Title: Amos T. Akerman to Isham Reavis, 14 February 1871
Date: February 14, 1871
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: National Archives and Records Administration
Whitman Archive ID: nar.01728
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Joshua Ware, John Schwaninger, and Nima Najafi Kianfar
Feb. 14, 1871.
Hon. Isham Reavis,
Associate Justice Sup. Court of Arizona,
Tucson, Arizona Terr
I have received your letter of the 10th ultimo, asking my construction of the Act of March 23, 1870, entitled "an Act to confirm the apportionment, and amend certain laws of the Territory of Arizona," (16 U. S. Stats. p. 76.)
It is not the usage of this office to give legal opinions except at the call of the President, or of the Head of some other Department, or in performance of the duty of instructing District Attorneys and Marshals—and therefore I cannot answer your letter officially, but I have no hesitation in giving you my individual opinion upon the question which you present.
The Act enacts that the Justices of the Peace of your Territory shall not have jurisdiction where the debt or sum claimed shall exceed three hundred dollars, ($300.) You ask whether that provision affirmatively gives jurisdiction to the amount of three hundred dollars.
The Act organizing Arizona (12th U. S. Stat. p. 664,) vests the Judicial power in a Supreme Court, and such inferior courts as the Legislative Council may by law prescribe. It also extends to the new Territory the Act organizing New Mexico, together with the Legislative enactments of that Territory. The Act organizing New Mexico, (9 U. S. Stats. p. 446) in Sec. 10, gives to the Justices of the Peace such jurisdiction as shall be limited by law, with a proviso withholding jurisdiction where the debt exceeds one hundred dollars.
Putting all these Statutes together, I am clearly of opinion that the jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace must be limited by law, that is by the Territorial law, where no law of Congress treats upon the subject, and that the Justices of the Peace will not have jurisdiction to the amount of three hundred dollars, unless it is given to them by Territorial law, or some law of Congress which has escaped my observation. The effect of the enactment of March 23, 1870, is simply to prescribe a maximum jurisdiction, leaving it discretionary with the Territorial legislature to make it up to the maximum or stop short of it.
A. T. Akerman,
laws &c of Arizona Terr.