Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Hunter

Document Transcript

City of Nauvoo v. Hunter
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Municipal Court, 29 November 1842
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 23 May 1843
 
Historical Introduction
On 28 November 1842, JS swore out a complaint before , Illinois, alderman in the Nauvoo Municipal Court, charging Thomas Hunter with maligning the church and JS’s character in violation of the city’s ordinance regarding vagrants and disorderly persons. Like most vagrancy laws, Nauvoo’s city ordinance was deliberately vague and provided wide latitude for city authorities to prosecute individuals for idleness, drunkenness, and other disorderly or suspicious behavior. According to JS’s complaint, Hunter had accused JS of being “an imposter and a swindler” on or around 26 November and stated that the church as an institution “was a swindle machine.” JS likely based his complaint on a portion of the ordinance that forbade “profane or indecent language, or behaviour.” As an alderman, Marks served as an associate justice on the municipal court and had jurisdiction over alleged breaches of city ordinances. Marks issued an arrest warrant for Hunter that same day, instructing constable to bring him before the municipal court. The next day, 29 November, Hunter was arrested and delivered into the custody of alderman , who then subpoenaed witnesses for the trial.
Following Hunter’s arrest but prior to his trial, JS swore out a second complaint before alderman , this time alleging that Hunter had violated the ’s ordinance regarding religious societies. This ordinance had been passed in March 1841 after JS, as a member of the city council, supported and helped prepare it. The ordinance guaranteed that all “religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration and equal Privilieges” in Nauvoo; it also criminalized “ridiculing[,] abusing, or otherwise depreciating another in consequence of his religion.” JS’s second complaint echoed the wording of the ordinance by accusing Hunter of using “ridiculous and abusive language” against his character.
Hunter’s trial took place on 29 November before the Municipal Court, with presiding as president pro tem. After JS’s second complaint was read to the court, Hunter pleaded guilty to violating the religious societies ordinance, and the court proceeded to hear testimony from the witnesses. The court’s docket entry states that “the Prosecutor” ultimately “recommended the Deft to the mercy of the Court.” JS’s journal for the date suggests that the prosecutor mentioned in the docket entry likely is JS, who “forgave Hunter the judgement.” The court accordingly discharged Hunter without fining him for violating a city ordinance. However, because he had pleaded guilty to the charge, the court ordered Hunter to pay the costs of the suit—amounting to eight dollars—and issued a ten-dollar fine against him for contempt of court because he had used “disrespectful and abusive language” to dismiss the authority of the municipal court.
Although Hunter had pleaded guilty, he appealed to the Circuit Court, and on 7 December 1842 the court issued a to halt the execution of the judgment. In February 1843, provided a certified copy of the municipal court docket entry and other documents, including JS’s original complaints, to the circuit court. In May 1843, during the circuit court’s next session, Hunter’s attorney—possibly , who had defended him before the municipal court—moved to dismiss the suit. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the municipal court lacked jurisdiction, and the was ordered to pay Hunter’s court costs. No extant records explicitly state why the circuit court believed that the municipal court lacked jurisdiction. One possibility is that while the ordinance regarding religious societies gave either the mayor’s court or municipal court original jurisdiction, the act incorporating the city of Nauvoo stated that the municipal court could act only as an appellate court and could not hear cases originally.
 
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.

Footnotes

  1. 1

    Complaint, 28 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter].  

  2. 2

    These ordinances also supplied a legal means to threaten and prosecute destitute or undesirable residents when it was deemed in the public interest. (Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 13 Nov. 1841, 31; see also Ocobock, “Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective,” 1–34.)  

    Ocobock, Paul. “Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective.” In Cast Out: Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global and Historical Perspective, edited by A. L. Beier and Paul Ocobock, 1–34. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2008.

  3. 3

    Complaint, 28 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter].  

  4. 4

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 13 Nov. 1841, 31.  

  5. 5

    Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.  

  6. 6

    See Warrant, 28 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; and Subpoena, 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter].  

  7. 7

    See Complaint, 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; and Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13. JS’s second complaint against Hunter was one of two complaints he swore out before Wells on 29 November regarding violations of this ordinance; the other complaint accused Amos Davis. (See Complaint, 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–B].)  

  8. 8

    Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13.  

  9. 9

    Complaint, 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13.  

  10. 10

    In addition to Wells, the court consisted of aldermen Newel K. Whitney, George W. Harris, Gustavus Hills, and William Marks. (See Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; and JS, Journal, 29 Nov. 1842.)  

  11. 11

    See Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]. The state statute relating to guilty pleas instructed courts that “in all cases where the court possess any discretion as to the extent of the punishment, it shall be the duty of the court to examine witnesses as to the aggravation and mitigation of the offence.” (An Act relative to Criminal Jurisprudence [26 Feb. 1833], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, p. 232, sec. 173.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  12. 12

    Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; JS, Journal, 29 Nov. 1842. The ordinance regarding religious societies allowed for fines “in any Sum not exceeding five hundred Dollars” or for imprisonment “not exceeding six months, or both.” (Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13.)  

  13. 13

    Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]. This fine was a violation of state law, which allowed justices of the peace to issue fines of no “more than five dollars” for contempt of court. (An Act concerning Justices of the Peace and Constables [3 Feb. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois, 408, sec. 24.)  

    The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.

  14. 14

    See Supersedeas, 7 Dec. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; and Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter].  

  15. 15

    See Docket Entry, ca. 29 Nov. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; Docket Entry, Motion, 16 May 1843 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; Docket Entry, Motion Sustained and Case Dismissed, 23 May 1843 [City of Nauvoo v. Hunter]; Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 1 Mar. 1841, 13; and Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840. The same day it dismissed the municipal court’s case against Hunter, the Hancock County Circuit Court also dismissed one of JS’s complaints against Amos Davis that was tried under similar circumstances. (See Docket Entry, Dismissal, 23 May 1843 [City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–C]>; and Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–B and City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–.)