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pany does not affect the rights of either the appellant or respondents.
It is conceded by the respondents, and it is doubtless true, that, as between two locators, and as affecting their rights only, one cannot locate ground of which the other is in actual possession under claim or color of right, because such ground would not be vacant and unoccupied. This would affect the appellant's right to recover for the conflict area in dispute, it being an undisputed fact that, at the very time when the Virginia was located by him, the respondents, the locators of the Nabob, were in actual possession, sinking their incline shaft, and occupying a shanty on the ground.
It is further contended on the part of the appellant that the judg. ment cannot be sustained because there is no finding of fact that the defendants were in possession of the property in controversy at the time of filing the answer, or at the commencement of the action. He claims that this is a jurisdictional question, and may be taken advantage of at any time. It is difficult to conceive how the want of possession by the defendants can be a jurisdictional question, as affecting their right to a judgment in their favor, if the plaintiff, who had inaugurated the suit against them, failed to make out his case. The judgment settled the rights of the defendants to the conflict area only as against the plaintiff. There being no other adverse party to the record, no one else is bound by it; and, besides, the facts as found by the court establish the defendants' right to the possession, and that they had done all that is required by law in order to inaugurate a title to and hold a valid mining claim, and that they were constructively, at least, if not actually, in possession.
The judgment is affirmed.
SUPREME COURT OF NEW MEXICO.
CHAVES v. PEREA, Adm'r, etc.
January Term, 1884.
An appeal will lie from the probate court to the district court, but the latter can. not take jurisdiction, (except for the purpose of dismissal,) unless the inferior court has acquired jurisdiction.
Money claims against estates of intestates must be allowed, if at all, upon legal evidence sustaining the same; such evidence must be passed upon at a regular segsion of the probais court, and the administrator must be present or have opportunity to do so, by being cited to appear.
The probate court has jurisdiction of personal estates only; the legal title vests to the administrator, and all proceedings should be instituted against him.
Method and requirements of appeals from the probate court defined.
Fiske & Warren, for appellant.
C. C. McComus and Catron de Thornton, for appellee.
BRISTOL, J. This case originated in the probate court of Bernalillo county, in the Second judicial district. It was appealed therefrom to the district court of that county, where the appeal was dismissed for irregularity, and it is here on appeal from such final determination thereof in the court below. The proceeding was instituted in the probate court for the allowance of a claim or account against the estate of Salvador Armijo, deceased, in favor of Chaves, the plaintiff below, and appellant here. The account is as follows:
ALBUQUERQUE, N. M., June 9, 1879. The estate of Salvador Armijo, to J. Francisco Chaves, 1877.
Dr. March 19. To 572 sheep @ 1 75,
81001 00 Feb. 22. To 100 ewes W 1 75,
175 00 Feb. 22. To 100 withers @1 25,
125 00 1879. April 1. To two years' legal services @ $250 00 per annum as per contract,
500 00 1878. Oct. 10. To one house,
30 00 1879. May 13. To one house taken,
150 00 May 13. To one house taken, Salvador Gonzales,
It seems from the record that this account, in the first instance, had been presented to the defendant below, Jesus Ma. Perea, who was
the administrator of the estate of the deceased Armijo, who had refused to allow or pay
the same. The account thereupon was presented to the probate court at a regular term thereof, on July 7, 1879. That court made an order embracing this and other claims against the estate, to the effect that “they not having been approved by the administrator, proof shall be introduced to substantiate such claims at a regular term.” The record of the probate court further shows that thereafter, at a regular term held September 22, 1879, this account was called up for hearing by the plaintiff, and after hearing arguments on his behalf the claim was disallowed, and the entire account rejected. It does not appear from the record that any evidence was offered by plaintiff, or received by the court; but instead thereof the case was disposed of in the absence of the administrator on arguments for the plaintiff. The record not only fails to show the appearance of the administrator, but is also silent as to whether he had even been cited to appear, so as to confer jurisdiction to entertain the case. The probate court, having only an inferior and limited jurisdiction, conferred by express provisions of statute, jurisdiction must appear af- . firmatively upon its record. It cannot be presumed. The proceeding was in no sense a suit against the administrator to recover judg. ment for the amount of the claim. It was simply an application to the probate court to admit or allow the claim, as authority, perhaps, to the administrator to pay it, and to exempt him from personal lia. bility if he did pay it. A suit, no doubt, could have been instituted in the district court to recover judgment thereon, wherein all issues of fact could have been litigated and settled whether the probate court had passed upon the question of allowing the claim or not, there being no statute requiring such allowance as a condition precedent to bringing an action.
For the purpose of the proceeding involved in the case at bar, how. ever, the probate court had exclusive original jurisdiction, and while an appeal would lie from a final determination thereof to the chancery side of the district court, yet the latter court could not take jurisdiction except for the purpose of dismissal unless the inferior court had acquired jurisdiction. The provision of our statutes under which the probate court was authorized to act in the premises is as follows: "It shall be the duty of the probate judge to admit all claims against the estate if properly sustained by legal evidence: provided, the administrator be present at court to settle the said claims if admitted.”
