Arellano v. Chacon

Decision Date31 January 1859
Citation1 N.M. 269
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court


New trials are peculiar to courts of common law, where jury trials prevail, and a rehearing belongs to chancery jurisdiction; and as the probate court is not provided with a jury, and has no chancery jurisdiction, it cannot grant a new trial or rehearing after deciding a contested election for justice of the peace under the statute.

*1 APPEAL from the district court for the county of Taos. The opinion states the case.

T. D. Wheaton, for the appellant.Ashurst and Tompkins, for the appellee. By Court, BENEDICT, C. J.:

At an election for justice of the peace in the precinct of Chamisal, in the county of Taos, 1855, the parties in this cause were candidates. It seems that Chacon was declared elected, and obtained his certificate. Arellano contested the election in pursuance of the following provision of the statute: “In case any election for sheriff, justice of the peace, or constable, be contested, the party contesting shall give eight days' previous notice to the party opposing, in the same manner as prescribed in the foregoing section, which contest shall be heard and determined in a summary manner, by the probate court. In case any election for other subordinate officers created by law shall be contested, said contest shall be determined in the manner prescribed by the probate judge.” Upon notice being given, the parties met before the probate court, as appears by the record, and went into trial, and after hearing the case, the court gave judgment in favor of the defendant, Chacon. After this was done, and before the court adjourned “until court in course,” Arellano applied for a new trial, and the judge says that “under the proofs produced by him, the court annulled the judgment and granted a new trial, to be had at the next term.” This next term came on in January, 1856. Chacon made no appearance, and the court gave judgment in favor of Arellano, and adjudged Chacon to pay the costs. The next day the latter appeared and took an appeal to the district court. At the August term, 1856, the parties appeared in the latter court, and Arellano's counsel moved to dismiss the appeal for various reasons, one of which was, “that no appeal is allowed by law in such cases.” The court overruled the motion, and plaintiff excepted. Defendant's counsel then moved to dismiss the suit, and judgment was rendered against the plaintiff for costs; and thereupon he appealed to this court.

The acts of the court, both in overruling the plaintiff's motion and sustaining the defendant's, are assigned for errors. It has been necessary to give so circumstantial a history of this case in order that our opinion may be the better understood. Neither party will derive any benefit from any judgment which we can render, as to the subject-matter of controversy for which the contestant instituted his proceeding. A justice of the peace holds his office for the term of one year. Time and the operation of law have long since put an end to the right which either party may have had to the enjoyment of the office for which both engaged in contest. As for ourselves, we might have so disposed of this case that we would have been relieved from the labor and responsibility of an investigation. We, however, are willing to meet and determine the material points controverted. This seems to be required for the instruction of persons and officers, and for the guidance of courts in all causes of a character similar to this which may hereafter arise.

*2 Before this court this cause has been twice argued, and each time with zeal and ability. It is contended that the probate court, after having once heard and adjudged the case, put its decision beyond its control; that it possessed no power to annul the judgment, which it had once in due course of trial formally pronounced between the parties, as in this cause; that it could grant no new trial, nor open the case to a rehearing, and that when it gave judgment in the contest, in favor of Chacon, the defendant, it did, so far as it had any power over the matter, determine, confirm, and invest him in the office in controversy, and that it could not, by any proceeding whatever, divest him, subsequent to the judgment made and rendered.

The judicial powers of this territory are clearly vested and carefully distributed by congress, in what is termed the organic act. This act declares that the several courts, both appellate and original, and those of the probate and justices of the peace, should have jurisdiction as limited by law. It then immediately proceeds to prescribe by law, limits to justices of the peace, and confining them beyond the power of the territorial legislature to enlarge, and in the very same sentence vests the supreme and district courts “with chancery as well as common law jurisdiction.” So plain and complete an endowment of judicial power in the courts of highest dignity and authority in the territory must be taken as negativing the like jurisdiction in the inferior courts, as also excluding the legislature from the authority to clothe them with the jurisdiction so affirmatively reposed in the supreme and district courts. Now, when a constitution or an organic law simply speaks into existence a probate court, every enlightened lawyer at once knows the functions it is designed to perform. These are of a testamentary character, and such others as may be expressly conferred by the legislature, not inconsistent with the other plain distribution of powers. The power and practice of granting new trials grew up in those courts of “common law and chancery jurisdiction,” in the midst of that system of jurisprudence that has been so generally adopted in the United States. New trials were introduced to cure the defects, errors, mistakes, and the like, which juries might have committed in their verdicts. They superseded the ancient proceeding by attaints against juries for wrong verdicts. They originated in these courts, where the trial by jury was an essential and fixed element. They are authorized in the courts of the United States, where causes are tried by juries. The district courts of this territory may try issues of fact by juries, set aside verdicts for established legal causes, and grant new trials. To exert these high powers, the law has expressly conferred the authority. It is a parcel of that common law jurisdiction of which they are made the depositaries by the organic act. When exercising the chancery jurisdiction granted with the common law, the district courts conform to the rules and usages which compose that peculiar system of jurisprudence. In that system a court may grant a rehearing.

