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Supreme Court Reporter Federal Federal Reporter
(Nat. Rep. System).
Atlantic. (Nat. Rep. System).
New York Sup
Selected Cases. Am. and Eng. Ann. Cases.
Am. State. Reports.
Decennial Digest. Am. Dig. Continuations. (Monthly Digest.
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U. S. Compiled Statutes 1901.
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Am. & Eng. First Ed..
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scope of its jurisdiction, and a court also has the right to prevent abuse of its process. This inherent power includes authority to establish rules of court, not inconsistent with the law, for the proper and efficient transaction of judicial business.
20. Terms of court.—Terms of court are definite and fixed periods prescribed by law. In effect they may be extended by adjourning court to a date subsequent to the end of the term. Furthermore, a court regularly convened continues open until adjourned in fact.
Since terms of court, whether regular or special, are fixed by law, both suitors and courts are charged with knowledge of their dates.
21. Jurisdiction of courts.-A court, in the exercise of its judicial functions, must have jurisdiction both of the subject-matter and of the person. It may by consent of the parties acquire jurisdiction of the latter, but not of the former.
When two or more courts have concurrent jurisdiction over the same subject-matter, the court which gets priority in the commencement of the case has the right to retain control of the action. This rule does not apply, however, when the court is incapable of granting the relief to which the party is entitled.
22. Classification of courts.—Courts are classified in various ways. Thus, we have courts of record and courts not of record; courts of general jurisdiction and courts of special jurisdiction; courts of law and courts of equity; civil courts and criminal courts; trial courts and appellate courts, the latter of which include superior and supreme courts; justice of the peace courts, probate courts, admiralty courts and circuit courts; provisional courts and courts-martial. In the sections next
following these various classes of courts are briefly discussed.
23. Courts of record and courts not of record.— Courts of record are courts which by law are authorized and required to enroll or record their judicial proceedings for future use as a perpetual memorial and testimony. Their records may not be questioned except by a higher court.
A court not of record is one of limited jurisdiction and of inferior dignity whose proceedings are not recorded.
24. Courts of general jurisdiction and courts of special jurisdiction.—Courts of general jurisdiction comprise those courts which have jurisdiction over causes various in their nature. Their records import absolute verity and are not subject to investigation except by a higher court. Moreover, their jurisdiction is always presumed.
Courts of special jurisdiction, on the other hand, are courts whose jurisdiction is limited to certain specified matters. They must proceed according to the mode prescribed by the statutes by which they are created or their acts are nullities. Since their jurisdiction is not presumed, all jurisdictional facts must appear upon the face of their proceedings.
Courts of special or limited jurisdiction are not necessarily courts of inferior jurisdiction. Thus, the federal courts are courts of limited but not of inferior jurisdiction.
Whether a particular court is of inferior jurisdiction or not depends upon the nature of its jurisdiction and
1 A court of record has a seal, the authority to fine and imprison and especially to issue a subpæna, administer an oath and devise new process. Code Civil Proc., N. Y., sec. 7.
the territorial limits within which it may be exercised.
25. Courts of law and courts of equity.—Courts of law are organized tribunals for the trial of causes and the hearing of appeals according to the principles of the common law. The remedy open to such courts is limited, in civil cases, to that of damages. They are powerless to grant an injunction or a divorce, appoint a receiver, reform a document or decree the specific performance of a contract.
In trial courts of law, questions of fact are usually determined by juries, but in the appellate courts all questions are determined by the judges.
American courts of equity are founded upon the English High Court of Chancery. This court grew up on account of the harshness and rigidity of the courts of common law. Petitions, concerning matters of grace and conscience, were made to the king, who in turn referred them to the lord chancellor.
Equity courts grant relief, theoretically at least, only in cases where suitors are unable to obtain a full and adequate remedy at law. Their jurisdiction, however, is not divested by the enlargement of common law remedies by statute. They have no jurisdiction over crimes except that expressly conferred upon them by statute. In this respect they resemble the federal courts. They have no authority, excluding that given by statute, to prevent crimes, or to interfere with their prosecution, pardon or punishment. In some states authority is conferred upon them to enforce criminal laws prohibiting the liquor traffic, by abating as nuisances the places where the liquor is sold. Unlike courts of law, they do not, as a rule, grant damages, although in some cases they do so incidentally. They have power to grant injunctions, appoint receivers, enforce specifically the performance of contracts, foreclose mortgages, grant divorces, etc.
In most of the states the same judge sits as a court of equity and also as a court of law. In a few states the practice is similar to that of New Jersey, where the equity courts have separate and distinct judges.
26. Civil courts and criminal courts.—Civil courts are organized tribunals whose function is to redress private wrongs, such as torts, breaches of contract, etc.
Criminal courts, on the other hand, are organized tribunals for the redress of public wrongs, or crimes, such as murder, robbery, burglary, etc.
The distinction between private and public wrongs is this, the former are infringements of civil rights which belong to individuals as such, whereas, the latter are violations of public rights and duties due to the whole community in its social aggregate capacity. It is to be observed, however, that the same act may constitute both a private and a public wrong, as, for example, an assault and battery.
27. Trial courts and appellate courts.—Trial courts are tribunals in which causes are tried at first hand. They include courts of general jurisdiction and courts of special or limited jurisdiction. Thus, county courts, city courts, circuit courts, justice of the peace courts and courts for the administration of the estates of deceased persons, are all trial courts.
Appellate courts are those to which appeals are taken from trial courts, either by appeal or writ of error. They are not courts of original jurisdiction. In most states and in the federal system the highest