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Opinion of the Court.

ing the validity, as a last will and testament, of an instrument offered for probate, and, therefore, its admission to probate, is not a "case," the final judgment in which can be here reviewed. We cannot assent to this view. The latter proceeding is as much a case" as the former. One involves the validity of the probate of a will, the other the validity as a will of a paper offered for probate. Upon the determination of each depend rights of property, and in each are adversary parties. There can be no reason why Congress should extend the jurisdiction of this court to proceedings involving the validity of the probate of wills, and not to proceedings involv ing the validity of an instrument offered for probate as a will. That the issues in the former may be heard and determined, in the first instance, without a jury, and upon evidence before a court, while the issues in the latter may, and if the parties require, must, be tried, in the first instance, by a jury, with the right in the parties to have bills of exceptions showing the rulings of the court, cannot affect the nature of the "case."

There are other decisions that throw some light upon the inquiry as to the jurisdiction of this court to reëxamine the final judgments or decrees of the highest court of this District. In the case of Custiss v. Georgetown and Alexandria Turnpike Company, 6 Cranch, 233, one of the questions was as to the jurisdiction of this court to review the final order of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia quashing an inquisition taken by the marshal condemning land for a turnpike road. Its jurisdiction was maintained. By the words of the act constituting the Circuit Court of the District, this court was given jurisdiction to reëxamine "any final judg ment, order or decree in said Circuit Court, wherein the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, shall exceed the value," etc. These words, Chief Justice Marshall said, were "more ample than those employed in the judicial act." It will be found upon comparing the statute defining the jurisdiction of this court over the judgments and decrees of the Supreme Court of this District, with the statute of 1801 creating the Circuit Court of the District, that the words of the former are as broad and ample as the words of the latter. The jurisdiction

Opinion of the Court.

of this court extends to "the final judgment or decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, in any case,” etc., while the words in the act of 1801 were "any final judgment, order or decree in said Circuit Court, wherein the matter in dispute," etc. In Railroad Co. v. Church, 19 Wall. 62, the jurisdiction of this court, to reexamine the final order of the Supreme Court of this District confirming an inquisition of damages returned therein, and which was instituted before the marshal and a jury of the district, was sustained. The court said that its power to review the judgments and final orders of the Supreme Court of the District was as ample as its power over the final judgments, orders and decrees of the Circuit Court which it superseded. These two adjudications illustrate, to some extent, the nature of the cases from the courts of this District which may be reëxamined here, and show that the question now before us is to be determined by the acts of Congress defining the relations between this court and the highest court of this District, and not by reference to the statutes of Maryland, or to the statutes defining our jurisdiction to review the judgments of the Circuit Courts of the United States, held in the several States. And we may repeat here what Chief Justice Marshall said in Young v. Bank of Alexandria, 4 Cranch, 384, in which the main question was as to the power of this court to review the judgments of the Circuit Court of this District in a certain class of cases: "The words of the act of Congress being as explicit as language can furnish, must comprehend every case not completely excepted from them."

Whatever difficulties may have arisen, in cases like this, while there existed in this District a separate, distinct tribunal, having original cognizance of the probate of wills and the administration of the estates of deceased persons, cannot arise under existing legislation, which brings all such business within the cognizance of the Supreme Court of the District, and makes all orders, whether in its special or general term, the orders of that court. As was said in Metropolitan Railroad Co. v. Moore, 121 U. S. 558, 571, 573, the act of 1863 was the introduction into this District of a new organization of its

Opinion of the Court.

judicial system, under which all the courts previously existing here as separate and independent tribunals, having special and diverse jurisdictions, were consolidated into the new Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. For this reason, it was said that the new statutory provisions should be construed in the sense of the New York system, from which they were imported, rather than in the light of the jurisprudence of Maryland previously prevailing in this District. Referring to the clause in the Constitution declaring that no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reëxamined in any court of the United States than according to the rules of the common law, the court, speaking by Mr. Justice Matthews, said: "But that rule is not applicable as between the special and general terms of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia as now organized. The appeal from the special to the general term is not an appeal from one court to another, but is simply a step in the progress of the cause during its pendency in the same court. The Supreme Court sitting at special term, and the Supreme Court sitting in the general term, though the judges may differ, is the same tribunal."

