Adams v. Norris

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

64 U.S. 353

Adams  v.  Norris

THIS case was brought up by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for the districts of California.

It was an ejectment brought by Adams and Grimes, citizens of Massachusetts, against De Cook and Norris, to recover a rancho in California. The amended complaint reduced the parties to Adams, plaintiff, against Norris, defendant.

Adams claimed, as representing the heirs at law of one Eliab Grimes, and Norris under a codicil to the will of Grimes. The question therefore was, whether the will should stand.

Grimes, who was a Mexican citizen by naturalization, made a codicil to his will in 1845, by which he devised the rancho to his nephew, Hiram Grimes, under whom Norris claimed. The codicil was signed by himself and executed 'before me, in the absence of the two alcaldes.


'Witnesses: NATHAN SPEAR.

GUILLERMO HINCKLEY.'Upon the trial, the plaintiff made out his title, when the defendant offered the original will and codicil in evidence, the will never having been probated.

The witnesses were all dead. Hinckley died in 1846, Spear in the fall of 1849, and Ridley in April, 1852. Grimes, the testator, died in November, 1848.

The first exception was as follows:

The plaintiff admitted the genuineness of the signatures to the documents A and B, and they were given in evidence without objection; but the plaintiff objected to the admissibility of document C, upon the following grounds:

First. Because a paper offered in evidence as a will or codicil without probate, and which has never been duly probated, cannot be admitted in evidence for want of such probate, and does not become a will until probated.

Second. Because the courts of the United States have no probate jurisdiction; and no document or paper purporting to be a will can be probated in any court of the United States.

The court overruled the said objections, and admitted the said document to be given in evidence, and permitted the defendant to offer proof of the execution of said document, the the same not having been admitted to probate by any probate or other court.

The complainant then and there immediately excepted to the ruling of the court, and the exception was then and there allowed.

It would be tedious to follow the trial through the numerous points made, prayers to the court, and rulings thereon; and unnecessary, because the substance of them is stated in the opinion of the court. The jury found for the defendant, and the plaintiff brought the case up to this court.

It was argued by Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Cushing for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. Johnson and Mr. Stanton for the defendant.

The California cases referred to in argument were the following:Panaud v. Jones, 1 California Reports, 497.

Castro v. Castro, 6 California Reports, 158.

Grimes's Estate v. Norris, 6 California Reports, 621.

Tevis v. Pitcher, 10 California Reports, 465.

1 McAllister's Reports, (this case,) 253.

The arguments of the counsel upon both sides, investigating minutely the provisions of the Hispano-Mexican law in force in Mexican California, and referring to the authorities upon that branch of jurisprudence, would not be interesting to the generality of the readers of this volume, and are therefore omitted.

Mr. Justice CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).