*3 The probate court had not chancery jurisdiction. The law had not provided it with a jury, and it had no power to try this cause by a jury. It had the sole, the absolute power, and that, too, in a “summary manner.” That was exerted, and fully, and when that was done, the court's power of adjudication in the cause ended. It had performed the duty required by the statute, and could not unsay and make null its solemn judicial act at its will and pleasure. With or without proper and sufficient evidence, wise or foolish as the act may have been, the court, as far as it could, vested in Chacon, and confirmed to him, the office of justice of the peace, and it could not retrace its steps, divest him of his office, and bestow it upon another.

We come now to another point of grave consideration in this cause, and that is the one made in the district court, and insisted upon here, in substance, that no appeal is allowed by law in cases of contested elections before the probate court. The gravity of the examination of this point is augmented by the fact, that the same point precisely was made and determined in this court, in the case of Quintana v. Tompkins, 1 N.M. 29, at the January term, 1853, and decided in favor of the right to appeal. Although that decision was made by the highest judicial authority within the territory, and pressed by a member of the court of distinguished legal ability, the proposition adjudged against seems still to be pressed upon the notice and action of the courts, whenever an appeal is taken in the case of a contested election. Such being the case, and however much we may desire to see repose under judicial decisions, we do not feel at liberty to shrink from an examination of the correctness of the grounds upon which the appeal in the case mentioned was sustained.

The sections of the statutory law upon which the court relied as authorizing the appeal are as follows: “Appeals from the judgments of the prefects shall be allowed to the circuit court, in the same manner, and subject to the same restrictions, as in case of appeal from the circuit to the supreme court.” “The circuit courts in the several counties shall have appellate jurisdiction from the judgments and orders of the prefects and alcaldes, in all cases not prohibited by law, and shall possess a superintending control over them.”

Judicial authorities are here mentioned that are wholly strangers to the organic act,...

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11 cases
  • Central Republic Bank & Trust Co. v. Caldwell
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • April 22, 1932
    ...49 C. J., p. 1034; 3 Bouv. Law Dict. 2612; In re Rockford, etc., Co., supra; In re McMahon (C. C. A.) 147 F. 684, 687; Arellano v. Chacon, 1 N. M. 269, 276. In the instant case, although formal pleadings were not filed by all the parties interested, yet the issue presented by the intervenin......
  • Gunaji v. Macias
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • September 12, 2001
    ...431, 432 (1969). Accordingly, an election contest becomes moot when the term for the corresponding office expires. See Arellano v. Chacon, 1 N.M. 269, 270 (Gild.1859). See also State v. Vogel, 39 N.M. 122, 123-24, 41 P.2d 1107, 1108-09 (1935) (holding judgment of removal from office is moot......
  • Bogle Farms, Inc. v. Baca
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • September 9, 1996
    ...roots, see 1 James Kent, Commentaries on American Law pages 475-76 (14th ed.1896), and was first recognized by this Court in Arellano v. Chacon, 1 N.M. 269 (1859). That case considered whether an appeal lies from a court determination of an election contest. This Court ultimately overruled ......
  • State v. Armijo
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2016
    ...9, 1850, 9 Statutes at Large 446, ch. 49 (Organic Act); id. § 10, 9 Statutes at Large at 449; Arellano v. Chacon , 1859–NMSC–002, ¶¶ 7–8, 1 N.M. 269 (stating that the offices of prefect and alcalde described in the Kearny Code were succeeded by the probate judges and the justices of the pea......
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