We are of opinion that an appeal to the general term from the final order of probate made in the special term, which is not based upon a judicial determination of facts, but merely upon the finding of a jury, of necessity, brings into review before the general term all the questions of law that are properly presented by the bill of exceptions taken at the trial. We say, of necessity, because: 1. The statute requires the Supreme Court of the District, at general term, to review, upon appeal, any order, judgment or decree of the special term, involving the merits of the action or proceeding. 2. The judgment of the special term admitting a will to probate and record, pursuant to the verdict of the jury upon issues relating to the competency of the deceased to make a will, clearly involves the merits of the controversy, because it establishes the validity as a will of the writing offered for probate. 3. The right of appeal to the general term from such a judgment of the special term would be of no value whatever, in most cases, unless the former could, upon such appeal, deter

Opinion of the Court.

mine the questions of law properly presented in the bill of exceptions taken at the trial before the jury. It could not have been intended that an appeal to the general term from the order of probate should only involve an inquiry as to whether that order was in conformity with the verdict of the jury.

So an appeal to this court from the final judgment of the Supreme Court of the District, affirming the order of probate, of necessity, brings here for reëxamination all the questions properly arising upon those bills of exceptions. The presentation of the instrument in question for probate as the last will of the deceased, the division of the adversary parties into plaintiffs and defendants, the framing of the issues to be tried by the jury, the trial before the jury, the allowance of bills of exception, the motion for a new trial and the overruling of that motion, the admission of the will to probate, and the affirmance of the order of probate, all occurred, not, as under the old system, in different courts but in the same court - the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. If this proceeding, in which there are adversary parties, and 'the issues in which involve rights of property exceeding in value the jurisdictional amount, be, within the meaning of the statute, as we hold it is, "a case" which has been finally determined by the Supreme Court of the District, our authority to determine the questions of law, properly raised, and which in the court below, in any of its divisions, controlled the right to have the will probated, cannot be affected by the circumstance that the original order of probate simply followed the finding of the jury, and was made by the court below, held by a single justice, not by the court in general term.

Nor is the question before us affected by the consideration that an order of the general term, merely affirming an order of the special term which overruled a motion for a new trial, where the finding of the jury is favorable to the caveatees, is not itself a final judgment. Such an order is, in legal effect, a direction that a judgment of probate be entered by the same court which denied the new trial. It is only when that judgment is entered in special term, and is followed by judg

Opinion of the Court.

ment of affirmance in general term, to review which a writ of error is sued out, that the jurisdiction of this court attaches. And in exercising that jurisdiction, this court will not, as it was asked to do in Van Ness v. Van Ness, and in Brown v. Wiley, review simply the order directing the finding of the jury to be certified; but it will inquire whether the facts embraced in that finding were ascertained in conformity with law. If that inquiry is not to be fruitless we must regard the court, in which the facts have been found and certified, as a unit for the purposes of the writ of error. And when that court makes an order, in general term, which, under the statute, may be reëxamined here, the appeal therefrom brings up for review the questions upon which the final judgment really depends, namely, those presented by the bills of exception taken at the trial of the issues submitted to the jury. It would be strange, indeed, if our reëxamination of the final judgment of the Supreme Court of the District could not reach the errors of law which it may have committed in the conduct of that trial, and upon which that judgment is based.

For the reasons which have been stated we are of opinion that the motion to dismiss the writ of error for the want of jurisdiction in this court to review the judgment in question was properly overruled at a former term.

And we are of opinion that the last motion to dismiss, which proceeds upon the ground that this case is one of equitable cognizance to be reviewed here, if at all, only upon appeal, must also be overruled. It is, of course, undisputed that a final decree in equity, in the court below, cannot be reviewed here by means of a writ of error. But a proceeding involving the original probate of a last will and testament is not strictly a proceeding in equity, although rights arising out of, or dependent upon, such probate have often been determined by suits in equity. In determining the question of the competency of the deceased to make a will, the parties have an absolute right to a trial by jury, and to bills of exceptions covering all the rulings of the court during the progress of such trial. These are not the ordinary features of a suit in equity. A proceeding in this District for the probate of a

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