Caperton v. Ballard,
Annotate this Case
81 U.S. 238 (1871)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Caperton v. Ballard, 81 U.S. 14 Wall. 238 238 (1871)
Caperton v. Ballard
81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 238
To bring a case here under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act on the ground that the provision of the Constitution which ordains that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state" has been violated by a refusal of the highest state court to give proper effect to a judicial record of another state, it is necessary that it appear that the record have been authenticated in the mode prescribed by the Act of May 26, 1790,
"to prescribe the mode in which the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings in each state shall be authenticated, so as to take effect in every other state."
The Constitution of the United States ordains "that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state," and also ordains that "the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."
Congress in execution of this power thus given to it, by act of May 26, 1790, [Footnote 1] passed a statute prescribing the mode in which "the records and judicial proceedings of the courts of any state shall be authenticated, so as to take effect in every other state." This statute enacts:
"That the records and judicial proceedings of the courts of any state shall be proved or admitted in any other court within the United States by the attestation of the clerk and the seal of the court annexed, if there be a seal, together with a certificate of the judge, chief justice, or presiding magistrate, as the case may be, that the said attestation is in due form."
The act then proceeds:
"And the said records and judicial proceedings, authenticated as aforesaid, shall have such faith and credit given to them in every court within the United States as they have by law or
usage in the courts of the state from whence the said records are or shall be taken."
In this state of the law, one William A. Ballard, as administrator of William Ballard, deceased, brought suit against a certain Caperton in the state Circuit Court of Monroe County, West Virginia -- a county prior to about the 20th of June, 1863, of Virginia, but after that date a county of West Virginia -- for a tortious seizure, sale, and destruction of the property of the intestate. [Footnote 2] The letters of administration were issued to the plaintiff by the Circuit Court of Monroe County on the 25th of April, 1866, after the suppression of the rebellion. In bar of the suit, the defendant pleaded that on the 16th of February, 1863, letters had been duly granted by the County Court of the same county on the same estate to one John C. Ballard, who properly qualified as administrator. To this it was replied that the letters were granted by a court in rebellion, and void.
On the trial, the plaintiff produced evidence to show that he was regularly appointed administrator by the Monroe County Circuit Court on the 25th of April, 1866. The defendant, on the other hand, in order to sustain his plea, offered in evidence an order from the county court of the same county, dated February 16, 1863, reciting that administration of the estate of William Ballard, deceased, is granted to John C. Ballard, who had made oath &c., and "that letters in due form are granted to him." This order, so far as the record shows, was certified in no other manner than by the teste of the clerk, one Lewis Callaway. There was not even a seal attached to the certificate. The defendant then offered evidence that he had paid to this administrator the net proceeds of the alleged tortious seizure and sale of the decedent's property, and he requested the court
to charge that if the administration of the plaintiff's intestate had been granted to John C. Ballard by the County Court, composed of justices who held their commission under the authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia issued to them in 1860, such appointment was sufficient to authorize him to act as such administrator, and that there could be no other appointment subsequent thereto until the original appointment was set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction. The court refused so to charge, but on the contrary charged that if on the 16th of February, 1863, when the appointment of John C. Ballard was made by the Monroe County Court, that court was in rebellion against the government of the United States and was composed of justices who were then engaged in giving aid and comfort to the rebellion by levying supplies &c., its proceedings were void, and that their appointment to John C. Ballard gave no authority, and that it was not necessary to set aside an invalid order of such a court in order to give effect to the plaintiff's appointment, which was made by a competent tribunal.
Judgment having been given against the defendant, he took the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, where the instruction was declared to have been proper and the judgment was affirmed.
The judgment was now brought here by the defendant, Caperton, on an assumption that he could properly bring it, on the case stated, under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act, quoted supra, pp. 81 U. S. 5-6.