SUYDAM V. WILLIAMSON, 61 U. S. 427 (1857)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Suydam v. Williamson, 61 U.S. 20 How. 427 427 (1857)

Suydam v. Williamson

61 U.S. (20 How.) 427


Rulings of the court below in admitting or rejecting evidence can be brought to this Court for revision only by a bill of exceptions.

Every special verdict, in order to enable the appellate court to act upon it, must find the facts on which the court is to pronounce the judgment according to law, and not merely state the evidence of facts. In this manner it becomes a part of the record.

Page 61 U. S. 428

Where there is a bill of exceptions, the writ of error does not operate only upon that part of the record. Wherever an error is apparent on the record, it is open to revision, whether it be made to appear by a bill of exceptions or in any other manner.

Where there is no dispute in regard to the facts, and consequently no necessity for any ruling of the court in admitting or rejecting evidence, the case may be brought before an appellate court by a special verdict or an agreed statement of facts.

But in such a case, the previous rulings of the court upon questions of evidence do not come before the appellate court unless brought up by a bill of exceptions.

A bill of exceptions may include in its scope the rulings of the court as to the admissibility of evidence, which a demurrer to evidence cannot do.

A demurrer to evidence makes the evidence a part of the record.

So where oyer of any instrument is prayed or there is a demurrer to any part of the pleadings.

A writ of error operates only upon the record, and brings it into this Court.

Therefore, where a paper was filed in the court below after the writ of error was issued, which paper, purporting to contain all the evidence, both admitted and rejected, was signed by the judge and certified to be correct by the counsel of the appellee, and concluded as follows:

"A verdict was then, by direction of the court, taken for the plaintiffs for the premises claimed, subject to the opinion of the court upon the questions of law, with liberty to turn this case into a special verdict or bill of exceptions,"

this paper cannot be considered a part of the record. A special verdict requires the presence and assent of the court, and a bill of exceptions must always be signed and sealed by the judge.

In this case, the paper is merely a report of the judge who presided at the trial, and as such must be disregarded by this Court.

Under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, where the jurisdiction of this Court is not shown upon the record, the writ of error must be dismissed; but under the twenty-second section, if no error appears upon the record, the judgment of the court below must be affirmed.

This was an action of ejectment brought by the defendants in error against Suydam to recover two lots of ground in the City of New York. On the part of the defendants in error it was contended that every material question in the case was adjudged by this Court in the cases of Williamson v. Berry, 8 How. 495; Williamson v. Irish Presbyterian Congregation, 8 How. 565; and Williamson v. Ball, 8 How. 566. The counsel for the plaintiff in error alleged that this case was unlike those in several important particulars. But as the decision of this Court turned altogether upon the manner in which the case had been brought up, it is only necessary to state so much of it as will illustrate the point of practice.

The record showed a declaration in ejectment, a plea of not guilty, issue joined, suggestion of the death of some of the plaintiffs and substitution of their heirs, empanelling of a jury, their verdict of guilty against Suydam, the case held under a curia, the judgment for the plaintiffs with costs, and a prayer

Page 61 U. S. 429

for a writ of possession, which was granted. Judgment signed this 6th day of December, 1854, R. E. Stilwell, Deputy Clerk.

Then came the following:

"Circuit Court United States, Southern District of New York"


"This is an action of ejectment for two lots in the Sixteenth Ward of the City of New York. The declaration is in the usual form; the plea is not guilty. Either party may refer to the pleadings as part of this case."

"The plaintiff gave in evidence an exemplified copy of the will, &c."

"The plaintiffs thereupon rested."

"The defendants' counsel then proved the acts of the legislature, the deed of Clement C. Moore the petitions to the legislature and to the chancellor, the master's reports, the orders of the chancellor, the extracts from the journals of the two houses, of which copies are hereto annexed; these were all objected to by the plaintiffs' counsel, and were read subject to the objection."

"The defendants' counsel then offered in evidence a deed from Thomas B. Clarke to Peter McIntyre, of which the following is a copy &c."

"The plaintiffs' counsel then offered to prove:"

"1st. That the acts of the legislature were not for the benefit of the infants, but for the benefit of Thomas B. Clarke merely."

"2d. That the orders of the chancellor had the effect to take the proceeds of their future interest in the property sold, and to apply the same to the father's debts, without giving them any benefit, by support or otherwise, out of the interest of the life estate in other parts of the property."

"3d. That under the acts and orders he actually aliened the lot on Broadway and all the southern moiety of the Greenwich property, excepting two lots, and that none of the children received any benefit from such alienation."

"4th. That nearly the whole of the property mentioned in the acts of legislature was mortgaged or conveyed by Thomas B. Clarke for old debts; that no proceeds were ever invested or secured, or ever received, from the grantors or mortgagees."

"5th. That so far from providing for the children or protecting the estate, he suffered a large portion of the northern moiety to be sold for assessments, and was proceeding to dispose of the same moiety for twenty-one years, when, on the 31st of March, 1826, a bill was filed against him on behalf of the children, and an injunction issued. "

Page 61 U. S. 430

"6th. That on the death of his wife he broke up housekeeping and ceased to live with his children, that the plaintiff was Mrs. Williamson, was, from the death of her mother, in August, 1815, supported and educated entirely by one of her aunts, and that, after about two years from the mother's death, the other children were supported and educated by their friends and were entirely neglected by their father."

"The defendants' counsel objected; the objection was sustained. The plaintiffs' counsel excepted."

"A verdict was then, by direction of the court, taken for the plaintiffs for the premises claimed, subject to the opinion of the court upon the questions of law, with liberty to either party to turn this case into a special verdict or bill of exceptions."


"Endorsed: 127, Circuit Court, Southern District New York. Williamina H. Williamson, agt. James H. Suydam. -- Cr. case. -- Jas. L. Sluyter, plaintiffs' attorney."

"Filed this 29th January, 1855."

Then followed a transcript of other papers in the case. The writ of error was dated 18th December, 1854.

This was the state of the record upon which the case was brought up to this Court.

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