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Eastern District of Virginia, bo wit:

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V82 3342:36


1815-26 BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the ninth day of August,

in the fifty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America, Peter Cot:

Tom, of the said district, hath deposited in

**** this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit:

Virginia Cases, or Decisions of the General Court of Virginia, chiefly on the Criminal Law of the Commonwealth, commencing june term, 1815, and ending June term, 1826. With an Index of the principal matters in this and the preced. ing volume.- Vol. II.-By William Brockenbrough, one of the Judges of that Court."

* *

In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled “An act for the encouragement of learning, by secur. ing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.”

R’D. JEFFRIES, Clerk of the

Eastern District of Virginia.

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The General Court being the Supreme Criminal Tribunal in Virginia, it has been thought that their Decisions in Criminal Cases should be made known to the people on whom they are to operate. About six or seven years ago, the Judges came to the resolation that their Decisions should be inserted in a manuscript volume, and that the report of each Case should shew the grounds on which it was decided. Residing at the place where the Court is held, and the Records kept, the task of making these Reports devolved on me. The present volume is the result of that determination.

The jurisdiction of the General Court is now, and has been ever since the year 1789, mostly of an appellate character : it has only a small residuum of original jurisdiction. Until a recent period, the only mode by which its appellate jurisdiction was exercised, was by adjournment. In the year 1814, an Act passed, by which a prisoner was allowed to apply to the General Court for a Writ of Error to reverse the final judgments of the Superior Courts. It will be found by the present volume, that this Law has increased, very considerably, the Criminal jurisdiction of the Court, and that its Decisions are now more interesting and important than they have heretofore been. Still, however, there are many Decisions of the Superior Courts which can never be re

viewed by the General Court. When the prisoner
refuses his assent, the Superior Court cannot ad-
journ a question of Law; and if the Decision is fa-
vorable to the prisoner, it is final, because the Com-
monwealth cannot apply for a Writ of Error in a
Criminal Case.

In the year 1815, a small volume was published,
containing Reports of Cases decided by the General
Court. Besides other imperfections, it contained no
Index. That defect is now attempted to be reme-
died. At the end of this volume will be found an
Index to the Cases decided in the first.

This volume contains some of the decisions of the
General Court in Civil Cases. The Virginia Lawyer
will readily understand, that with a few exceptions,
these are not considered as of binding authority. I
hope, however, that the interesting subjects of which
most of those Cases treat, will be deemed a sufficient
apology for their publication.

Richmond, August, 1826.

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1. The County and Corporation Courts.—The County Courts are composed of Justices appointed and commissioned by the Governor with the advice of the Council of State, and in case of vacancies, or a necessity of increasing the number, the appointments are made on the recommendation of the respective County Courts. Four Justices at least are necessary to compose a Court, and on the trial of slaves, charged with felony, the number consists of five at the least. All of these Justices serve their country without fee or reward of any kind, for although it is sometimes said that the annual appointment of each of the Justices in rotation to the office of Sheriff with the continuance for two years, is a compensation for the Judicial office, yet experience shews that the profits of the Shrievalty are hardly equal to its responsibility.

These are Courts of general jurisdiction in Law and Equity; the most important duties in matters of police and economy are confided to them; they nominate militia officers, (below the grade of brigadiers,) Sheriffs, Coroners, &c. to the Executive; they are Courts of Oyer and Terminer for the trial of slaves, and they are Examining Courts of free persons charged with offences, and decide whether they shall be discharged and acquitted from further prosecution, or may be tried in the Superior or County Courts. There have been fewer changes in these Courts than in any others in the State. See Mr. Leigh's note as to their antiquity and usefulness.

The Corporation Courts are composed of a Mayor, Recorder and Aldermen; the mode of appointment, and the tenure of their offices depend on the charters of the respective cities, boroughs and towns. The jurisdiction is in general the same with that of the County Courts, except

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that in civil suits and controversies instituted there, the Plaintiff and Defendant must both be inhabitants, or citizens of the Corporation, or one of the parties must not be an inhabitant of the Commonwealth, and in either case the contract must have been made, or the cause of action accrued within the Corporation.

2. The General Court, and Circuit or Superior Courts.—The Judges of the General Court are appointed by joint ballot of the two Houses of Assembly, are commissioned by the Governor, and hold their offices during good behaviour.

At the first organization of this Court in October, 1777, it consisted of five Judges, any three of whom to form a quorum.

At that time, its jurisdiction was general over all persons, and in causes, matters or things at Common Law, whether brought before them by original process, by appeal from any Inferior Court, Habeas Corpus, Certiorari, Writ of Error, Supersedeas, Mandamus, or by any other legal ways or means. But no original suit could be brought for a less sum than ten pounds, or two thousand pounds of tobacco.

The process of the Court extended to every county of the State.

It was a Court of Oyer and Terminer for the trial of all treasons, murders, felonies, and other crimes and misdemesnors, committed by any free person. Offenders in any part of the State charged with treason, or felony must have been, and with misdemesnors might be, tried there.

In the October Session of 1784, an Act passed establishing Courts of Assize, and in the October Session of 1787, an Act passed establishing District Courts. By both of these Acts the Chancellors, and the Judges of Admiralty, as well as the Judges of the General Court, were required to act as Common Law Judges in the Courts thereby established. But neither Act went into operation, the former having been repealed by the Legislature, and the latter declared unconstitutional by the Judges. By the Act of 22d December, 1788, District Courts were established. The General Court by the Act of the 25th December, was made to consist of ten Judges, and they were made Judges of the District Courts. Each district consisted of several counties. Two Judges were to sit in each Court. There were finally nineteen districts, and to each couple of Judges, were allotted four districts, except one, which had three

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