DE LA RAMA V. DE LA RAMA, 201 U. S. 303 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

De la Rama v. De la Rama, 201 U.S. 303 (1906)

De la Rama v. De la Rama

No. 102

Argued December 5, 6, 1905

Decided April 2, 1906

201 U.S. 303


The general rule that courts of the United States have no jurisdiction upon the subject of divorce or for allowance of alimony, because diversity of citizenship does not exist and no pecuniary value is involved, has no application to territorial courts or to the appellate jurisdiction of this Court over those courts.

The Territorial Practice Act of April 7, 1874, 18 Stat. 27, under which the jurisdiction of this Court does not extend to reexamining the facts, but is limited to determining whether the findings support the judgment and to reviewing errors as to admission or rejection of testimony on exceptions duly taken, has no application to appeals from the Philippine Islands.

Under § 10 of the Act of July 1, 1902, 32 Stat. 691, appeals are allowed from judgments of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands where the amount exceeds $25,000 in the same manner as from judgments of the circuit courts of the United States, and such appeals extend to an examination of the facts as well as the law, and where alimony or separation of conjugal property has been awarded by the decree of divorce amounting

Page 201 U. S. 304

to over $25,000 and this Court takes jurisdiction of the appeal by reason of the amount involved, it may, if necessary to determine whether the decree was right in that respect, pass upon the sufficiency of the testimony authorizing or refusing the divorce.

For the purposes of the jurisdiction of this Court, it makes no difference whether the amount claimed by the wife in a suit for divorce in the Philippine Islands be termed alimony or her share of community property.

Under § 10 of the Philippine Island Act of 1902, appeals are allowed in all cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000, and this Court has no power to create an exception not made in the statute -- it would be judicial legislation.

The abandonment by the husband of his wife, excluding her from his house and forming open and illicit relations with other women who bear him children, is sufficient to bring his adultery within the rule of law in the Philippine Islands that adultery of the husband must be accompanied by public scandal and disgrace to the wife in order to entitle her to a divorce.

In this case, the Court of First Instance, on uncontradicted evidence as to the husband's adultery and scandal ensuing therefrom, found that the wife was entitled to a divorce and that there was no adultery on her part; the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands found that the wife had committed adultery, basing the finding on a letter written by her and construed to be in the nature of a confession, and for that reason alone reversed the judgment. On examining the record, this Court holds that such letter does not amount to a confession, and that there is insufficient evidence of her having committed adultery, and therefore reverses the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands.

This was a suit brought in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Iloilo by the appellant, as plaintiff, against her husband, the defendant, for a judicial separation or divorce a mensa et thoro, an equal separation of the property of the conjugal partnership, for an allowance to the plaintiff for her support during the pendency of the action, and for counsel fees, costs, and general relief, upon the ground of the husband's adultery and the public scandal and disgrace thereby brought upon the plaintiff.

In his answer, defendant alleged, by way of recrimination, adultery on the part of the wife, denied the existence of any community property, and prayed for a divorce without alimony.

Upon the trial, the court decreed a divorce to the plaintiff on account of her husband's adultery, as well as the payment

Page 201 U. S. 305

of $81,042.76, Mexican money, due her as her unpaid share of the property belonging to the conjugal partnership, as well as the sum of $3,200, Mexican money, as an allowance for her support since the date upon which the action was instituted, being at the rate of 400 pesos a month for eight months, with costs.

After motion for a new trial had been made and overruled, defendant appealed to the supreme court, which reversed the decree of the court below, incorporated in its opinion certain findings of fact, and ordered judgment absolute that the complaint be dismissed.

Whereupon plaintiff appealed to this Court under § 10 of the Act of July 1, 1902, to provide a temporary civil government in the Philippine Islands, 32 Stat. 691-695, a copy of which section is given in the margin. [Footnote 1]

Page 201 U. S. 307

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