Thomas Jefferson Papers

Bill Empowering the High Court of Chancery to Supply Vacant Offices, [19 May 1778]

Bill Empowering the High Court of Chancery to Supply Vacant Offices

[19 May 1778]

Be it enacted by the general assembly that the judges of the high court of chancery or any two of them may before the next term appoint a clerk thereof in the room of him who lately died by writing under their hands and seals and at any time hereafter when that office or the office of serjeant at arms shall by any means become vacant may in like manner appoint a successor and such succeeding clerk or serjeant having in any court of record taken the oaths required by law shall exercise the same power perform the same duty and be intitled to the same fees and profits as he might have exercised performed and been intitled to if he had been appointed in term-time. The clerk of the high court of chancery shall be paid by the treasurer out of any public money that may be in his hands a salary of the rate of1  by the year until the general assembly shall make such other provision for him as will encourage a man of sufficient ability to accept the office. Any party thinking himself aggrieved by a decree of the court of a county city or borough in chancery and not having entered an appeal from the decree at the time it was pronounced may appeal from such decree2 at any time within three months after passing this act or within one month after the decree pronounced3 lodging for that purpose with the clerk of the high court of chancery a copy of the proceedings in the suit and a petition suggesting error in the decree signed by some counsel attending the high court of chancery and also lodging with the petition a bond executed by the appellant or his agent and a surety or sureties with the like condition as is annexed to other appeal bonds and affidavits or solemn affirmations verifying the sufficiency of the sureties and the clerk shall there upon issue a summons against the appellee requiring him to appear and answer the said petition and appeal and shall also issue a supersedeas if necessary to enjoin from proceeding in execution of the decree and the court shall and may hear and determine the appeal in the same manner as if the appeal had been entered at the time the decree was pronounced.4

MS (Vi); in clerk’s hand with interlineations by TJ. MS mutilated as indicated in note 4, below. Endorsed: “A bill empowering the judges of the high court of chancery to supply certain vacant offices, making a temporary provision for the clerk thereof, and establishing a method of appealing to that court in particular cases (and prescribing rules for reviewing decrees of the late general court in chancery).” Docketed in hand of Edmund Randolph: “May 19th. 1778. read the first time. May 20. read 2d. time & to be engrossed.”

On 19 May TJ and Cyrus Griffin were appointed to bring in such a Bill; TJ reported it the same day and must have been its author, since he drafted the earlier bills pertaining to the High Court of Chancery. The Bill passed the third reading 21 May and TJ carried it to the Senate, where it was agreed to on 28 May (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1778, 1827 edn., p. 12, 13, 14, 21). Text of the Act, which was adopted without altering Bill save as noted below, is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends ix, 458–9.

1Act reads: “one hundred and fifty pounds by the year.”

2Preceding four words interlined by TJ.

3The words “three months … decree pronounced” are inserted in TJ’s hand.

4MS mutilated. At this point the words “no bill of re-” are deleted and the MS is torn so that, in the next line, only the words “shall be admitted in the high c[ourt]” are discernible. The Act, however, ends with the text as given above; and the additional matter that the Bill contained originally must obviously have been that part “prescribing rules for receiving decrees of the late general court in chancery” (see descriptive note, above). It is to be regretted that the clerk’s method of recording a deletion by amendment apparently took the drastic form of tearing off that part of the MS that was no longer needed for legislative purposes.

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