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but in the time of Michael Blundel, that we have knowledge of*.”
The deemsters were always the lord's chief judges of the common law, and privy-councillors; in the ancient court rolls they are styled “ Justiciarii domini regis ;” and to this day, in civil matters, their jurisdiction is most extensive and unlimited ; and in all public acts and instruments of legislation, they sign their names apart from the other officers. From whence, and from the nature of their oath, it may be inferred, that the deemsters are not in strictness members of council, but attend the meetings of that body to give their advice, bearing a resemblance to the attendance of the twelve judges upon the House of Lords.
The following oath is administered on a deemsters' appointment.“ By this book, and by the holy contents thereof, and by the wonderful works that God hath miraculously wrought in heaven above, and in the earth beneath, in six days and seven nights; I John Lace do swear, that I will, without respect of favour or friendship, love or gain, consanguinity or 'affinity, envy or malice, execute the laws of this isle justly, betwixt our sovereign lord the king, and his subjects within this isle, and betwixt party and party, as indifferently as the herring's back-bone doth lie in the midst of the fish.”
Owing to the longitudinal formation of the island, the deemsters were always two in number; and their situation, for the more conve
nient administration of justice, is at the north and south districts, where all matters of litigation that can arise, either by the trespasses slanders, assaults, batteries, debts, contracts or , dealings of the inhabitants, are weekly; or oftener, heard and determined by them without the intervention of a jury; but from their judgment an appeal lies to the governor in council.
By the practice of the deemsters' court, if any person has cause of complaint against another, he must apply to the deemster for a summons or process, requiring the defendant to appear at the next court, together with a summons for witnesses. This process must be served on the defendant by the coroner, or left at his usual place of abode, three days before the sitting of the court, unless in cases of violent assault and battery, or other urgent matter, when a summons on the day before the holding the court has been deemed sufficient. On the day appointed, the cause is called in its order by the deemster, and repeated aloud by the coroner. In case the defendant neglects to appear and answer, the plaintiff or his advocate moves the deemster for a presentment against him, which is forthwith granted, and a constable awarded by the governor. At the succeeding court, the defendant is brought up in the custody of the constable; and, in like manner, should a witness neglect or refuse to appear, a presentment issues against him, and
* See the trespass act of 1753, and its various and extensive summary powers, in Appendix.
he is brought up in custody of the constable. It has been an ancient custom in the island, that if a person finds his adversary present; while the court is sitting, he may take him by the arm, and bring him before the deemster, and set his foot upon his adversary's foot, iand instantly plead his cause against the defendant; but this mode of proceeding has fallen into disuse.
The parties being now in court, the deemster hears their pleadings and allegations, or those of their advocates; examines the witnessi es, or the parties themselves, upon oath, at his discretion; and, after this summary trial, immediately gives judgment, which is extended m writing under the deemster's signature; and before the rising of the court, is delivered to the party complainant, for the purpose of bé, ing enforced by the coroner, 9 Ör, as the case may be, the deemster dismisses the complaint, with such costs to be paid by either party, as he;shall think reasonable to adjudge.
In matters of importance, it is usual to present a petition; stating the circumstances of the plaintiff's case, and which prays a hearing at the next court. 1- Upon this petition, the deemster grants an order for that purpose under his hand, which constitutes the coroner's author rity, without other warrant, to summon the defendant and the witnesses. This petition and order are served upon the defendant three days before the court, and the same consequences attach against him for non-appearance as before stated.
After the ordinary causes have been heard, the deemster proceeds to hear those which are 'ordered to come on by petition ; and this being done as before mentioned, he forthwith proceeds to give such judgment in writing, as the nature of the case may require. This judga ment is final and conclusive on the parties, unless an appeal should be preferred by either of them to the governor, agreeable to the statute of 1736*.
In order to get an allowance of the appeal by the deemster, it is necessary to present a short petition for that purpose ; - which being accepted, as it is termed, the case is brought on by petition to the governor, and heard and determined at the next appellate court. But in case the deemster should refuse to
accept the appeal, the complainant may present a peu tition of doleancet, stating the circumstances of the case, and that the deemster had refused to accept the appeal, when the governor will, as a matter of course, grant an order for the cause to be heard before him to
In the deemster's court, there are many peculiar advantages, independent of the celerity and cheapness of obtaining justice. The judge, in particular cases, will elicit a discovery of facts, in the absence of better and more direct evidence, by the oaths of the parties to the cause. He will order the production of deeds or papers, which often precludes the necessity of a bill in equity. And in all disputes be
* Appendix, Appeal.
+ From the Latin, dolor.
tween landlord and tenant, or respecting the right to the possession of lands and premises, the cause is heard in a summary way; and, in the latter case, the deemster, by his judgment, orders immediate possession to be given by the coroner. Du
Upon the sale of any commodity, the receipt of the smallest sum by the seller, or the delivery of a handful of hay or straw by the seller, to the purchaser, is sufficient to bind the bargain; and the deemster will enforce a performance thereof, unless there was a manifest imposition on the part of the seller in his description of the commodity, in which case the deemster will order the thing to be returned, and the consideration money restored ; and in all cases, the simple personal promise, or engagement, to answer for the debt or default of another, is denominated bail for the principal, and is binding to all intents and purposes, without a note in writing. It is requisite to observe, that all notes or other engagements in writing, are, by the laws of the island, deemed specialties, and although they take no precedence over simple contract creditors, they cannot be vacated by oral testimony*
With respect to prosecutions for slander, &c. they are usually commenced in the deemster's court, under the statute of 1738, which directs, that “ in all complaints of slanderous words, the party defamed, or any informer of a slander, shall be obliged to make a declaration of
* There is uo such law as the English statute of frauds and perjuries, in the Isle of Man.