17 D.C. 504 (D.C.D.C. 1888), 28,350, Newmeyer v. Cowling

Docket Nº:At Law. 28,350.
Citation:17 D.C. 504
Opinion Judge:MR. JUSTICE COX:
Party Name:EDWIN H. NEWMEYER v. LAURA V. COWLING, Administratrix of the Estate of ATWELL COWLING, Deceased.
Attorney:THOS. M. FIELDS, for plaintiff. CHAPIN BROWN, for defendant.
Case Date:July 02, 1888
Court:Supreme Court of District of Columbia

Page 504

17 D.C. 504 (D.C.D.C. 1888)



LAURA V. COWLING, Administratrix of the Estate of ATWELL COWLING, Deceased.

At Law. No. 28,350.

Supreme Court, District of Columbia.

July 2, 1888

1. A justice of the peace in this District has no jurisdiction to entertain a suit against an administrator or executor.

2. This Court has general jurisdiction in all cases not within that of justices of the peace and is excluded from original jurisdiction only in such cases as are given to them.

APPEAL from a judgment of a justice of the peace. Certified to the General Term for hearing in the first instance.

THE CASE is sufficiently stated in the opinion.

THOS. M. FIELDS, for plaintiff.

CHAPIN BROWN, for defendant.



This case has been certified here. It was originally a suit brought before a justice of the peace against an administratrix, to recover a sum of money less than $100. It is certified here for the determination of the simple question whether a justice of the peace has jurisdiction to entertain suits against executors and administrators.

The history of legislation and decision on that subject may be given in a few words. The earliest statute concerning it is the act of the Maryland Assembly of 1791, chapter 61, which says:

" In all cases where the real debt and damages doth not exceed ten pounds current money or one thousand pounds of tobacco it shall and may be lawful for any one justice of the peace of each respective county, wherein the debtor doth reside, to try, hear and determine the matter in controversy between the creditor and debtor, and upon full hearing of the allegations and evidences of both parties to give judgment according to the laws of the land and the equity and right of the matter, and, if need be, charge the constable with the body of the debtor in execution, & c., & c."

This can be better understood with reference to the present subject by looking, in connection with it, to the act of 1798, chapter 101, sections 7 to 9, inclusive.

" SEC. 7. As in pleading it is extremely difficult for executors and administrators, as well as the opposite parties, to guard against error or mistake, which may operate unjustly against them, in no action, brought against an executor or administrator, shall it be necessary for him to plead ‘ plene administravit ’ or anything relative to the assets, or for the plaintiff or plaintiffs to reply to such plea; provided, nevertheless, that any executor or administrator, sued in chancery, may be compelled, as usual, to say in his answer whether or not he hath assets to answer all just claims against the deceased; and provided also, that if the said executor or administrator shall answer that he hath not assets as aforesaid, the proceedings shall be as they are at present; that is to say, an account may be taken of the assets under the direction of the Court.

" SEC. 8. And if the verdict of the jury on the issue joined be against the executor or administrator, or if he shall be willing to confess judgment, and the debt or damages which the deceased (if he or she were alive) ought to pay, be ascertained by verdict or confession or...

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