Several legal propositions are sustained under this statute: First, money demands upon unpaid accounts against the estates of intestates must be allowed, if at all, upon legal evidence sustaining the same. Second, such evidence must be taken and the claim passed upon at a regular session of the probate court; and, third, the administrator of the estate against whom the claim is made must either be present in court while the evidence is being taken and the claim passed upon, or at least be must have had an opportunity to be present and to be heard by having a citation to appear served on him. In no other way could the probate court have acquired jurisdiction to act in the premises. Our crude and inefficient administration laws do not prescribe the practice to be pursued in this as in a multitude of other cases that may arise; yet it is obvious from the very nature of the proceeding and the right to be passed upon that the administrator should have an opportunity to be present in person or by counsel.
Probate courts, under the laws of this territory, only have jurisdic. tion over the personal estates of intestates. The legal title to any such personal estate is vested in the administrator, in the nature of a trust, for the settlement of the estate. Hence, it follows that all proceedings, whether by suit to recover judgment or a proceeding for the allowance of claims which have for their object the payment thereof out of such personal estate, should be instituted against the administrator, and in such a manner as will give him his day in court, he being the only person through whom a defense can be interposed. The administrator in this case not having been present at the time appellant's claim was passed upon by the probate court and rejected, nor having been cited to appear, that court acquired no jurisdiction, and its determination of the case is void and of no effect whatever. And if an appeal had been regularly taken to the district court, there would have been nothing to do except to dismiss the entire proceeding for want of jurisdiction. This proceeding could not be pleaded in bar of another, and, unless cut off by some statute of limitation, there is nothing to prevent a proceeding de novo, in the regular way, for the same purpose.
That irregularities should occur in the proceedings of probate courts and in the acts of administrators, is not at all surprising under the present condition of the law. No state or territory, it may be presumed, anywhere within the jurisdiction of the United States, has such a lame and inefficient code of administration laws as that which obtains in New Mexico. Judges of probate are elected to office and invested with complicated powers and duties touching the probate of wills, letters of administration, accounts against estates, accounts of executors and administrators, and hearing and determining rights in regard to the same. Administrators also are appointed and charged with the exercise of various powers and duties respecting the settlenent of estates. But there are scarcely any laws upon our statute book prescribing the details of the duties of either, or the specific nodes in which they may be performed. That valuable estates should nelt away and mysteriously disappear, fictitious claims allowed, honost debts left unpaid, and beneficiaries never receive what they are entitled to, in numerous instances, under our crude system of administering estates, is rather to be expected than wondered at. All this ray happen without imputing any intentional fraud to these officials. It is the fault, mainly, of an imperfect system.
The appeal was dismissed by the court below, on the ground that the proper affidavit was not made. This is the only matter that is assigned as error. The point raised simply involves a construction of statutes. The first statute in regard to appeals from the probate to the district court came from the Kearney Code, and is as follows: “Appeals from the judgment of the probate judge shall be allowed to the district court in the same manner and subject to the same restriction as in case of appeals from the district to the supreme court.” Comp. Laws, p. 122, § 4; also, Prince's St. p. 76, § 4.
The statute in regard to appeals from the district to the supreme court is as follows:
"Sec. 3. No such appeal shall be allowed, unless—First, the appeal be taken at the same term at which the judgment or decision appealed from was rendered; and, second, unless the appellant or his agent shall during the same term file in the court his affidavit, stating that such appeal is not taken for the purpose of vexation or delay, but because the affiant believes that the appellant is aggrieved by the judgment or decision of the court.
"Sec. 4. Upon the appeal being made, the circuit court shall make an order allowing the same; such allowance shall stay the execution in the following cases, and no others: First, when the appellant shall be executor or administrator, and the action be by or against him as such; second, when the appellant or some responsible person for him, together with two sufficient securities, to be approved by the court during the same term at which the judgment or decision appealed from was rendered, enter into a recognizance to the adverse party in a sum sufficient to secure the debt, damages, and costs,
The appellant shall file, in the office of the superior court, at least ten days before the first day of such court to which the appeal is returnable, a perfect transcript of the record and proceedings in the case," etc. Comp. Laws, p. 106, SS 3, 4, 6; also
, Prince's St. p. 68, $$ 3, 4, 6.
This statute also is taken from the Kearney Code. Both statutes are among the first enactments of the territorial legislature, and are still in force. But in regard to appeals from the probate courts, sev. eral material changes have been made in the law from time to time, but ultimately they were all placed upon the statute book, and reenacted as one law. Thus in 1853 an act was passed as follows: "All appeals from inferior tribunals to the probate or district courts shall be tried anew in said courts on their merits as if no trial had been had below.” Comp. Laws, p. 206, § 14, and Prince's, St. p. 166, § 14. In 1859 a general act in regard to the jurisdiction and duties of justices of the peace was passed, in which was injected a provision as follows: “Appeals from the probate courts shall be taken hereafter in the same manner as from justices of the peace at the term when