12 Conn. 448 (Conn. 1838), Goddard v. State

Citation:12 Conn. 448
Opinion Judge:Williams, Ch. J.
Party Name:Goddard v. The State of Connecticut:
Attorney:Hungerford and Brewster, for the plaintiff in error L. Church and T. Smith, for the defendant in error
Judge Panel:In this opinion the other Judges concurred.
Court:Supreme Court of Connecticut

Page 448

12 Conn. 448 (Conn. 1838)



The State of Connecticut:

Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

June, 1838

in error.

A complaint for a breach of Sabbath, exhibited, by a tything-man, to a justice of the peace, is not an information within the 9th section of the 1st article of the constitution of this state; and consequently, the party accused is not, on the prosecution of such complaint, before the justice, constitutionally entitled to a trial by jury.

This was a complaint against Joseph Goddard, exhibited, by a tything-man, to Mimas Ives, Esq., a justice of the peace, for a breach of Sabbath. The delinquent, being brought before the justice, pleaded not guilty, putting himself upon the jury for trial; and he thereupon moved, that a jury be ordered and empannelled to try the cause. This was refused; and after a trial before the justice alone, he was convicted of the offence charged in the complaint. He then filed a bill of exceptions, and brought a writ of error in the superior court. The judgment of the justice was there affirmed; and the case, by motion in error, came before this court.

Hungerford and Brewster, for the plaintiff in error, contended, That the statute authorizing a conviction of the offence charged, by a justice of the peace, without a jury, was repugnant to the constitution of this state, art. 1. s. 9.; this being a prosecution by information within that section. In the first place, it is embraced by the definition or description of an information. An information is an accusation or complaint, by a public officer, (except in qui tam cases) against a person, for some criminal offence. Bac. Abr. tit. Information. A. 2 Hawk. P. C. 260. Jac. Law Dict. verb. Information. Here is an accusation or complaint answering precisely to this description. It is for a criminal offence, and made by a public officer-an informing officer. Secondly, it is identical in its nature and object with an information. 4 Bla. Com. 308 & seq. 3 Reeve's Hist. Eng. Law, 94. 4 Id. 151. Thirdly, it has all the formal requisites and the language of an information. Fourthly, it is generally so called. In our books the words information and complaint are used as convertible terms. 2 Chitt. Gen. Prac. 155. 2 Sw. Dig. 370. Newell v. The State, 2 Conn. 38. 40.

Before the higher courts, the offender may be tried on the original complaint exhibited to the justice; but is he not constitutionally entitled, in that case, to a trial by jury?

At the time of the adoption of our constitution, the proceeding against certain offences, by judgment upon view, without previous complaint or warrant, was well known to our law. Holcomb v. Cornish, 8 Conn. 375. The framers of the constitution did not intend to interfere with this proceeding; and therefore, in securing the right of trial by jury, in criminal cases, they used phraseology which excluded it Information is not opposed to its synonym, complaint, but to judgment upon view .

L. Church and T. Smith, for the defendant in error, remarked, 1. That the application of the plaintiff in error to the justice for a jury to try the complaint, was in effect an attack upon his jurisdiction; there being no law in this state authorizing a justice to empannel a jury in such a case. To hold, therefore, that the party complained of is entitled to a jury, is the same thing as to hold, that the justice cannot try him at all. The broad ground must be taken, that all our laws giving criminal jurisdiction to justices, especially if it be final, are void.

2. That the right of trial by jury, secured by the clause of the constitution applicable to this case, is a qualified right: it does not extend to all criminal prosecutions, but to those only, which are " by indictment or information."

3. That the complaint of a tything-man to a justice of the peace for a breach of Sabbath, is not an indictment or information. The 5th clause of the 9th sect. and the 21st sect. of the bill of rights, both relating to the same subject, should be construed together. By the latter section, it is provided, that " the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate." The word " remain" is a relative term: it refers to the state of things existing at the time the constitution was adopted; and declares, that the right then enjoyed, shall be enjoyed forever. In this way, we ascertain what is meant by the word " " information," as used in the 9th section. It refers to the information immemorially preferred, by state's attorneys in Connecticut, to the superior and county courts-tribunals which have always been provided with a jury-and not to a complaint, brought by a tything-man, to a single magistrate, for a minor offence. Beers v. Beers, 4 Conn. 535.

Further; the General Assembly has given a construction to these provisions of the constitution: it has declared its sense in respect to this matter, in a manner the most emphatic, by continuing vested in justices of the peace substantially the same powers which they possessed before the constitution was adopted, first, at the general revision of the statutes in 1821, and afterwards, by passing the criminal code of 1830. Neither the committees of revision nor the members of the legislature supposed, that by conferring upon justices the criminal jurisdiction which they have immemorially possessed, they were violating the constitution of the state.

4. That if these positions are untenable, the effect of the constitutional provision in question was, to annul the exceptions contained in the 4th sect. of the " Act concerning Delinquents," and to make all criminal cases, including prosecutions for " drunkenness, profane swearing, cursing...

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