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Amos T. Akerman to William W. Belknap, 13 February 1871

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Feb. 13, 1871. Hon. Wm. W. Belknap, Secretary of War. Sir: I have received your letter of the 8th instant, with the enclosed papers in relation to the case of Walter Cooper, vs. J.V.D. Reeve, determined in the year 1868, in the District Court of the Third District of the Territory of Montana. It appears that the defendant, then a Colonel in the Army of the United States, caused the arrest of the plaintiff for the supposed offence of furnishing liquor to troops—and that the plaintiff thereupon brought suit against him for trespass, in the Territorial Courts; that at the request of The War Department the Attorney General, on the 22d of July, 1868, directed Mr. Mayhew, then U. S. Attorney for Montana, to take charge of the defence. It does not appear that this direction was complied with by Mr. Mayhew. And it does appear that in September, 1868, a judgment by default was entered—and that, on the 24th of October, 1868, damages were adjudged to the plaintiff against the defendant in the sum of $4000; that a motion was subsequently, in November, 1868, made by the defendant to set aside the default, and reöpen the case, which motion was overruled by the Court. The proceedings in the Territorial Court seems to me to have been grossly unjust. I am unable to explain the failure of Mr. Mayhew to appear for the defence. If he were now in office, I should require from him an explanation; but he went out of office in April, 1869, and this Department now has no control over him. I will immediately address the present District Attorney of the U. S. for Montana, and ascertain whether, under the rules of practice prevailing in the Courts of that Territory, it is possible to open this judgment—and will make known to you his Report, when it shall have been received. Very respectfully, Your obedient serv't, A. T. Akerman, Attorney General.
Case of Cooper vs. Col. Reeve, U.S.A. Montana
see Ins. B'k. B. p. 61.
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