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U.S. Supreme Court

Van Ness v. Bank of United States, 38 U.S. 13 Pet. 17 17 (1839)

Van Ness v. Bank of United States

38 U.S. (13 Pet.) 17


The proceedings of the courts of the State of Maryland, and the laws of that state prior to the passing of laws by Congress providing for the government of the District of Columbia, were in full force and operation in that part of the District ceded by the State of Maryland until Congress had legislated for the government of the District of Columbia, and the decree of the Court of Chancery of Maryland affecting property in the District of Columbia in a cause entertained in that Court operated in the District until Congress tools upon itself the government of the District.

The State of Maryland and the United States both intended that the suits pending in the Courts of Maryland should be proceeded in until the rights of the parties should be definitively decided, and that the judgments and decrees there made should be as valid and conclusive as if the sovereignty had not been transferred.

Congress, by the 13th section of the Act of February 27, 1801, placed judgments and decrees thereafter to be obtained in the state courts of the state of which the District of Columbia had formed a part on the same footing with judgments and decrees rendered before.

If a guardian appointed by the court of the State of Maryland in a cause instituted after Congress had legislated for the District of Columbia had been ordered by a decree of the Court to make a decd of lands within the District, and had died or had refused to make the conveyance as ordered, the court of the District would, on application, have been bound to appoint another person to execute the deed, and would not have been authorized to open again and reexamine the questions which had been decided in the Maryland Court.

A deed was executed and acknowledged "W. M. Duncanson, guardian for Marcia Burnes," and acknowledged by the guardian "to be his act and deed as guardian aforesaid, and thereby the act and deed of the said Marcia." This is a good execution and acknowledgment.

The Acts of the Assembly of Maryland prescribing the mode in which deeds should be acknowledged for the conveyance of real property were adopted by Congress in the act assuming jurisdiction in the District of Columbia, together with the other laws of Maryland then in force. The Acts of the Assembly of Maryland relating to the acknowledgment of deeds do not require that justices of the peace or other officers who have authority to take acknowledgments shall describe in their certificates their official character. Whenever it is established by proof that the acknowledgment was made before persons authorized to take it, it must be presumed to have been taken by them in their official capacity.

The soundest reasons of justice and policy seem to demand that every reasonable intendment should be made to support the titles of bona fide purchasers of real property.

In the declaration in ejectment, various demises were laid, and the verdict of this jury, and the judgment of the circuit court were entered on one of the demises only, and it was contended that the court ought not to have entered a judgment on the issue found for the plaintiff, but should have awarded a venire de novo, and that this irregularity might be taken advantage of upon a writ of error. Held that if this objection had been made in the circuit court on a motion in arrest of judgment, the plaintiff would have been permitted to strike out all the demises for the declaration but that on which the verdict was given. The omission to strike out these demises was only, therefore, an omission of form, and the Act of Congress of 1789, ch. 20, sec. 32, expressly provides that no judgment shall be reversed for any defect or want of form, but that the courts of the United States shall proceed and give judgment according as the right of the cause and matter in law shall appear to them, without regarding any imperfections, defects, or want of form in the judgment or course of proceeding except that specially demurred to.

This case came before the court from the District of Columbia.

Page 38 U. S. 18

The case is fully stated in the following opinion of the Court, delivered by MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY.

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