Introduction to State of Illinois v. Finch, State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus, and Davis v. JS et al.

Document Transcript

State of Illinois v. Finch
Hancock Co., Illinois, Justice of the Peace Court, 23 November 1843
 
State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus
Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Illinois, Municipal Court, 24 November 1843
 
Davis v. JS, Spencer, and Greene
Hancock Co., Illinois, Circuit Court, 21 October 1844
 
Historical Introduction
In early 1844, initiated a civil suit against JS, , and in the circuit court of , Illinois. In the suit, Davis alleged that the three men had wronged him during the execution of their responsibilities as officials in the municipal court of , Illinois. Davis, a merchant and tavern keeper in Nauvoo, had joined the church in 1840, but in 1842 his relationship with JS and the church deteriorated. In March of that year, JS brought charges against Davis for his character. In September 1842, recorded a rumor in JS’s journal that the posse attempting to arrest JS for extradition to had used Davis’s tavern as a base of operations. Between 29 November and 6 December 1842, Davis was accused of violating several city ordinances and was tried in five cases in Nauvoo courts. JS participated in each of these cases as either mayor, , complainant, or witness. During the final case before JS, Davis testified that he believed JS to be “so prejudised against him that he Cannot have a fair and Impartial trial.” Nevertheless, Davis and JS avoided further conflict until November 1843.
 
State of Illinois v. Finch
In late November 1843, filed a complaint alleging that , a fellow merchant in the city, stole a clothes brush from him. Based on the complaint, justice of the peace issued a for Finch’s arrest. After a hearing, Higbee ordered Finch to pay $300 bail and appear at the next session of the county circuit court, to be held in May 1844, to answer the charge. Finch refused to pay the bail, so Higbee ordered him to await trial in the county jail.
 
State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus
On 23 November, before he could be conveyed to jail at , Illinois, petitioned the Municipal Court for a writ of . , clerk of the Nauvoo Municipal Court, issued the writ, and city marshal served it. When the Nauvoo Municipal Court, presided over by JS, met on 24 November 1843 to hear Finch’s case, it approved a motion to “proceed to trial on the merits of the cause.” After hearing witnesses, the court discharged Finch from arrest. Moreover, the court ordered to pay the costs of the case, as it was determined that he had instigated “a vexatious and malicious suit” against Finch.
On 15 December, issued a writ of to collect $24.30¼ from . Over the next month, newly appointed city marshal seized a horse, a buggy, a harness, and twenty-five bags of salt from Davis to pay the costs plus Greene’s own collection fees. The amount of property he seized to satisfy the execution considerably exceeded the costs. Greene appraised the salt he seized at over $30. Moreover, he valued the horse, buggy, and harness at just $5.31, although they were probably worth well over $100.
 
Davis v. JS, Spencer, and Greene
In February 1844, initiated a suit of against JS, , and in the county circuit court to recover $300 in damages. Davis appears to have based this action on the execution from the case, although it is unclear why Spencer, a alderman, was singled out while the other members of the municipal court were not. Trespass was a broad common law category of civil suits designed to recover damages from unlawful injuries to person or property, including the “carrying away” of property. Because most of the records related to this February 1844 case, including Davis’s declaration outlining his claims, are apparently not extant, the exact details of the case are unknown. However, both the request to issue the summons prepared by Davis’s attorneys and a subsequent notice to produce papers demanded that bring all the legal documents connected to the earlier case against Finch to the circuit court as part of Davis’s suit, indicating that the two cases were connected. In suing JS and the other defendants, Davis was either challenging Greene’s apparent exorbitant enforcement of the execution, making a broader objection to the municipal court’s jurisdiction in the case against Finch, or both.
Circuit Court deputy clerk issued a summons on 24 February 1844 ordering JS, , and to appear at the May 1844 term of the court to answer the charge. Constable and deputy sheriff served the summons on JS and Greene on 5 March 1844. When the case came to trial in May 1844, JS, Spencer, and Greene pleaded not guilty because, they argued, “the supposed trespasses were committed by the said defendants in the execution of a certain legal writ.” They likewise obtained a change of venue to neighboring , Illinois, with a court date set for October 1844. However, JS and Greene died before the case could again come to trial. In October 1844, the Hancock County Circuit Court dismissed the suit.
 
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

    “Good News from America,” Millennial Star, July 1840, 1:63.  

    Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. Manchester, England, 1840–1842; Liverpool, 1842–1932; London, 1932–1970.

  2. 2

    See Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–A; and Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 13 Nov. 1841, 31.  

  3. 3

    JS, Journal, 3 Sept. 1842.  

  4. 4

    See Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–B and City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of JS–C; Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Ardent Spirits; Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Assault; and Introduction to City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of Miles.  

  5. 5

    Affidavit, 6 Dec. 1842 [City of Nauvoo v. Davis for Slander of Miles].  

  6. 6

    Gregg, History of Hancock County, Illinois, 938, 950.  

    Gregg, Thomas. History of Hancock County, Illinois, Together with an Outline History of the State, and a Digest of State Laws. Chicago: Charles C. Chapman, 1880.

  7. 7

    Petition, 23 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus].  

  8. 8

    Mittimus, 23 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch].  

  9. 9

    Petition, 23 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus].  

  10. 10

    Habeas Corpus, 23 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus].  

  11. 11

    See “The Nauvoo Municipal Court and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.”  

  12. 12

    Docket Entry, 23–ca. 24 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus]. This ruling was likely based on the city’s 8 August 1842 ordinance regulating habeas corpus proceedings. This ordinance stipulated that if a court discovered that an arrest warrant had been issued “either through private pique, malicious intent, religious or other persecution, falsehood, or misrepresentation, contrary to the constitution of this State, or the constitution of the United States,” the court was authorized to quash the warrant. Finch explicitly pointed to this statute in his petition to the municipal court for a writ of habeas corpus. (Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 8 Aug. 1842, 98; Petition, 23 Nov. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus].)  

  13. 13

    Execution, 15 Dec. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus].  

  14. 14

    Execution, 15 Dec. 1843 [State of Illinois v. Finch on Habeas Corpus]; see also Book of the Law of the Lord, 109.  

  15. 15

    “Trespass,” in Bouvier, Law Dictionary, 2:579–580.  

    Bouvier, John. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union; With References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Philadelphia: T. and J. W. Johnson, 1843.

  16. 16

    Praecipe, 23 Feb. 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.]; Notice, 9 Apr. 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.].  

  17. 17

    According to Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, as long as defendants “acted under regular process of a court of competent jurisdiction,” they could not be sued for trespass. However, if “the court has no jurisdiction and the process is wholly void,” then the defendant was open to a suit of trespass. (“Trespass,” in Bouvier, Law Dictionary, 2:580.)  

    Bouvier, John. A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America, and of the Several States of the American Union; With References to the Civil and Other Systems of Foreign Law. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Philadelphia: T. and J. W. Johnson, 1843.

  18. 18

    Summons, 24 Feb. 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.].  

  19. 19

    Pleas, ca. 22 May 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.].  

  20. 20

    Docket Entry, Motion and Change of Venue, 23 May 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.].  

  21. 21

    Docket Entry, Notification of Death and Dismissal, 21 Oct. 1844 [Davis v. JS et al.].