarrel at 7:49 AM on August 16, 2012

Practically speaking, the likelihood that you could get hold of trial court level proceedings from the 1950's is none. If you have physical access to the relevant courthouse or a friend at one of the relevant law firms (assuming they still exist), you might have better odds, but they are still slim. Physical access to a library local to the relevant courthouse might yield something, too.

Basically, there just isn't that much written or recorded or published at the trial court level. For one thing, a trial court's reasoning and decisions only affect the litigants in the case. Assuming they are both applying the proper laws/rules to the appropriate facts, Judge Jones in Courtroom 2 has no obligation to rule in the same way Judge Smith in Courtroom 4 would rule. So there is no need for them to share their rulings and reasoning on paper. It takes too much time and has no impact; therefore you don't see a lot of written rulings in the trial court. That said, there are written decisions at that level and some counties even have reporters that circulate those decisions. A local library or local bar association might have physical copies (or microfische!) of reporters from the 1950's, but they won't have digital copies.

Also, not much of the proceedings at the trial level is written down, either. The Complaint has to be written, as does the Answer. Some Motions must be made in writing (but many can be made orally). Any Order entered in the case must be written down. But even now, a lot of those Motions and Orders are written, in long hand, with carbon, in the courtroom on the fly. They will often say nothing more than "The Defendant's Motion for [Whatever], coming to be heard on [Date], Counsel for both sides being present, IT IS SO ORDERED, for the reasons stated in court, that the Defendant's Motion is DENIED." It's not terribly illuminating, if you don't have the attorney's or court's notes from that day in court. (The only courtrooms I have ever been in that had a court reporter in them at all times where criminal courtroom. Most of their logs are never transcribed out of court-reporter shorthand because that takes a lot of time and most of the hearings never need to be reviewed).

Even assuming everything in the case was written and submitted in advance, and that every ruling included a written decision, it's unlikely that the records still exist in a place or form that you can access. Trial court proceedings have no precedential effect. Everyone who is ordered to do something by the Court's judgment will get a copy of the Order and it may be published in the local law bulletin or law newspaper or county reporter (just the order of judgment), but those will be paper (or microfische) archives at a local library or bar association or law library. There might be a librarian who can find it for you, but you'd probably need a date (or reasonable range of dates) of the decision to request it. The court files themselves will have been archived or destroyed once the time for appeals had expired. In many federal court cases, those filed before electronic filing became standard in the 1990's are still archived as paper; state courts are unlikely to be better off. So, if you can get to the courthouse, with a case number or date, you might get someone who can pull the boxes for you, but I doubt it. will pull the boxes for you for federal cases, but you have to give them a lot of information first (court location, case name, case number, transfer number, box number, volume number) and they charge you for it.

Appellate court and state supreme court records are much easier to track down. The written decisions, at least, are generally published in the state reporters and sometimes the regional ones. This is because trial courts have to rule in ways consistent with appellate and supreme court rulings. Not only do they have to apply the right laws/rules to the appropriately-chosen salient facts, they must do so in the way that the higher courts believe is consistent with the intent of the legislature in writing the law and the needs of society in determining the law was necessary. Those rulings affect more than the litigants in the case and are distributed more widely and preserved more carefully. The case files that came with those rulings (which include the trial court rulings) are returned to the trial courts when the appeal is concluded. See above about archiving and destruction at the trial court level.

So, short answer, trial court rulings are practically impossible to access if you are not local to the relevant courthouse and very hard to access if you are. If this case is published in a book somewhere (I don't really know what Google books is), you'd have more luck tracking down the book, which is something I know nothing about.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:58 AM on August 16, 2012

278 A.D. 811

Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
First Department, New York.

George STARN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
PESTI MAGYAR KERSKEDELMI BANK, Also Known as Pester Ungarische Commercial Bank, also known as Hungarian Commerce Bank of Budapest, Defendant-Respondent.
May 15, 1951.

Attorneys and Law Firms

L. Samuels, New York City, for appellant.
B. Busch, New York City, for respondent.


*811 Judgment and order unanimously reversed with costs of this appeal to the appellant, and the verdict and the judgment entered thereon, in favor of plaintiff, reinstated. No opinion. Settle order on notice.
Parallel Citations

278 A.D. 811, 105 N.Y.S.2d 352 (Mem)
posted by lockestockbarrel at 8:01 AM on August 16, 2012

Also, appellate rulings will summarize what happened in the trial court, insofar as it is relevant to the legal issues of the case. From a human interest standpoint, those summaries are maddeningly incomplete.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:01 AM on August 16, 2012

The appeals court case posted above refers to a previous appeal, which is published here, though it's just a stub opinion that doesn't contain the info you're looking for, either. However, it does indicate "judgment reversed."

I played around with the Google books link a bit, and by searching on the bank name, I found a bit of text that seems to refer to a judgment on Jan 17, 1950 (see first hit on this page).
posted by marginaliana at 8:05 AM on August 16, 2012

You might try calling the NYC Bar Association Library - they may have access to this case in a database, or have a copy of the print book.
posted by marginaliana at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2012

I bet a librarian/research specialist at NYPL would love to research this.

NYPL ask page
posted by couchdive at 9:45 AM on August 16, 2012

Have you read my link? Given its contents, why do you think your relative has any significant connection to this case?
posted by grouse at 9:48 AM on August 16, 2012

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