Docket No. 1416
Decided: Monday, July 9th, 1894
Opinion: 9 Wash. 369 (1894)
Court: Dunbar1 Court (1893-1894)
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STATE v. SUPERIOR COURT OF KING COUNTY, 9 Wash. 369; 37 P. 489 (1894).
SUPREME COURT OF WASHINGTON July 9, 1894, Decided Original Application for Certiorari.
Court: Writ awarded.
Counsel: T. A. Gamble, for relator. I. E. Moses, for respondent.
Judge(s) HOYT, J. SCOTT, STILES and ANDERS, JJ., concur. DUNBAR, C. J., dissenting.
Opinion By: HOYT The opinion of the court was delivered by HOYT, J.--A complaint was filed in a justice's court against one of the relators, to recover, on a contract for the payment of money only, the sum of $ 91 and interest thereon from such a date that the principal and interest amounted to the sum of $ 109, in which sum judgment was prayed. Upon default of defendant judgment in that amount was rendered against him. From such judgment he took an appeal to the superior court, and the other relators joined with him as sureties in the bond given upon such appeal. The superior court, having dismissed the appeal, made an order affirming the judgment of the justice's court, and rendered a judgment in the superior court against the principal and sureties in the appeal bond for the amount thereof, with costs, and is now proceeding to enforce the collection of said judgment against said principal and sureties. Relators have filed their petition in this court setting out these, among other, facts, and praying a writ of certiorari to be directed to said superior court and to Thomas J. Humes, the judge in whose department the proceedings were had, to the end that the record may be certified here, and the action of the court reviewed. Such writ will not be awarded if the superior court was proceeding within its jurisdiction, and the question whether or not these facts show that such a court had not jurisdiction is the one which we are called upon to consider upon this application.
It is claimed on the part of the relators that said court had not jurisdiction, for two principal reasons: First, That the justice's court had no jurisdiction, and for that reason the superior court could get no jurisdiction on appeal; and, second, that if the superior court did get jurisdiction of the subject matter upon appeal it had no jurisdiction to render a judgment upon the bond without having first brought the sureties before it on proper notice.
As to the first contention the rule is well settled that if the court from which an appeal is taken had no jurisdiction of the subject matter, and for that reason its judgment was absolutely void, the appellate court by virtue of the appeal can get no jurisdiction to do more than to reverse the judgment, or dismiss the appeal. This rule is so well established that it is not necessary to cite authorities or make argument in support thereof. Did the justice's court have jurisdiction of the subject matter upon the complaint filed, which was the foundation of the judgment from which the appeal was taken? This question must be decided upon the construction to be placed upon such complaint. It is claimed upon the part of the relators that the cause of action stated in the complaint arose upon a contract for the recovery of money only, and that the sum claimed was more than one hundred dollars. On the other side it is contended that since the principal sum was less than one hundred dollars, and it was brought above that amount only by the claim for interest thereon, that for the purposes of the statute giving jurisdiction to justice's courts the sum claimed was less than one hundred dollars. It is not contended but that if the sum claimed was for more than one hundred dollars within the meaning of such statute, the justice's court got no jurisdiction of the subject matter by reason of the filing of such complaint.
In our opinion the claim for interest due upon the principal sum is as much a part of the sum claimed as is the principal itself. The interest, while not technically a part of the contract, is so connected with it that when the claim is made therefor in a complaint it forms a part of the claim arising upon the contract. The claim, interest and all, is upon a contract for the recovery of money, a part of it is upon the contract which gave rise to the principal indebtedness, and the remainder is upon a contract, express or implied, for interest thereon. The statute upon the subject intended that justices of the peace should have jurisdiction in all matters of contract where the entire amount claimed by the plaintiff did not exceed the sum of one hundred dollars, and it is nowhere made to appear therefrom that when a part of such claim is for interest it could exceed such amount. In our opinion, then, the justice's court had no jurisdiction of the subject matter.
The other contention made by the relators presents a somewhat more difficult question. In regard thereto we only now desire to say that no provision of the statute or condition of the bond on appeal from the justice's court has been called to our attention which would warrant the court in summarily rendering judgment against the sureties in the appeal bond without their having had their day in court.
The writ prayed for will be awarded.
SCOTT, STILES and ANDERS, JJ., concur.
DUNBAR, C. J. (dissenting).--I concur in the opinion of the court on the propositions therein argued, but there was another question raised in this case, viz., that the amount involved in the suit being under two hundred dollars this court has no jurisdiction of the cause on appeal, or otherwise. This question, while directly raised, is not referred to in the majority opinion, probably for the reason that it has heretofore been decided by this court adversely to the contention of the respondent; but I am still unable to see how, under any construction of the constitution, the supreme court can assume jurisdiction in this kind of a case.
Sec. 4, art. 4 of the constitution provides that the appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court shall not extend to civil actions at law for the recovery of money, or personal property, when the original amount in controversy, or the value of the property, does not exceed the sum of two hundred dollars, unless the action involves the legality of a tax, etc., and this case, being a plain action for the recovery of money, does not fall within any of the exceptions. Following this restriction of the appellate power of the supreme court, and in the same section, it is provided that the supreme court shall also have power to issue writs of mandamus, review, prohibition, habeas corpus, certiorari, and all other writs necessary and proper to the complete exercise of its appellate and revisory jurisdiction. I think that all these provisions must be construed with reference to the provisions concerning the appellate jurisdiction of the court, and that the limit imposed upon the appellate jurisdiction was intended to be absolute.
It cannot be contended for a moment that this writ is made by virtue of the appellate jurisdiction of the court, for the appellate jurisdiction does not attach in this kind of a case by reason of the limitation imposed by the constitution above referred to. Neither can it attach by reason of the force of the provisions granting revisory jurisdiction, for there is nothing revisory in the action of this court in this kind of a proceeding. Webster defines "revisory" as having the power or purpose of revision, and "revision" as the act of reexamination to correct, review, alter or amend. The central idea of revision is a work upon something already in hand, and in a legal sense to correct or revise where the jurisdiction had already obtained, and the court desired to correct its own rulings, orders or judgments. If the constitution had granted this jurisdiction for the purpose of carrying into effect the supervisory powers of the supreme court, there could be no question but that this court would assume jurisdiction in such cases, for supervising means to oversee, or direct, to superintend the work of some one else; having so far as person is concerned exactly the opposite meaning of revising.
This court, then, cannot assume jurisdiction in a case of this kind without by judicial construction importing into the constitution the word "supervisory" after the word "revisory." This importation is not at all necessary for the administration of justice, and in my judgment is directly opposed to the will of the makers of the fundamental law. The idea of the constitution is that the superior courts can be relied upon to absolutely and finally determine cases involving less than two hundred dollars, and the construction given by the majority to the constitution simply allows a litigant by indirect methods to obtain a benefit by certiorari he could not obtain by a direct appeal. It seems to me that the assumption of jurisdiction in this kind of cases by this court is a usurpation of the constitutional jurisdiction of the superior courts, which is not only unwarranted but absolutely forbidden by the fundamental law. The writ should, therefore, be refused.