State ex rel. Harp v. Vanderburgh Circuit Court

Citation85 N.E.2d 254,227 Ind. 353
Decision Date14 April 1949
Docket Number28530.
PartiesSTATE ex rel. HARP et al. v. VANDERBURGH CIRCUIT COURT et al.
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

85 N.E.2d 254

227 Ind. 353

STATE ex rel. HARP et al.

No. 28530.

Supreme Court of Indiana

April 14, 1949

[85 N.E.2d 255]

[227 Ind. 357] Wilbur F. Dassel, of Evansville, for relators.

Benjamin E. Buente, of Evansville, for respondents.

EMMERT, Judge.

The controversy involved in this original action for a writ of prohibition grows out of the jurisdiction of a succeeding presiding judge of the Vanderburgh Circuit Court in a cause tried by the preceding judge, and the proper construction of Rule 1-9 of our court. [1] [85 N.E.2d 256] During the term of office of Judge Nat H. Youngblood, who was the regular presiding judge of the Vanderburgh Circuit Court until January 1, 1949, there was pending Cause No. 1364 entitled William E. Harp v. August J. Greubel, et al., for a declaratory judgment, and Cause No. 2850 entitled August J. Greubel, et al. v. William E. Harp, et al., for an injunction and damages, which causes were consolidated for trial before the court without a jury, and tried before the then regular presiding judge on March 31, and April 1, 1948, upon the conclusion of which they were then taken under advisement.

[227 Ind. 358] The petition for the writ alleges that on the 29th day of December, 1948, in open court Judge Youngblood announced his findings in Cause No. 1364 and Cause No. 2850 for the relators in this original action, and directed their counsel to prepare written entries. There was no minute made in the court's bench docket at the time the findings were announced.

The respondents contend that no notice of the announcement was given to counsel for the adversary parties in either cause, and that the entries containing the findings and judgments signed by the then regular judge on December 31, 1948, were invalid because at the time there was a judge pro tempore presiding in the Vanderburgh Circuit Court, and the entry was signed in the judge's office in the court house; therefore, the succeeding regular presiding judge of such court, Judge Ollie C. Reeves, had jurisdiction to entertain and act upon petitions by the Greubels in causes No. 1364 and No. 2850 to vacate and annul the findings and judgments signed December 31st and ordered entered as of December 29th, the day the findings were announced.

Section 4-316, Burns 1946 Replacement, Acts 1855, ch. 19, § 4, p. 61, makes provision for the appointment of a judge pro tempore for a circuit court. In part, it provides for such appointment to be in writing, and that 'Such written appointment shall be entered on the order-book of such court, and such appointee shall, after being sworn, if he be not a judge of a court of record, conduct the business of such court, subject to the same rules and regulations that govern circuit courts in other cases, and shall have the same authority, during the continuance of his appointment, as the judge elect, or making such appointment.'

We take judicial notice of who the regular judges of the several judicial circuits are, and of the beginning of [227 Ind. 359] terms of court. Heacock v. Arnold, 1929, 90 Ind.App. 476, 169 N.E. 89. The December term of the Vanderburgh Circuit Court began the first Monday in December, and unless duly adjourned, continued until the first Monday in March, 1949. Section 4-332, Burns 1946 Replacement. From the certified copies of the various exhibits it appears the petitions to vacate and annul the findings and judgments were filed within the December term.

However, we do not take judicial notice of the appointment and term of any judge pro tempore. That is a matter of court record, which under § 4-316, Burns 1946 Replacement, must appear on the official records of that court. There is nothing in the petition and return in this action which states that any judge pro tempore was appointed in writing, or that any oath of office was ever executed or that such appointment and oath were duly entered in the order book. The practice in this court in original actions is to consider the verified petition and return as the evidence upon which relief is granted or denied. If there was a de jure judge pro tempore presiding in the Vanderburgh Circuit Court on December 31st, that was a matter of defense which the verified return should have alleged, and in conformity with the practice in such cases, certified copies of the orders and entries pertaining thereto should have been set out or made exhibits to the return. In the absence of such evidence showing of record a duly appointed, qualified and acting judge pro tempore, this court must presume that the regular judge presided on December 31st. State ex rel. Eggers v. Branaman, 1932, 204 Ind. 238, 183 N.E. 653, and cases therein cited. Therefore, in this original action we are only concerned with the jurisdiction of the two [85 N.E.2d 257] regular [227 Ind. 360] presiding judges, unaffected by a question of the jurisdiction of an intervening judge pro tempore.

