Ex Parte Crane
30 U.S. 190

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ex Parte Crane, 30 U.S. 5 Pet. 190 190 (1831)

Ex Parte Crane

30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 190

Syllabus

The Supreme Court has power to issue a mandamus directed to a circuit court of the United States commanding the court to sign a bill of exceptions in a case tried before such court.

In England the writ of mandamus is defined to be a command issuing in the King's name from the Court of King's Bench and directed to any person, corporation, or inferior court of judicature within the King's dominions requiring them to do some particular thing therein specified which appertains to their office and duty and which the Court of King's Bench has previously determined or at least supposes to be consonant to right and justice. It issues to the judges of any inferior court, commanding them to do justice according to the powers of their office wherever the same is delayed. It is apparent that this definition and this description of the purposes to which it is applicable by the Court of King's Bench, as supervising the conduct of inferior tribunals, extends to the case of a refusal by an inferior court to sign a bill of exceptions where it is an act which appertains to their office and duty, and which the Court of King's Bench supposes "to be consonant, to right and justice."

The Judicial Act, section 3, enacts that the Supreme Court shall have power to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts when proceeding as courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and writs of mandamus in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed or persons holding offices under the authority of the United States. A mandamus to an officer is said to be the exercise of original jurisdiction, but a mandamus to an inferior court of the United States is in the nature of appellate jurisdiction. A bill of exceptions is a mode of placing the law of the case on a record, which is to be brought before this Court by a writ of error.

That a mandamus to sign a bill of exceptions is "warranted by the principles and usages of law" is, we think, satisfactorily proved by the fact that it is given in England by statute, for the writ given by the Statute of Westminster the Second is so in fact, and is so termed in the books. The Judicial Act speaks of usages of law generally, not of common law. In England, it is awarded by the Chancellor, but in the United States it is conferred expressly on this Court, which exercises both common law and chancery powers, is invested with appellate power, and exercises extensive control over all the courts of the United States. We cannot perceive a reason why the single case of the refusal of an inferior court to sign a bill of exceptions, and thus to place the law of the case on the record, should be withdrawn from that general power to issue writs of mandamus to inferior courts which is conferred by statute.

The Judicial Act confers expressly the power of general superintendence of inferior courts on this Court. No other tribunal exists, by which it can be exercised.

Exceptions taken on the trial of a cause before a jury for the purpose of submitting to the revision of this Court questions of law decided by the circuit court

Page 30 U. S. 191

during the trial cannot be taken in such a form as to bring the whole charge of the judge before this Court, a charge in which he not only states the results of the law from the facts, but sums up all the evidence.

The decision of this Court in the case of Carver v. Jackson ex dem. of Astor, 4 Pet. 80, reexamined and confirmed.

Mr. Hoffman moved the Court for a writ of mandamus to be directed to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York in the Second Circuit commanding that court to review its settlement of certain bills of exceptions which were tendered on the part of the defendants on the trials of those cases in the circuit court, and to correct, settle, and allow and insert in the said bills the charges to the jury in each case or the substance thereof, and also for such other and further order and relief in the premises as the court shall deem just and proper.

This motion was made after notice to the plaintiffs in the ejectments, and was founded on an affidavit made by Green C. Bronson, Esq., the Attorney General of New York, who was of counsel for the defendants in the circuit court, a copy of which affidavit had been served upon the counsel for the plaintiffs in the suits.

The facts set forth in the affidavit and the papers referred to are fully stated in the opinion of the Court.

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