State ex rel. Estes v. Justice Court of Jefferson County

Citation129 Mont. 136,284 P.2d 249
Decision Date27 May 1955
Docket NumberNo. 9495,9495
PartiesThe STATE of Montana ex rel. Jack C. ESTES, Relator, v. The JUSTICE COURT OF JEFFERSON COUNTY, Boulder, Montana, and William J. Pendergast, Judge thereof, Respondents.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

M. K. Daniels, Deer Lodge, argued the case orally, for relator.

Arnold H. Olsen, Atty. Gen., C. W. Leaphart, Asst. Atty. Gen., John F. McGough, County Atty., Boulder, for respondent. John F. McGough, County Atty., and C. W. Leaphart, Asst. Atty. Gen., argued the case orally.

DAVIS, Justice.

Original proceeding. Application for writ.

On June 29, 1954, the relator Estes pleaded guilty in the respondent justice court before the respondent justice of the peace for Boulder Township of Jefferson County to a charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He was fined $150, surrendered his driver's license, and went his way.

From the undenied recitals of the petition and answer or return thereto, which are before us, and from the oral argument made at the bar we gather these undisputed facts: After Estes had learned that his driver's license stood revoked for one year by order or rule of the Montana State Highway Commission (Montana Highway Patrol Board), he moved on August 21, 1954, in the respondent justice court for an order vacating and setting aside the judgment of conviction entered against him on June 29, 1954, and for leave to withdraw his plea of guilty.

This motion was made upon various grounds detailed in his supporting affidavit which summarized were (1) that his plea of guilty was not voluntary, but had been entered to avoid publicity, (2) that he was ignorant of the law, and had been misled by the respondent justice of the peace, and (3) that he was subjected to great personal inconvenience in the pursuit of his vocation as a musician and music teacher, because he could not drive his automobile.

On August 31, 1954, this motion was heard. On September 1, 1954, it was denied.

On September 2, 1954, Estes appealed from the denial to the district court for Jefferson County. There on September 22, 1954, he was heard, evidence was taken, briefs were filed, and his motion was again submitted for a ruling, which followed on October 2, 1954, that the order of the justice court be affirmed and his appeal dismissed.

On October 28, 1954, Estes sued out of this court what is styled an 'Alternative Writ of Error Coram Nobis and Order to Show Cause,' which went down to the respondent justice court and justice of the peace to review the proceedings there. The district court was bypassed.

Return has been made to this writ in this court; briefs have been filed; oral argument at the bar has been had; and the matter is now submitted for decision.

The relator's petition here and writ by whatever name it may be known seek to bring up for review and revision in this court the order of the respondent justice court, which denied the relator's motion to set aside his conviction and withdraw his plea of guilty.

For us thus to review and revise, as the relator prays, means that we must exercise appellate jurisdiction and reverse the order below. Otherwise stated, if Estes is to be sustained in the position which he takes in this court, then the respondents were in error in denying his motion, that error we would correct by our writ.

This we may not do, for we have no such appellate jurisdiction to review the judgments or orders of the justice courts of this state. The appellate jurisdiction which this court has comes from the Constitution of the State, and is vested in us, 'subject, however, to such limitations and regulations as may be prescribed by law.' Constitution of Montana, Art. VIII, Sec. 3. We are admonished further that save for certain exceptions here of no importance this court has (1) 'appellate jurisdiction only,' and (2) a 'general supervisory control over all inferior courts,' both of which are, however, to be exercised 'under such regulations and limitations as may be prescribed by law.' Constitution of Montana, Art. VIII, Sec. 2. We are then told also in no uncertain language that we may entertain writs of error and appeals only from the decisions of the district courts of the state 'under such regulations as may be prescribed by law.' Constitution of Montana, Art. VIII, Sec. 15; State ex rel. City of Helena v. Helena Waterworks Co., 43 Mont. 169, 172, 173, 115 P. 200. Here, too, we are always to bear in mind that we are commanded also by our Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 29, to take the jurisdiction given us, that we are forbidden thereby to assume any other. Compare State v. Driscoll, 101 Mont. 348, 358, 360, 54 P.2d 571.

We must then turn to our Codes and statutes to find the regulations and limitations which bound our appellate jurisdiction before we may take the relator's case and hear what is to all intents and for all purposes his appeal. Of course, we are not now considering what the case would be, if the legislature had enacted no statutes for our guidance; nor what would be our jurisdiction if we were unreasonably restricted in its exercise by the Codes. Compare State ex rel. Schneider v. Cunningham, 39 Mont. 165, 101 P. 962; Jordan v. Andrus, 26 Mont. 37, 66 P. 502, 91 Am.St.Rep. 396.

To the contrary we find in the Revised Codes of Montana 1947, comprehensive and adequate provision for appeals to this court from the judgments and orders of the district courts in criminal cases, R.C.M.1947, Secs. 94-8101 to 94-8104, and in civil cases, R.C.M.1947, Secs. 93-8001 to 93-8003. We find there the time limited for these appeals, R.C.M.1947, Sec. 94-8105, 93-8004, and the detail of the procedure to be followed to take an appeal, R.C.M.1947, Secs. 94-8106, 94-8107, 93-8005, and to make that appeal effective, R.C.M.1947, Secs. 94-8109 to 94-8114, etc; 93-8006 to 93-8025.

But nowhere in the Codes or statutes of the state is there to be read authority for an appeal to this court from either the judgment or order of a justice court or justice of the peace. The limitations constitutionally put upon our appellate jurisdiction by the legislature, the regulations constitutionally prescribed by it for our exercise of that appellate jurisdiction speak only of a review by us of the judgments and orders of the district courts.

And well this may be, for as we have been at pains to point out above the only appeal to this court which our Constitution permits is from the decisions of the district courts. Indeed, such must be the case, for the Constitution is equally explicit in its mandate that appeals 'shall be allowed from justices' courts, in all cases, to the district courts,...

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2 cases
  • State ex rel. Geschwender v. La Rowe, 9857
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • July 8, 1959
    ...ruled in its order dated August 6, 1959, wherein it denied the application for such writ. Compare: State ex rel. Estes v. Justice Court of Jefferson County, 129 Mont. 136, 284 P.2d 249; State v. Scalise, 131 Mont. 238, 309 P.2d 1010, 1017; People v. Brown, 87 Colo, 261, 286 P. 859; People v......
  • Berry v. Seman, 90-060
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • November 27, 1990
    ...taken by the justice court when a party has failed to perfect an appeal in the district court. See State ex rel. Estes v. Justice Court, 129 Mont. 136, 138, 284 P.2d 249, 250 (1955). TURNAGE, C.J., and HARRISON, McDONOUGH and SHEEHY, JJ., concur. ...

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