It is not contradicted that the trial judge orally in open court announced his findings in each of the two cases on December 29th. This was a judicial act which then cut off any right of dismissal. § 2-901, Burns 1946 Replacement. A finding may be orally announced in open court. Sauer, Adm'x v. Sauer, 1921, 77 Ind.App. 22, 133 N.E. 169; Cohn v. Rumely, 1881, 74 Ind. 120. It would have been better practice to have made minutes of the findings in the court's bench docket minute book, which in case of any controversy after the term would have been written evidence sufficient for a nunc pro tunc entry. Cook v. State, 1941, 219 Ind. 234, 37 N.E.2d 63; In re Saric, 1925, 197 Ind. 1, 149 N.E. 434. The announcement of a finding is analogous to the rendition of a judgment. 'Generally, however, the courts pronouncement may be oral as well as written, as where it is announced from the bench.' 1 Freeman, Judgments (5th Ed.) § 48, p. 80. The signing of the findings on December 31st were mere ministerial acts of the judge which made a record of what he had previously judicially announced in open court. See Bailer v. Dowd, 1942, 219 Ind. 624, 40 N.E.2d 325. The fact that opposing counsel was not present in court when the findings were announced did not prejudice the rights of his clients, for his affidavit shows he learned of the matter the evening of December 31st , and on the 3rd day of January, in both causes, he, as counsel for the Greubels, made oral motions to withhold the entry of the records of the finding and judgment in each case, which were later followed on January 25th, by motions to vacate the actions of the trial judge in each case. Two days later motions for new trial were filed in each cause.

[227 Ind. 361] 'A court is defined to consist of persons officially assembled at a time and place appointed by law for the administration of justice. In re Allison, 13 Colo. 525, 22 P. 820, [10 L.R.A. 790, 16 Am.St.Rep. 224]; Dunn v. State, 2 Ark. 229, [35 Am.Dec. 54]; Levey v. Bigelow, 6 Ind.App. 677, 34 N.E. 128.

'* * * the proper persons, namely, the clerk, sheriff, and judge of the White Circuit Court had assembled at the time appointed by law for holding said court.' So reasoned this court in Board of Commissioners of White County v. Gwin, Sheriff, 1894, 136 Ind. 562, 569, 570, 36 N.E. 237, 240, 22 L.R.A. 402, in holding that a duly constituted circuit court was in existence. The court could not exist without a judge, but the judge is not the court. 'Judge Elliott said in Shoultz v. McPheeters, 1881, 79 Ind. 373, 376, 'Throughout all the constitutional provisions runs the controlling idea that a court cannot exist without a judge.' But a judge is not the court, although frequently the words are used interchangeably.' State ex rel. Kiser, Cohn & Shumaker, Inc., v. Sammons, 1944, 223 Ind. 27, 34, 57 N.E.2d 587, 590. 'The judge of a court, while presiding over the court, is by common courtesy called 'the court,' and the words 'the court' and 'the judge' or 'judges' are frequently used in our statutes as synonymous. Michigan Cent. R. Co. v. Northern Indiana R. Co., 3 Ind. 239, 245.' Levey v. Bigelow, 1893, 6 Ind.App. 677, 682, 34 N.E. 128, 130. It follows from these well recognized principles that the regular presiding judge of a circuit court is not the circuit court, and that his acts to become that of the court must have been done within his jurisdiction. When a special judge assumes jurisdiction in a particular cause, his acts within his jurisdiction become those of the court, and the presiding judge has no jurisdiction to interfere with his jurisdiction. [227 Ind. 362] Each could perform valid judicial acts on the same day at the same time and they would then be the acts of the same circuit court, but that does not mean that the regular judge could interfere with the records under the control of the special judge any more than the special judge could interfere with the records properly made and under the control of the regular judge. The rule that the court has jurisdiction to vacate, amend and modify its [85 N.E.2d 258] records during the term when made does not mean that in all cases the regular judge possesses this jurisdiction, for he is not the court, and his jurisdiction depends upon his jurisdiction to act in the particular case.

In State ex rel. Hodshire v. Bingham, Judge, 1941, 218 Ind. 490, 33 N.E.2d 771, 134 A.L.R. 1126, this court noted that it had on the day of filing of the opinion, adopted Rule 1-9 effective as of September 1, 1941. That case also held that a judge pro tempore whose authority to act generally had expired when the regular judge resumed the bench, was the judge to rule on a motion for new trial thereafter filed, and that the action of the regular judge in striking out and expunging the record made by the judge pro tempore was void. The court therein approved the reasoning of this court in Staser v. Hogan, 1889, 120 Ind. 207, 223, 21 N.E. 911, 916, 22 N.E. 990, which held that a...

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  • State ex rel. Harp v. Vanderburgh Circuit Court, 28530.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Indiana
    • April 14, 1949
    ...227 Ind. 35385 N.E.2d 254STATE ex rel. HARP et al.v.VANDERBURGH CIRCUIT COURT et al.No. 28530.Supreme Court of Indiana.April 14, Original proceeding by the State of Indiana, on the relation of William E. Harp, and others against the Vanderburgh Circuit Court, Ollie C. Reeves, Judge of Vande......

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