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There is more diversity in procedure in civil than in criminal actions. A simple case may serve to illustrate the chief points of difference
Civil Actions between them. Suppose a man has sold merchandise to the value of a hundred dollars, for which he has received no pay. He purposes to sue for the recovery of the debt. The first step is to obtain a
The Writ. writ. This is an order to a sheriff or other officer, directing him to attach the property
Attachment. of the debtor to a specified amount, and to summon the debtor to appear before the
Summons. justice at a certain time and place, to answer to the demand of the plaintiff. The officer, in obedience to this writ, takes possession of the property, and holds it in custody until judgment upon the case has been rendered by the court. The writ may also direct the arrest of the party, if the plaintiff has made affidavit according to law before a designated officer, and received from him a certificate thereof. In certain cases, a man may escape arrest by taking what is called “the poor debtor's oath,” or an oath that he does not intend to leave the State. These oaths, and the manner of taking them, are prescribed by statute. Each writ specifies the day on which it shall be returned; and this return is made, as in the case of the warrant, by an indorsement by the officer, stating what he has done.
The next step in the process is the pleading. This is a formal and legal statement of the facts which constitute the plaintiff's cause
Pleading. of action, followed by a similar statement of the facts which constitute the defendant's ground of defence. Thus the plaintiff may declare the time and mode of
the sale, and the quality and amount and value of the goods. The defendant may deny the purchase, or assert that payment has been made in whole or in part, or on some other ground plead against the obligation. When some fact is asserted by one party, and denied
by the other, an issue is thereby made, and Trial.
the trial begins. Witnesses are called, sworn, and testify first for the plaintiff, then for the defendant. The arguments follow, and then the judgment. If the justice decides for the plaintiff, and the debt is not paid, a writ of execution is issued. This directs the officer to take of the property of the
defendant, and obtain such sums as are Execution.
necessary to satisfy the judgment. This is usually done by sale by auction. If the sale produces more than the amount of the judgment, the balance is paid to the owner. As in criminal actions, appeal may be taken to a higher court, where the steps would be similar, except that the jury would decide upon the question at issue. It will be seen that the terms "attachment” and “execution” belong exclusively to civil actions.
In the Constitution of Massachusetts, as in all the
States, provision is made for removal from Definition.
public offices by a process called impeachment. This may be defined as a written accusation against a civil officer, made in a constitutional way, for maleadministration of office.
1 In certain cases a person may also be arrested on an execution.
Neither the Constitution nor the statutes of Massachusetts specify what officers may be im- Who may be peached; but, according to precedent estab. Impeached. lished by the Congress of the United States, it may be supposed that those executive officers of the Commonwealth who are elected by the people, and all judicial officers, are liable to the process.
Impeachments can only be brought by the house of representatives ; and they are tried by the
• senate. If an officer is supposed guilty
Process of wrong-doing in connection with his office, the representatives may appoint a committee to investigate. This committee may report in favor of impeachment. If the representatives so decide, a committee is appointed to prepare articles of impeachment, and present them to the senate. These articles correspond to the indictment in a criminal process : hence the house of representatives is called by the Constitution the “grand inquest of the Commonwealth."
The articles having been presented, the person is summoned to appear, and answer to the charges. Each senator takes an oath “ well and truly to try the charges ; ” and the trial is conducted according to the usual procedure in other courts. A majority of the senators present is required for conviction.
Judgment, in case of conviction, may extend to removal from office, and disqualification to
Judgment. hold any office of trust, honor, or profit under the Commonwealth. The person is also liable to trial and punishment for the crime before the proper courts, in accordance with the laws of the State.
SUMMARY. The Judicial Department is constituted as follows: Senate, as a court to try impeachment, Supreme Judicial Court, Superior Court, Probate Court, Police and District Courts, Justices of the Peace, and Trial Justices, Clerks of Courts, Reporter of Supreme Judicial Court, Attorneys, Juries.
As early as the time of the Saxons, England was divided into districts for convenience in the administration of justice. The most
History of. important of these was the shire, as it was called, from a Saxon word meaning to cut. The shire was a part cut off. In Norman times, the shire took the name county, from the word count, a Norman title of nobility.
For a few years after the settlement of Massachusetts, as we have seen, justice was administered by the General Court and the Court of Assistants, and by local magistrates in the towns; but, as soon as the colony increased its territory and population, the people adopted the English institution of the county, by grouping the towns together, and setting up county courts.
In 1643 four counties were formed : Suffolk, comprising Boston and the towns south of it; Essex, the towns east of Boston; Middlesex, those north of Boston; and Norfolk, consisting of the towns of New Hampshire, which had been united to Massachusetts. After the separation of the two colonies, those towns that came within the Massachusetts line were united to Essex; and the name Norfolk was given to the towns comprising the present Norfolk County.
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