Jesse Jeffrey v. Schlesinger & Gillett
On September 22, 1821, Arnold Schlesinger and Aaron Gillett filed a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas in the County of Lawrence. Richard Searcy was their attorney. They alleged that they had hired Jesse Jeffrey to sell their goods, and that they had given him $2,000 worth of goods and merchandise which he had sold or disposed of, and that he had never given them an accounting of the money or paid them.
Henry Sanford, the clerk of the court, issued a subpoena, which was executed by James M. Kuykendall, Deputy Sheriff. Jeffrey was summoned to the November term of the Court of Common Pleas. On November 5, Jeffrey appeared before the court. At that time the judges were not attorneys. On that day James Campbell and Spencer Crouch were the judges present. All agreed to continue the case over to the next term.
By the next term, the court had been changed by the legislature to a circuit court with a lawyer-judge. The parties came before the court on January 17, 1822. Thomas Eskridge was the circuit judge; Samuel Hall represented Jeffrey, who pled innocent and "put himself upon the country," that is, requested a jury trial. The twelve jurors were Jarret Benkey, John Williams, Samuel Crowley, George Thompson, Reason Davis, Robert M. Williams, Michael Stubblefield, Fielden Stubblefield, William McAdoo, Thomas Crowley, John Miller and Reuben Richardson. Witnesses during the trial who were later reimbursed for their travel fees included George Teal, John Reed, John Sissums, Jarret McCarty, Bradley Williams, Joseph Martin, James Ward, Levi Tailor, John Raney, John Trimble and Matthew Dickenson. The jury found Jeffrey guilty. In the assignment of errors, Hall objected that the court should not have allowed the book of entries of Schlesinger & Gillett to be entered as evidence; that a "special request" for payment from the defendant was necessary and the jury should have been so instructed; and that the defendant should have been allowed to introduce evidence that he had paid the plaintiffs. The case was appealed to the Superior Court. Edward Richardson was the surety for Jeffrey's appeal bond.
There is no entry in the record book of any argument of the case, but on Tuesday, April 23, 1822, the court rendered its opinion. Judges Andrew Scott, Joseph Selden and Benjamin Johnson presided that day. The draft opinion is here. Decades later, the final version was published in Hempstead's Reports and the published version is here also. The case was remanded to the trial court. David McKinney was the clerk of the Superior Court at that time and his name is on the cover sheet.
By the time the case was remanded, the court structure in territorial Arkansas had been changed by the legislature and the Court of Common Pleas with its three lay judges had been replaced by the Circuit Court with a judge learned in the law. The judge of the Circuit Court was now Richard Searcy. Because of conflict of interest, he could not now preside over the case, and so it was removed to the Superior Court and heard there. The case on remand is in our collection and is titled Schlesinger & Gillett v. Jeffrey.
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